Russia’s second largest mobile operator Vimpelcom is set to invest between USD50 million and USD60 million in Ukraine in the first quarter of 2006 to pave the way for the re-launch of GSM operator Ukrainian Radio Systems (URS). According to Sergei Avdeyev, the company’s vice-president for CIS operations, Vimpelcom plans to launch operations in the east of the country under the firm’s BeeLine brand this summer. Ukraine’s mobile market grew to 30.4 million subscribers at the end of December 2005, led by close rivals Kievstar and UMC, with third placed DCC/Astelit trailing behind by a wide margin.
URS has offered GSM-900 services under the brand name WellCOM since October 1998. At the end of September 2005, however, it had just 52,000 subscribers. In November 2005 Vimpelcom agreed to buy the cellco, paying USD231.3 million, including the purchase price of USD206.5 million, plus expenditures totalling USD24.8 million and debt worth approximately USD23.5 million.