Wed, 16 Aug 2006

Indonesia finally gets 3G; Telkomsel leading the pack

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's largest cellular operator, PT Telkomsel, launched its third-generation (3G) service Tuesday, marking the first commercial introduction of 3G to Indonesia.

"Today marks the start of a new era in the world of Indonesian cellular telecommunications," said Telkomsel president director Kiskenda Suriahardja.

With its advanced technology, 3G allows its users to combine voice, text, pictures and video-streaming, plus broadband internet connection operating on mobile interfaces that are equipped for 3G. All these services can be accessed at a much faster pace than is the case with the existing 2.5G technology.

During the kick-off ceremony, Telkomsel signed contracts for network deployment with vendors Nokia and Ericsson, and will do so later with Siemens, to support the rollout of Telkomsel's 3G network.

Telkomsel also signed collaboration agreements with 4 initial content providers -- SCM, Metro TV, Bizcom and Elasitas -- in order to provide a large selection of content through live mobile TV services, video-on-demand streaming and video downloading.

In addition, Kiskenda said that Telkomsel had also entered into collaborative arrangements with another 162 local and foreign content providers.

"During the initial stage, 3G services will be available in nine big cities: Medan, Palembang, Batam, Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bali, Makassar and Balikpapan," Kiskenda said.

"At the end of the year, they will be available in 20 cities," he added.

Kiskenda explained that the rollout of 3G around the country over the next three years would cost Rp 3 trillion.

"We are optimistic that by 2009, we will have arrived at breakeven point for the overall investment," he said.

Regarding charges, Kiskenda said that these would be determined by the type of services required, the data capacity of the downloaded content, roaming expenses and basic costs.

Also on Tuesday, Telkomsel launched a customer pre-registration program through which Telkomsel customers who already have a 3G-equipped phone can sign up by simply sending a text message for the chance to become part of the initial group of 10,000 early adopters to experience Telkomsel's 3G services firsthand.

Kiskenda explained that before launching its 3G services, the company had conducted numerous trials and evaluations to make sure that everything would run smoothly.

He said that as of the second week in August, the number of Telkomsel customers stood at 31.5 million and that this figure was expected to reach 35 million by the end of the year, accounting for about 55 percent of the country's total cellular users.

In addition to Telkomsel, PT Exelcomindo Pratama, PT Indosat, PT Natrindo Telepon Seluler (Lippo Telecom) and PT Cyber Access Communications also hold 3G licenses.