Mobile Digital Communications (Velcom) says it has invested USD310 million in its network and services since launching commercially in 1999. At the start of this month Velcom’s network comprised 1,242 base stations covering 67% of the country’s territory and the cellco had 2.1 million subscribers signed up to its service plans.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Velcom launched a GSM-900 network in 1999 and in February 2003 was awarded additional spectrum in the 1800 frequency band, enabling it to become a dual-band operator. Although it was the first to offer GSM services and the first to make mobile telephony available to the masses, it has since seen its market share reduced and then overtaken by MTS Belarus, which eclipsed it in the last quarter of 2004. MTS launched GSM-900/1800 services in June 2002, initially in Minsk and the surrounding area, but has since expanded to several other regions, including the Brest-Moscow highway, Grodno, Gomel, Vitebsk and Mogilev. In May 2004 it awarded Siemens Mobile a USD25 million contract to extend its networks, part of a wider USD200 million package ordered by its Russian shareholder, Mobile TeleSystems. The deal included the installation of 80 1800MHz base stations, as well as switchboards in Minsk, Vitebsk, Gomel, Mogilev and Grodno. By the start of 2006 network coverage reached 80% of the population and 54.5% of the territory, and its Russian backers plan to invest USD150 million in further developments in 2006.