Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has announced that its operations in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have launched GSM-850 services under the brandname Tigo. In El Salavdor, where MIC owns 70% of Telemovil, the new network will cover 92% of the population, while in Guatemala (Comcel) and Honduras (Celtel) it will cover 75% of people. Customers using the GSM network will be offered a number of service enhancements including wireless internet access. The trio will continue to operate their legacy networks alongside the GSM overlay; in Honduras this is based on CDMA while in El Salvador and Guatemala TDMA is used. The strategy of overlaying legacy networks, is one which MIC has used successfully in Paraguay, where its GSM network now covers 95 cities and has GPRS capability.
According to Marc Beuls, President and CEO of MIC, the launch of GSM services will add momentum, both in terms of customer intake and revenue growth. Indeed, while subscriber growth in the three countries has been steady in recent years, it has been far from meteoric, with each of the markets having relatively wireless penetration rates. Comcel of Guatemala is the largest of the trio, with around 645,000 customers at the end of March 2004 (up from 596,100 at the start of the year), while Telemovil had 468,000 (465,100) and Celtel 360,000 (351,300).