Cellular operator PT Mobile-8 Telecom has gone nationwide to take on its competitors in Indonesia's growing mobile phone market, rolling out its "Fren" brand service outside Java in Medan, Makassar and Denpasar.
The company expects the expansion of its CDMA-based network coverage to the capital cities of North Sumatra, South Sulawesi and Bali will contribute up to one million of four million new subscribers it is aiming to sign up this year, the company's head of corporate affairs, Merza Fachys, said at the opening of the company's new office in Medan on Saturday.
The expansion is also expected to help the company reach 80 percent coverage of Indonesia by 2010 from its current 42 percent coverage through 407 signal-transmitting base stations.
Mobile-8's new network in Medan, Indonesia's third largest city, will for the meantime only use 100 new base stations and only cover the three surrounding regencies of Labuhan Batu, Karo and Langkat, the company's vice president for the Sumatra region Winetou Lubis said.
It will later be expanded to be able to provide at least two million new numbers each year, Winetou said.
Merza said after Medan, Makassar and Denpasar, Mobile-8 will expand its network throughout Sumatra -- including Riau, West Sumatra, South Sumatra and Lampung -- and in Sulawesi to the North Sulawesi province.
Kalimantan is also on the company's network coverage expansion list, including the provinces of West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.
"We plan to invest US$125 million alone this year for expanding our network coverage throughout the country," Merza said.
Mobile-8 Chief Operating Officer Chee Pok Jin said investment for the network expansion -- which will include adding 1,408 new base stations by the end of this year -- will come from funds raised in an initial public offering last year, as well as from loans.
The publicly listed company, which first rolled out its service in December 2003, has been aggressively trying to increase its share of Indonesia's mobile phone market, which looks set to grow to 42 percent of the population or 100 million customers by 2009.
The company wants to double its customer base to 7.9 million subscribers next year, Pok Jin said.
There are at present more than 45 million GSM-based cellular users, and some seven million CDMA-based subscribers.
Mobile-8's competitors include GSM networks Telkomsel, Indosat and Excelcom, and Bakrie Telecom and Telkom Flexi from the CDMA camp.