Mon, 08 Nov 1999

Telkomsel subscriber base may grow 80%

JAKARTA (JP): A sharp increase in demand for its prepaid cards will lift the number of subscribers to cellular telephone operator Telkomsel by at least 80 percent this year, a company executive said.

"We estimate our customers will grow from less then 500,000 early this year to some 900,000," Telkomsel director of commerce Hasnul Suhaimi said on Friday.

Hasnul said he was optimistic the number of Telkomsel subscribers would further increase by around 50 percent next year to 1.45 million.

A statement from the company said it controlled about 45 percent of the total cellular phone operator market.

Hasnul estimated the company's current customer base was at least 800,000, 45 percent of which were Halo postpaid card customers, while the remaining 55 percent were prepaid SimPati card holders.

He said Telkomsel, one of seven cellular phone operators in the country, sold between 40,000 and 45,000 Halo and SimPati cards each day.

He was speaking at the launching of a new service for SimPati card holders. SimPati customers will now be able to refill their cards over the phone using Bank Negara Indonesia's phone banking service.

Telkomsel offers a similar service through Bank Central Asia's automated teller machines, which Hasnul said generated 7 percent of the company's sale of SimPati cards.

"We expect 2 to 4 percent of our SimPati card sales to come from this new service," he said.

To meet this year's subscriber target, Telkomsel has invested some Rp 300 billion in expansion programs, he said.

"But we will continue to invest in networks," Hasnul said.

He declined to specify the amount of this investment, saying about 90 percent of it would be in foreign currency.

Meanwhile, Telkomsel will soon receive its Year 2000- compliance certificate from state-owned surveyor company PT Sucofindo.

"We are aware of the importance of being Y2K compliant," he said, adding that he expected to receive Sucofindo's certificate sometime this month.

He said initial work to upgrade the company's systems began last year, focusing on customer-related services.

"Y2K could mess up our billing system and we don't want to bill customers for conversations they never had," Hasnul said.

The Y2K problem, which could cause noncompliant computers to misread the year 2000 as 1900, also threatens Telkomsel's communications networks.

"We have to make sure that at the turn of the new year, our networks won't fail," he said. (03)