Lattelekom allows competition to procede

  • 2001-08-02
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Latvia's fixed-line telephone monopoly Lattelekom has closed its first deal with the telecommunications company Internet Protocol Telekom Baltija, clearing the way for competition - but only on international calls.

Mihals Zotovs, president of Internet Protocol Telekom Baltija, hopes his company's new product, a phonecard enabling people to call abroad from Latvia from any phone device, will draw interest not only from people living here, but also from tourists.

"We have a 24-hour customer service phone number, which our clients can call free of charge to get information about prices and how to hook up the card to their phones," he said.

The card is pretty simple. One has only to call IP Telekom Baltija's information number and say the phone number they wish to use for an international call and the personal identification number on the card.

The cost of the call will then be drawn automatically from the phone card. It will also work for mobile phones.

The cards will be available in two denominations, 5 lats ($8) and 10 lats. Frequent callers may also be offered discounts and the possibility to keep special accounts with IP Telekom Baltija.

At the moment, IP Telekom Baltija is the only company cooperating with Lattelekom in this area, but Zotovs predicts his company will soon have competition.

Lattelekom president Gundars Strautmanis confirmed to The Baltic Times that the company is currently negotiating with other IP telephony companies but said this is not to be regarded as a step toward a more open market on international phone calls from Latvia.

"We are in negotiations with other companies working in this sphere, but as before we will be hard on those companies that don't play by the book," Strautmanis said.

"I don't think we can say that, by definition, the market is more open than before. We're only taking the opportunity to cooperate more with IP telephony companies."

To help drum up publicity for the new cards, they will be handed out free on the streets for a limited time.

IP Telekom Baltija has been working with IP telephony since 1999. The company has an annual turnover of some $2 million and employs 24 people in Latvia. There are also branches in Russia, Argentina and Ecuador.