Syria’s state-owned incumbent fixed line operator the Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE) has announced ambitious plans to invest upwards of USD1.5 billion over the next five years to expand its landline network to rural areas, reports online news portal AMEinfo. STE is forecasting revenues of SYP62.5 billion (USD1.25 billion) in 2008, up 13% year-on-year, driven mainly by strong growth from the nation’s two mobile operators – MTN Syria and SyriaTel – both of which currently hand over 50% of their annual turnover to the company by dint of their Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) licences; last year they were required to hand over 40% of their income.
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In 2008 the state-backed PTO anticipates a 24% hike in fees on higher sales from the two mobile operators, or around USD550 million, compared with USD420 million in 2007. At the end of September 2007 had approximately 3.2 million mobile subscribers, a market share of 53%, compared with 2.89 million for MTN Syria.
STE’s fixed line network reported 3.45 million lines in service at the end of 2007, up 6% year-on-year. The operator intends to invest USD1.5 billion between now and 2013, primarily to finance the development of two projects designed to add four million new lines in underserved areas and remote rural locations. STE hopes the move will boost its coverage to 100% of the population and expects to announce two tenders for the projects this year. The monopoly operator also reported modest growth of internet services in 2007, and said the trend would continue this financial year. It expects revenues from internet activities to grow by 23.4% y-o-y from USD56.2 million to USD69.4 million. STE said the number of internet subscribers grew 20% in 2007 from 340,000 to 425,000.