Colombia’s mobile market witnessed significant growth in the first three months of 2003, with the total number of subscribers reaching 4.88 million at the end of the period, up from 3.55 million in March 2002; mobile penetration reached 12% at the same date. América Movil subsidiaries Comcel, which provides A-band services to the eastern region of the country, and sister company Occel which serves the west, presided over a combined customer base of 3.3 million at the end of March – up from 2.09 million – a market share of 67%. The remaining 1.58 million subscribers are served by BellSouth through its three regional divisions BellSouth Orient, BellSouth Occidente and BellSouth Costa. Comcel, which claimed 70% of the 701,031 gross additions during the quarter, attributed its increased success to its acquisition of the country’s third mobile operator, Millicom International Cellular-owned Celcaribe, in January.
The two cellular operators expect to face new competition in the second half of 2003, with the arrival of PCS licence winner Colombia Movil, which is expected to target the pre-paid segment. Colombia Movil, owned by Medellin-based public services group EPM and Bogota-based fixed line telco ETB, plans to spend USD550 million on the deployment of its PCS network.