Loud Call

January 24, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan mobile phone operator Celltel Lanka Ltd Wednesday said it hoped to increase its subscriber base by 50 percent to 1.5 million users by the end of the year. Sri Lanka had over 5.8 million cellular subscribers as at end 2006, , according to Central Bank figures, with four cellular networks competing to keep prices low to attract subscribers Celltel, owned by international mobile telecoms group Millicom, is splashing 30 million dollars within the next three months to build 50 new towers, giving it coverage of close to 70 percent of the island from less than 50 percent at present.

The service however will not reach the northeastern town of Kilinochchi, controlled by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who have waged a separatist conflict since 1972 that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

“This will raise the number of towers we have to 750, giving us much more coverage in small villages and towns,” Celltel chief, Dumindra Ratnayaka told reporters.

The expansion is part of 100 million dollar investment drive earmarked for last year, which was funded by locally raised money, internal cash, supplier credit, as well as by loans secured by Luxem