Leading Kuwaiti cellco MTC-Vodafone said on Sunday that it had signed up its millionth customer in the Gulf Arab state. At the end of March 2004 the operator had more than one million active customers, of which 705,000 were pre-paid. MTC-Vodafone said that it spent USD41 million upgrading its GSM-900/1800 network in 2003 and that it had capacity for an additional 365,000 subscribers. It also claims that maximum network congestion is well below international benchmarks at less than 2%, with its drop call rate half the 1% benchmark figure and handover success on target at 96%. There are currently around 1.8 million mobile subscribers in Kuwait, equating to penetration of around 82%.
MTC-Vodafone (until March 2003 known as MTC) launched Kuwait’s first mobile service over its analogue ETACS system in September 1986, although much of its infrastructure was subsequently destroyed by the Gulf war. It moved to a digital network in January 1994 and since that date the cellco has expanded its GSM infrastructure on a number of occasions through a series of contracts with Motorola and other suppliers. MTC-Vodafone began the migration of ETACS users to GSM towards the end of the decade and no longer reports its subscriber base split by technology.
MTC-Vodafone’s parent the MTC Group says that it currently has close to 2.5 million customers across its regional operations in Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain and Jordan, up from less than 700,000 at the start of 2003. The group is planning to launch mobile operations in the Lebanon by the end of May and has also submitted a bid for a licence in Oman, planning to invest around USD200 million in the country if it wins.