UPDATE 2-Turkcell backs 3G cost sharing, sees new subscribers

* Turkcell, Turk Telekom back 3G investment sharing

* Turkcell to secure near 3 million 3G users in 2009

* Not optimistic on Libya telecoms tender competition (Adds CEO interview, details, background)

ISTANBUL, July 28 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Turkcell TCELL.IS, Turkey's biggest mobile-phone operator, said on Tuesday he supported the idea of sharing with rivals the cost of building third-generation networks in the country.

Sureyya Ciliv also told Reuters he expected his company to secure nearly three million subscribers for the high-speed service by the end of the year. Turkish operators launch 3G on Thursday.

“So far we have 1 million preliminary applications for subscriptions for 3G. I expect our subscriptions to approach 3 million by the end of the year,” he said in an interview.

After several delays, mobile phone operators in Turkey are keen to get 3G networks up and running to take advantage of fast-growing demand for wireless data, but they also want to keep investment costs down during the economic downturn.

Ciliv told Reuters he expected the total mobile phone penetration level in Turkey to fall to 80 percent from the current 88 percent.

He said penetration levels would rebound in one year. The main reason for the fall was due to duplicate subscriptions as well as the fallout from the economic downturn, he said.

Ciliv earlier told a news conference he backed sharing the cost of 3G network investments. His call came a day after Turk Telekom TTKOM.IS CEO Paul Doany recommended teaming up with 3G rivals Vodafone VOD.L and Turkcell.[ID:nLR161975]

Turk Telekom owns Turkish mobile phone operator Avea, which is also building a high-speed network.

Shares in Turkcell ticked up 0.6 percent to 8.45 lira following the news, outperforming peers and the Istanbul blue-chip index .XU100, which was off 0.3 percent.


Ciliv also told Reuters that he was not optimistic that Turkcell would win the tendering for a telecoms licence in Libya, as several of the company’s conditions for the tender competition had not been accepted by Tripoli.

Turkcell is looking to expand internationally, and has targeted emerging markets Central Asia and North Africa. Last month it lost out to France Telecom FTE.PA and its local partner Divona in a bid to provide telephone services in Tunisia.

It was unclear whether the possible sharing of 3G infrastructure investments in Turkey would affect current deals with telecoms equipment makers.

Ericsson ERICb.ST, the world's biggest mobile network maker, said in March it had signed a deal with Turkcell to be the main supplier for its 3G network in Turkey.

Avea said in April it had picked Ericsson, China's Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] and ZTE 0763.HK to supply 3G infrastructure.

Last December Vodafone said it had picked Huawei to supply 3G infrastructure in Turkey. (Reporting by Ercan Ersoy; writing by Paul de Bendern, editing by Will Waterman and Rupert Winchester)


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