By Atom Markarian
The ArmenTel operator said on Tuesday that it has agreed the key terms of an agreement with a Lebanese-owned telecommunications firm that will remove the last hurdle to the long-awaited launch of Armenia’s second mobile phone network.
The ArmenTel chief executive, Vasilios Fetsis, said the two companies are currently finalizing the agreement on the interoperability of their wireless networks and will sign it in the next two weeks.
The announcement follows weeks of difficult negotiations between them. The new wireless operator, K-Telecom, accused ArmenTel of obstructing the launch of the second network by demanding disproportionate fees for the use of mobile phone frequencies that have until now been monopolized by the Greek-owned operator. The latter denied the charges.
The Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications warned the two sides last month to quickly iron out their differences or face government intervention.
K-Telecom was controversially selected as Armenia’s alternative mobile operator last November following the government’s deal with ArmenTel that ended its legal monopoly on mobile telephony in the country. That monopoly has been widely blamed for the underdeveloped state of the service in Armenia.
ArmenTel has failed to meet demand in mobile phone use, resorting to Soviet-style rationing of phone activation cards despite being owned by one of Europe’s biggest telecom firms, OTE. Fetsis publicly apologized for the flop last December.
ArmenTel had over 200,000 wireless subscribers as of mid-March and hoped to attract at least 100,000 others before the launch of the K-Telecom network later this year. Fetsis declined to say if his company will cut its tariffs as part of the effort.
(Photolur photo: Vasilios Fetsis.)