RIGA - Telekom Baltija, which recently announced its intention to provide mobile telecommunications in Latvia under the brand name Triatel, will offer its new services no later than Oct. 15, the Transport Ministry announced last week.
At present, Latvia has two mobile-communication operators, LMT and Tele2, which provide services in GSM standard. Telekom Baltija, which will work with the new CDMA-450 standard, plans to inform its fixed-line subscribers about its mobile services in order to build up a client base.
Triatel Chairman Mihails Zotovs said that within the next two years the company could have up to 40,000 mobile-based clients. He added that new operators would have certain advantages over older ones, particularly in regards to the latest technologies, which could attract many clients.
Officials of both LMT and Tele2 said that it was difficult to tell how Telekom Baltija's entrance on the mobile communication market would influence the competition.
LMT President Juris Binde said that since the CDMA standard was not very widespread in Europe, success was difficult to predict. "A new market player in any case will influence the operations of existing operators," said Binde.
Tele2, meanwhile, said it believed the appearance of Triatel would not seriously affect its position.
"There are no special reasons to be afraid," said Tele2 spokeswoman Evita Matisone, adding that the company was open for competition and new technologies.
Matisone also noted that consumers would have a greater opportunity in choosing a mobile service provider. "We always react fast if major changes are expected on the market," she said.
According to Latvian Telecommunications Association CEO Juris Lelis, much will depend on Triatel's prices. He said the CDMA technologies were cheaper than the GSM currently used by Tele2 and LMT, as well as the UMTS standard they plan to introduce.
However, he noted, CDMA is a different standard, which requires different phones.
What's more, the new operator will have to close interconnection agreements with present operators. As many people in Latvia use Tele2 and LMT, Triatel users will have to call these people.
Telekom Baltija originally planned to provide services this spring, but its plans were delayed due to a change in the national radio frequency plan.
In order to introduce the latest CDMA technologies, Telekom Baltija has signed a deal with Nortel Networks, a U.S.-Canadian joint venture, on construction of the CDMA network. The project is expected to receive a 20 million euro investment by the end of 2005.
While the CDMA network already covers Riga, its neighboring region, and Jurmala, the entire territory of Latvia could be covered within two or three years.
CDMA technologies will offer virtually all the same services provided by the UMTS standard. LMT and Tele2 have purchased UMTS licenses for 5.8 million lats (8.8 million euros) each. In license with their term, the firms must start commercial operation of the new network no later than Dec. 31.