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September 8, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

The Airtel consortium, which in December 1994 was awarded Spain’s second cellular licence to compete with Telefonica de Espana SA, could well find a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the cellular operator to get its network up and running quickest, Ignacio Galan, the consortium’s managing director recently told Computing Espana. He said that despite the size of the country, the first base stations were set up just four months after obtaining the licence, compared with 18 months in Germany, 17 in Italy and 10 in Portugal. Airtouch Communications Inc holds 15.78% of Airtel, British Telecommunications Plc has 6.31%, Banco Santander and Central Hispano have 13.71% each, and other Spanish investors hold the remaining 50.49%. Galan said considerable care was being taken over the choice of Airtel’s suppliers. Not only have we taken account of technical and economic criteria, but we have also placed a high value on the contribution to be made to the national economy. Ericsson, our first supplier, has undertaken to create 400 new jobs and invest $41m in the project, he said. The consortium has also sought to help the development of small and medium-sized Spanish businesses. Thus although the first aerials installed were from abroad, Airtel has now approved domestic suppliers that will produce these within Spain. There are a total of 70 companies working with Airtel in a number of different fields, covering fibreglass containers, towers, aerials and an innovative control system developed wholly in Spain, which will ensure the security of each of the stations. Airtel is still organising itself as a company; the management and technical team are now complete, while sales staff, the customer services team and the advertising agency arein the process of being selected. It has already set up a switching centre in Madrid, the Barcelona and Sevilee centres are is at the pilot stage, to be followed by centres in Bilbao and Valencia. Offices are now in operation in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Malaga, La Coruna and Palma de Mallorca. Galan is confident that the date set for early October will be met and rates will undercut those of the current analogue service operated by Telefonica. In the light of the most recent scandal to rock the Spanish Government, namely military intelligence services taping mobile telephone calls made by the Spanish Royal Family and other public figures, Galan has stressed the security advantages of Groupe Special Mobile over analogue services, as well as quality.


Optimum sites for aerials have been obtained and saturation will be avoided by surveying client demand in advance. One point about which Galan is a little concerned is the radio spectrum, which he described as limited; provision was made for 24 channels when the licence was awarded. He believes this places Spain at a disadvantage compared with other European countries that have a broader spectrum, and said this will inevitably incur greater costs, due to the geographical complexity of the country. With respect to the $650m Airtel had to pay for its licence, while Telefonica was exempted from any payment, Galan intends to seek further clarification from Brussels. He admitted that Airtel will not ignore any opportunities that may come its way when speech telephony is liberalised on January 1 1998, but for the moment he says the company inteds to focus all efforts on providing the best possible cellular service.

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