Author: Mikhail Doroshevich
Mobile TeleSystems, one of Russia's major mobile operators, has launched its mobile network in Belarus.
At the launch, coverage extended to the larger part of Minsk and surrounding areas near the national airport.
More than 20 base stations, supplied by Siemens, are in operation along with a switch exchange of 100,000 lines. By the end of September, the total number of base stations in Minsk and its outskirts is to top 70, the same number held by Velcom, Belarus's first GSM operator.
MTS is also looking to put 10 base stations from Brest to Moscow in order to provide reliable communications in the area by next year. It then plans to expand in Belarus to cover Grodno, Gomel, Vitebsk and Mogilev and eventually Minsk-Gomel and Minsk- Vilnius in Lithuania.
MTS has two sales centers in Minsk and it is planning to open a third later this year. Company management said it hopes to have as many as six sales centres in Minsk, representing 20 per cent of MTS's sales, with the rest coming from its 15 dealer agreements.
In Belarus, MTS is jointly owned by state firm Mezdugorodnaya Sviaz (51 per cent) and Russian MTS (49 per cent). It received a licence to provide GSM900/1800 services in the country in April.
The Russian arm of MTS Belarus invested $15m (E15.1m) in equipment and network building costs for the last two months and is expected to invest a total of $50m (E50.3m) this year and $200m (E201m) by 2001.
This should help MTS become a major Belarusian investor, leaving behind such giants as Russian Gazprom. Russian MTS's investment in the Belarusian market is the company's first international venture.
MTS's network was engineered and designed by Belarusian companies Sviazinformservice, Luzan, DTR, Travelink, Senkom and Russian Radiorelejnaya sviaz.
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