TeliaSonera’s wholly owned subsidiary Amber Teleholdings has reached agreement with the Kazickas family to acquire their 10% of Lithuanian wireless operator Omnitel for USD63.5 million, raising the Nordic operator’s stake to 100%. According to Kenneth Karlberg, President of TeliaSonera Norway, Denmark and the Baltic countries, the purchase represents a major step in fulfilling the group’s strategy of strengthening its position in the region. Omnitel is the largest wireless operator in the Baltics with 1.14 million subscribers at the end of June 2004, equivalent to a 47% share of the Lithuanian market.
Omnitel launched in 1995 under the brandname Litcom, providing services over a GSM-900/DCS-1800 network. It also offers internet and other data transmission services and was one of the first in eastern Europe to offer options such as WAP. It launched a commercial GPRS service in August 2002 after contracting Motorola to provide the technology two years earlier, and in May 2003 increased the rate of transfer for the service. At the end of 2003 Omnitel claimed around 8,300 GPRS users. On 1 May 2004 it made the country’s first 3G call, from Vilnius to Brussels, and is currently carrying out further trials, using technology from Nokia and Motorola, in preparation for the commercial launch of 3G in 2005.