Locally owned start-up Optima Telekom says it has completed the construction of its national IP network and has begun interconnectivity tests with PTO T-Hrvatski Telekom (T-HT) ahead of a planned commercial launch at the end of this month. Optima is set to break T-HT’s wireline monopoly and become Croatia’s first alternative fixed line operator. The company was awarded a 30-year licence for local, long-distance and international calls on 19 November 2004 and plans to roll out a full range of next-generation voice and data services for enterprise and residential users. Optima owner Roland Zuvanic, a former head of the country’s communications ministry, originally claimed that his company could be operational as early as February, though he later revised this following protracted interconnection talks with the incumbent. The telco contracted vendor NetCentrex for the deployment of enterprise and residential IP communications services in January and has so far invested EUR22 million in the build-out of its infrastructure. It plans to invest a further EUR10 million in developing its network and services by the end of the year. The Croatian fixed line market was opened up to competition on 1 January 2003, but it has taken more than two years for a newcomer to make a concerted attempt to compete with the incumbent. Optima’s launch could trigger a flood of competition into the market. Another alternative fixed line operator, Portus, which is owned by the Split-based Elektromagic Corporation, announced that it had conducted the initial test connection of its H1 network last week. Portus was awarded a licence in mid-December 2004, but has yet to set a definitive commercial launch date.