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Syria develops GSM market

Syrian GSM provider Spacetel signs loan agreement to expand mobile network and develop technical infrastructure.

Syrian mobile phone users are set to see improved services after GSM provider Spacetel Syria confirmed that it had agreed a US $20 million loan from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD)

The first installment will arrive by the end of June. The remaining 50%, which will be financed by other financial institutions, is scheduled for December 2003.

“The loan will be used for network expansion and other technical development projects,” Ismail Jaroudi, deputy-managing director of Spacetel Syria told Reuters. He added that the loan would also go towards launching a pre-paid card service.

Spacetel, which launched in 2001 and is one of two GSM providers in the Baathist state, claims that it now has over 265,000 subscribers. Egypt’s Orascom Telecom operates the second firm Syriatel, in conjunction with local investors.

Despite Spacetel’s claims, a report by the Amman-based Arab Advisors Group last year, estimated the total number of GSM users in Syria at less than 200,000 in a population of 17 million. The survey predicted that Syria’s GSM subscribers would exceed the 4.5 million mark by 2006.

Under the current legislation, the two licensed GSM providers must negotiate with the state-owned fixed-line operator, Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE), in order to change prices and develop competition.

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