Telenor Mobil has announced that it will most likely not apply for an extension to its NMT-450 licence when the current concession expires on 31 December 2004. In a press statement, the company said that as the number of analogue customers was declining rapidly a further extension was unnecessary, adding that with fewer suppliers able to repair and maintain its network it was more logical to provide alternative solutions to NMT. To this end the cellco is exploring the possibility of utilising extended digital cell technology, which has the ability to double GSM’s range, as one means of expanding the service to provide coverage in mountainous areas and along the coastline. In addition, it has entered into an agreement with satellite telephony operator Globalstar to provide roaming in areas where GSM is not available. Telenor Mobil’s NMT-450 licence was originally due to run out in October 2003.
Telenor Mobil, the wireless arm of national PTO Telenor [Nasdaq: TELN], remains by far the largest player in Norway although its market share has declined in recent years. At the end of September 2002 it controlled 70.2% of the country’s mobile users, compared with 70.4% a year earlier and 71.9% at the end of 2000. Despite this negligible decline, Telenor Mobil boasts a strong digital subscriber base, standing at 2.35 million at the start of October 2002, having added 115,000 customers during the year; 43.8% of the total were pre-paid users. The company closed its NMT-900 network in March 2001, migrating its remaining customers to GSM. At the time it stated that its NMT-450 analogue network would remain open for the foreseeable future, despite falling subscriber numbers; by the end of September 2002 just 57,000 of Telenor Mobil’s customers were using analogue services, with the number dropping by about 1,500 per month. At its peak in 1996 the network had 190,000 subscribers.
In a separate story, Telenor has emerged as the new owner of Swedish alternative telecoms services provider Utfors, after gaining final approval for its bid from the Swedish Competition Authority. The transaction elevates Telenor to one of the main contenders in the business communications sector behind national PTO Telia.