The Czech Republic’s newest and smallest mobile operator MobilKom (U:fon) has admitted defeat in its quest to directly take on the might of established rivals Telefonica O2 CR, T-Mobile and Vodafone, and will instead reinvent itself to become the country’s first ‘low-cost’ mobile service provider. U:fon, a joint venture between Motorola and ConnecTel which has links to the investment firm Penta, is closing its branded stores and integrating its marketing and sales departments in a move it says will reduce retail prices. The firm’s new marketing and sales director John Studnickova said: ‘The decision to change the structure of sales channels is related to our effort to become the first low-cost operator in the CR, on the basis of low internal costs and costs of selling [we] can offer customers the very lowest prices.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, MobilKom became the fourth mobile operator in the Czech market when it launched commercial data-based services in May 2007. MobilKom received its CDMA licence in 2005 and later signed a deal with Chinese equipment vendor ZTE to build out its nationwide CDMA network. U:fon was issued with a prefix code and mobile numbers by the Czech Telecoms Office (CTU) in late 2006 to offer services in the 410MHz-430MHz band. Work on the CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev A network began in early 2007, focusing on mobile data and push-to-talk (PTT) services (from September 2007), and full voice services were added in June 2008. However, it has struggled to make headway and after three years of operations has signed up about 120,000 customers.