Mobile phone use in Yemen is set to rise sharply following the launch in mid-February of two networks to rival the state's monopoly wireless operator, reported the BBC.online Wednesday.
Until now, wireless coverage in the country has been extremely restricted, said the BBC.
Coverage, said the BBC, will initially be focused on the capital Sanaa, and a handful of Yemen's larger towns before being extended elsewhere in the country, said the news service.
The new operators are SabaFon, a venture of Egypt's Orascom Telecom, and SpaceTel, whose owners include Lebanon's Investcom and Oman's Al-Zubeir Group.
Orascom official told the BBC that they expect to attract 20,000 subscribers to its Yemen network within three-four months and a total of 60,000 after a year.
SpaceTel said it will invest $70m this year in a network with capacity for 100,000 subscribers.
"The competition will be hard," Orascom's investments director, Amani El Feky, told the BBC.
The two GSM licenses were awarded in May last year for $10m each to Orascom and Lebanon's Liban Cell.
The government later replaced Liban Cell with SpaceTel on the grounds that it could not fully implement its contract, said the news service.
Latest figures showed that there were 27,700 mobile phone subscribers in Yemen at the end of 1999.
Mobile phones services were only available in Yemen through TeleYemen, a joint venture between the state and UK-based Cable & Wireless (C&W) that was established in 1990.
Both institutions formed the Yemen International Telecommunications Company (TELEYEMEN) which is responsible for all of Yemen's international links and is also Yemen's mobile franchise carrier.
C&W's stake in TELEYEMEN was initially 65 percent but has been reduced to 51 percent, with the Yemeni government holding the remaining 49 percent – Albawaba.com
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