Mikhail Demchenko, the general director of Belarusian mobile network operator Belarus Telecommunications Network (BeST), says his company is embarking on an expansion plan that will extend coverage to all cities with a population of more than 100,000 people, and put into service its 100th base station. Demchenko stressed that the cellco’s primary strategy is to increase coverage to regional Belarus and said that as at 1 October 2006 the BeST network covered 46.4% of the population, including eight cities, and provided services to more than 11,000 subscribers.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, BeST was registered in November 2004 and received mobile licences to offer services in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands the following March. Having signed a USD234 million network supply contract with Alcatel in September 2005 it launched services in the capital Minsk on 11 December and signed up close to 1,500 users in its first few weeks of operations. It is targeting the low end of the market and has attracted most of its customers by offering preferential tariffs for so-called ‘low value’ subscribers. The operator had originally hoped to attract 500,000 to 600,000 subscribers by the end of 2006. Belarus’ state-owned company Agat holds a 75% stake in BeST. The remainder is controlled by another state-backed vehicle, national PTO Beltelecom.