No one really knows how many broadband connections there are in Latvia. Lattelekom's internet service provider (ISP) Apollo estimates there will be 40 000 DSL subsribers by year end, perhaps 100 000 in a few years. However, Ingmars Pūķis, the director of Apollo, told my newspaper that no one really knows, since some high speed connections (DSL at 2Mbps) can be divided and resold to other users that Apollo is unaware of. TeliaMultiCom has a couple of thousand cable internet users, and there are a growing number of "triple play" customers at Baltcom, who subscribe to cable TV, cable internet and telephony services. But even a fat cable internet subscription or a corporate grade "radiolink" to Telia Latvija (no longer connected to MultiCom in any way) can be resold. Since the resellers sometimes operate "informally", call them Grey Market ISPs (hence the acronym in the title -GMISPs)
One of my colleagues, call her Inguna, might be a typical "unaccounted for" broadband user. She and her partner share a connection (two PCs, an extra charge for the second computer) for about LVL 16 a month, which is about what HomeDSL from Lattelekom/Apollo costs. She says their neighbor, who has DSL, says their connection is faster. There is limited customer service, but there have also been only a few breakdowns. It seems that only a few people set up and run what may be a GMISP in a Riga suburb. If this is typical, there can be hundreds of GMISPs in Riga alone.
While this may mean less revenue (directly) for the "majors" -- Lattelekom and TeliaMultiCom– it also means that the potential broadband content audience is bigger than any official figures.
Watch for Lattelekom to make some strong strategic moves into content in the coming six months. Also consider that the company may start migrating all of its voice, eventually all services, to a next-generation IP network. This is what British Telecom is doing and Lattelekom MD Nils Melngailis is an admirer of BT's strategy.