Swedish alternative operator Tele2 has revealed that it has increased its stakes in five of its Russian mobile subsidiaries in a bid to gain a more significant footing in the country’s mobile market. The telco has increased its stakes in Sankt-Peterburg Telecom (St Petersburg licence area) from 61% to 86%, Oblcom (Leningrad region) from 61% to 97.2%, Rostov Cellular Communications from 75% to 87.5%, Cellular Communications of Udmurtia (city of Izhevsk) from 55% to 77.5% and Chelyabinsk Cellular Communications (Chelyabinsk area) from 51% to 100%. The operator said it sees the Russian wireless sector as holding the potential for solid future growth; at the end of March 2003 mobile penetration in Russia stood at just 16.6%.
Tele2 entered the Russian market in 2001 via the acquisition of Fora Telecom, the holding company for the Russian mobile assets of Millicom International Cellular. At this date it inherited Fora’s twelve cellular operations in Belgorod, Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Kursk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Rostov-on-Don, Smolensk, St Petersburg and the Republic of Udmurtiya, and has since expanded its reach to five other locations. In the first seven months of 2003 Tele2 launched four GSM networks under the Tele2 brand name in Russia, beating its goal of rolling them out before the end of the year. The first was rolled out in Irkutsk in April, followed by another in Rostov later that month. In June it launched its third GSM network in St Petersburg and the fourth was rolled out on 12 July in the Kemerovo region of south west Siberia.