Slovak Telecom (ST) has said that it wants to buy the remaining 49% stake in mobile operator EuroTel Bratislava that it does not already own. ST, itself 51% owned by Deutsche Telekom, has the first right of refusal on the stake, which is currently held by Atlantic West, a subsidiary of US telco Verizon Communications. Although no valuation of the stake has been put forward, analysts estimate it could fetch up to EUR400 million.
Despite being the first company to launch mobile services in the Slovak Republic back in 1990, EuroTel Bratislava has had to play second fiddle to the country’s other GSM operator Orange Slovensko in recent years. Both companies were awarded GSM-900 concessions by the government in August 1996, and launched digital services in tandem the following February. In July 1999 EuroTel amended its licence with the addition of DCS-1800 frequency and a year later the two concessions were consolidated. At the end of 2003 EuroTel claimed 1.54 million subscribers, up from 1.29 million the year before, giving it a market share of 42.75%. Of the total, around 73% were pre-paid subscribers. At the same date Orange Slovensko (formerly Globtel GSM) had 2.065 million customers, of which 60% were connected to its pre-paid package, Prima.
In July 2002 EuroTel won a 3G licence, the conditions of which require it to roll out services by the beginning of 2005. In December 2002 the cellco announced it was planning to launch services by the end of 2003, two years ahead of schedule, but failed to do so and it now looks unlikely to get its commercial 3G offering up and running much before the rollout deadline. A growing raft of mobile data services have been made available, however, and in August 2002 EuroTel introduced multimedia messaging services (MMS), with commercial GPRS following a month later. In February 2003 it launched GPRS roaming, the first cellco in the country to do so, and three months later inaugurated its first operational WiFi hotspots.