Romanian cableco Romania Cable Systems (RCS&RDS) has installed 390 Wi-Fi hotspots across 26 cities in the last three months, reports Ziarul Financiar. The firm – Romania’s largest broadband operator in terms of subscribers – has confirmed that its entire broadband subscriber base, which totals around 1.2 million, has been granted free access to the service. According to data published by telecoms watchdog the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM), at the end of 2010 Romania boasted just over 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, meaning that RSC&RDS has expanded the country’s collective Wi-Fi footprint significantly. To date only Orange Romania is known to provide free Wi-Fi access to its subscribers, albeit limited to certain parts of central Bucharest.
The RCS&RDS group’s principal shareholder is enigmatic local businessman Zoltan Teszari, who holds a 43.6% direct and indirect stake via RCS Management and Cable Communications Systems. Prior to assuming control of RCS&RDS, the notoriously secretive Teszari ran a chain of ice cream kiosks. Further, it is believed that Teszari has not been photographed publicly for over a decade, and refuses face-to-face contact with his fellow shareholders. TeleGeography notes that the new Wi-Fi initiative represents the latest in a long line of marketing strategies aimed at securing new subscribers in the fixed line arena. However, many industry insiders fear that the company’s aggressive pricing strategy will have an adverse effect in the long-run, with the company’s profits already starting to suffer in 2010. According to local press reports, the telco announced undisclosed losses for 2010, after posting a net profit of nearly RON212 million (USD69.6 million) in 2009.