Belarusian mobile phone operator Mobile Digital Communications (MDC), which markets services under the brand name Velcom, says it is spending USD140 million this year to expand and upgrade its networks. In a statement to Prime-Tass, company chairman Ead Samawi confirmed the CAPEX plans which he says will be used to increase network capacity, via more than 700 new base stations, and to develop new technologies and services. By end-December 2007 MDC plans to increase network coverage to 82% of the country’s territory, where 95% of the population resides, he added. In late 2006 the company’s network covered more than 75% of Belarus’ territory, where 92.5% of its people live. At the start of this year the cellco had 2.6 million subscribers, up from 1.885 million at 31 December 2005.
Meanwhile, MDC rival Belarus Telecommunications Network (BeST), 75%-owned by state-owned company Agat and 25%-owned by national PTO Beltelecom, said its mobile subscriber base rose to 62,000 as of 1 January this year. BeST’s network covers 1.2% of Belarus’ territory where over 40.1% of the population resides. It launched services in the capital Minsk on 11 December and signed up close to 1,500 users in its first few weeks of operations. It is targeting the low end of the market and has attracted most of its customers by offering preferential tariffs for so-called ‘low value’ subscribers. Despite the achievement, the operator has fallen well short of its earlier target. It originally hoped to attract 500,000 to 600,000 subscribers by the end of 2006.