Telecommunications - Venezuela

Movilnet CDMA network up with 95% coverage

Movilnet CDMA network up with 95% coverage

By -

Venezuelan mobile operator Movilnet's new CDMA2000 1xRTT network has 450 cell sites installed and covers 95% of the population, the company's CDMA network project manager Pedro Gutierrez told BNamericas Wednesday at the 2000 CDMA Americas conference in San Diego, California.

Movilnet launched its CDMA2000 network on November 20 with initial capacity for 300,000 subscribers, Gutierrez said. Movilnet had 2.52 million subscribers at the end of September.

The company has invested US$190mn in the network to date and plans to spend another US$70mn in 2003 on CDMA and upkeep of its legacy TDMA network, Gutierrez said. "If you look at [our CDMA2000 deployment] over a two-year timeframe, we already have about 80% of our capex invested," he said.

Gutierrez said Movilnet would not immediately make the jump from CDMA2000 1x to high-speed EV-DO technology, despite BellSouth Latin America president Ralph de la Vega saying on Tuesday that BellSouth would make Venezuela its first market to conduct trials for EV-DO. BellSouth is deploying a CDMA2000 network in Venezuela, with launch expected for 1Q03.

Network compression capabilities, for example, could allow Movilnet to expand 1X's current top speed of 144kbps, before taking the larger step of migrating toward EV-DO, which can reach 2.4Mbps, he said. "We are not going to get ahead of ourselves," Gutierrez said. Going forward, EV-DO "might be necessary depending the market demand of new services and higher data speeds," he added.

Movilnet's parent, Venezuela's incumbent telco Cantv (NYSE: VNT), said earlier this year that it would leverage the mobile operator's CDMA2000 network to provide fixed wireless basic telephony in areas inadequately served by Cantv's wireline network.

Gutierrez could not comment on Cantv's plans, but said, "The corporation is well aware of the capabilities of the CDMA2000 1X technology, and we have [that kind of network] in place."