Unlicensed mobile operators problem for would-be investors
Kosovo needs its phone country code to reduce costs
PTK three months late to start operating in Albania
By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA, March 29 (Reuters) – Kosovo should crack down on unauthorised mobile operators and get an international country code if it wants to make telecommunications privatisation more attractive to foreign investors, the manager of Kosovo Post and Telecom (PTK) said.
“There are a lot of illegal operators mainly from Serbia and we are losing around 200,000 potential consumers,” Shyqyri Haxha, executive director of Kosovo’s leading PTK, said in an interview on Monday. “For foreign investors the main thing is to eliminate those illegal operators.”
“This will increase the value of the company.”
Kosovo expects to launch a PTK tender by June and announce a winner in August or September.
Last week Pristina held an investors conference on the tender and companies inlcuding Hrvatski Telecom, which is part of Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Austria, Orascom Telecom from Egypt, Cable and Wireless of Britain and other companies attended.
As with many aspects of Kosovo’s economy, the unauthorised cell phone service is related to the tangled political situation in a country that declared independence two years ago. Serbia does not recognise the independence, and some firms have erected non-licensed cell phone towers in Serb-majority areas.
Mobile phones from Serbia operators are mainly used by the 120,000 Kosovo Serbs but also by majority Albanians who want to communicate with friends and relatives in Serbia more cheaply.
Kosovo’s government has issued just two mobile licences, one for PTK and the other to Telekom Slovenije. It is now studying whether to allow another operator.

Kosovo has a national flag, anthem and other symbols of statehood, but the country of two million does not have a country telephone dialling code. International calls go through Monaco, Serbia and Slovenia.

“After we successfully reached an agreement with Monaco Telecom now we are paying 16.5 million euros ($22.18 million) per year to use their country code; before, we paid more,” said Haxha.

Kosovo is not a United Nations member and its International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has not provided Pristina with a country code.
PTK, with about 1.1 million mobile and 80,000 landline phone customers, also owns the postal service. Last year they won the contract to be the fourth mobile operator in neighbouring Albania, but failed to reach a target to start service in March.

“We are late with the operator in Albania because we want to start with our product not just in capital Tirana but in the whole country,” the CEO said.
Kosovo economic experts say PTK, which has contributed dividends of 234 million euros to Kosovo’s budget over the last decade, would reach a maximum price of 300 million euros in a sale, but Haxha said the company is worth much more. ($1=.7439 Euro) (Editing by Adam Tanner and Jon Loades-Carter)