Total subscribers in Sri Lanka’s telecoms sector soared in 2006 to 7.3 million users, driven by fierce price competition, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission reported yesterday. Fixed line subscribers rose to 1.9 million at the end of 2006, up from 1.2 million a year ago, helped largely by the expansion of CDMA-based wireless in the local loop (WiLL) services. Total mobile users increased by 59% to 5.4 million in the twelve-month period, as operators slashed tariffs by up to 40%. The vast majority of new users were signed up to pre-paid services, the regulator said. With Indian mobile giant Bharti Airtel preparing to launch Sri Lanka’s fifth mobile network this year, industry analysts expect operators to cut prices further and target rural users in their chase to sign up the remainder of the country’s 19 million residents. Bharti has promised to invest USD100 million within its first year of operation. However, the cellular market may grow at a slower pace this year as galloping inflation puts the breaks on tariff cutting, analysts quoted by local press said yesterday. ‘We are looking at over seven million customers in 2007 and about 8.9 million in 2008, which is a tad slower than the annual 50% growth we have been seeing,’ equity brokerage Capital Alliance said.