Digitel expanding 3G network, aiming for 7m users, but Cisneros selling out?

1 Sep 2009

Venezuelan cellco Digitel has announced that later this year or in the first quarter of 2010 it will cover the entire central region of the country with 900MHz 3G mobile broadband services, including the states of Carabobo, Cojedes and Falcon. A spokesperson told local press that the operator is in the process of assessing the technical capabilities of existing GSM base stations under a programme involving migrating 2G Siemens-supplied base stations to 3G, which is being carried out by China’s Huawei. At the end of this month Digitel, which launched commercial UMTS-900 services in March, says it will roll out 3G across the major city of Valencia, with work to involve migrating 2G voice services to 1800MHz, leaving the 900MHz band for 3G data services. The domestically-run firm is also sticking to a target of signing up seven million GSM/3G subscribers by end-2009, up from its current approximate total of five million. However, over the weekend reports appeared in several local publications, including El Universal, that owner Oswaldo Cisneros was selling Digitel for USD800 million to Ricardo Fernandez, who controls companies in the food, distribution and banking sectors. Other local news sources and blogs denied the reports, though there was no official statement either way from the actual parties concerned. Yesterday, though, further reports surfaced quoting unnamed sources that Cisneros was selling up, but the buyers were now named instead as Torres Ciliberto and the Venezuelan government. No information was revealed as to the size of the potential stake to be acquired by the government, which already controls the country’s leading mobile operator Movilnet.

Venezuela, Digitel