Ukrainian mobile operator Astelit, which offers GSM services under the life:) brand, has selected Chinese network equipment manufacturer Huawei to expand its network coverage with around 3,000 base stations and increase its network capacity by around 52% this year, according to a press release. The first phase of the expansion project will commence in western Ukraine and the Crimea region, and all new base stations will support future upgrades to 3G technology. Tansu Yegen, General Director of life:), said that despite ‘severe macroeconomic challenges’ in the Ukrainian market, the company has earmarked 2009 CAPEX of USD200 million based on its growth projections, made possible partly by Turkish parent Turkcell’s long-term financial commitment to its Ukrainian subsidiary. Yegen added, ‘Thanks to the partnership with Huawei we will be able to dynamically increase the network capacity and get our network further ready for the coming era of 3G.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Astelit had 7.1 million active mobile customers at end-December 2008, up from 5.4 million at the start of the year. It is the country’s third largest cellco, with less than half of second-placed MTS Ukraine’s subscriber base, and less than one-third that of market leader Kyivstar.