MTC dumps Vodafone

KUWAIT'S regional mobile operator MTC is set to end its three-year association with global GSM heavyweight Vodafone, Arabian Business can reveal.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  September 18, 2005

KUWAIT'S regional mobile operator MTC is set to end its three-year association with global GSM heavyweight Vodafone, Arabian Business can reveal. MTC currently operates under the MTC-Vodafone brand in both Kuwait and Bahrain. However, the operator has said it does not plan to renew the deal in Bahrain when it expires in around 18 months’ time. “As far as we are concerned, it’s done,” said Saad Al Barrack, MTC Group managing director and deputy chairman. “We have learnt what we need to (from Vodafone) and now are ready to shape our own destiny,” he added. MTC entered a co-branding and marketing deal, the first in the Middle East, with Vodafone in 2002, when Kuwait was the only market in which MTC operated. At the time, the operator had a subscriber base of just over half a million users and the deal with Vodafone offered the Gulf operator access to the UK telco giant's global roaming services and shared marketing initiatives. MTC also benefited from the endorsement by being connected with the one of the largest mobile operators in the world. “As a small operator (back then), we had to kiss their feet,” Al Barrak commented. “Many thought the deal was a stupid idea, and they could be right, but it was the only way to tango with a giant,” he added. MTC’s relationship with Vodafone was extended to Bahrain when MTC successfully bid for the kingdom’s second GSM licence in April 2003. But Vodafone’s absence from MTC’s subsequent 3x3x3 expansion schemes has been glaring. The basic premise of the 3x3x3 strategy is to catapult MTC forward and for it to become a truly global player over a nine-year time period (by 2011), as well as serving a subscriber base of no fewer than 20 million subscribers. The first three-year period was to be spent expanding regionally, the following three-year period was to be spent growing into adjacent geographies, and the final three-year stint was to be spent in the pursuit of international opportunities. Having expanded beyond Bahrain and into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and 13 countries throughout Africa through the acquisition of Celtel International in May, Al Barrack said the first two stages of the expansion strategy have now been successfully completed. None of MTC's deals since the acquisition of the GSM licence in Bahrain in 2003 have carried the Vodafone name. In terms of seeking opportunities on the global stage, Al Barrak has a warning for incumbent global players like Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile: “Either we become like them or we buy them.” At the end of June this year, MTC reported its subscriber base had reached 10.6 million users, shattering its target to have five million subscribers in place by the end of 2005.

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