The country's largest mobile phone operator, PT Telkomsel, plans to expand its network by building 5,000 new Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) this year at a cost of about US$1.5 billion.
With the new stations, Telkomsel hopes to penetrate every subdistrict in Kalimantan and up to 70 percent of all subdistricts in Sulawesi, according to media statement released by the company over the weekend.
Telkomsel currently has 15,000 cellular stations throughout the country, with a third of them being installed in 2006.
With the number of cellular phone users expected to increase by 25 percent from 64 million last year to about 80 million this year, Telkomsel is optimistic it will be able to pick up between 7.5 and nine million new users, or half of all new subscribers in the country.
About 63 percent of the country's total population of 240 million is between the ages of 15 and 50, Telkomsel corporate communications manager Suryo Hadiyanto said.
"These people have an acute sense for technology and a great deal of enthusiasm for technological developments," he said, in explaining the growth of the cellular industry in the country.
According to Telkomsel, the country's cellular penetration now stands at just 25 percent of the total population. However, the penetration rate grew at an average of 67 percent per year from 2001 through 2006.
Telkomsel invested about $1.5 billion last year in expanding its network and added 10.6 million new users, giving the company a total of 34.9 million customers. Its net profit in 2006 as of September increased by 43 percent year-on-year, from Rp 14.59 trillion to Rp 20.92 trillion.
Telkomsel is one of three cellular operators in the country that introduced third generation, or 3G, services last year. So far it has 1.5 million 3G customers nationwide, with services available in 25 cities.
Excelcomindo (XL) had some 130,000 3G customers as of December, while Indosat, which just launched its 3G services in late November, has no precise customer numbers yet, but has targeted 320,000 subscribers by early 2007.