Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bite will have to buy in and ... LIGO!!!

It looks like the only way Bite Mobile, the mobile newcomer to the Latvian market, is going to get national roaming is to buy it, straight out, with no sheriff regulator at its back. The issue underlying national roaming is the network access market, not the mobile market per se. Latvia's Public Utilities Regulatory Commission won't get around to dealing with that market until the second half of 2006, plus it may have to change the Electronic Communications Law to get the big teeth it needs to make the incumbents open their networks (at a decent cost plus price). That is an optimistic estimate.
With observers expecting Bite to launch services in the fall, or just ahead of when number portability starts on December 1, it looks like Jesper Thiell Eriksen, Bite GSM 's CEO and board chairman of the Latvian unit, Bite Mobile, will have a lot of persuading to do to get Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) and Tele2 (the latter may be the easier of the two iron maidens to get to "fall backwards" in the Shakespearean sense) to sell them some minutes on the network. This may mean that Jesper will have to pay top lat for the pleasure, but write this off as an indirect marketing expense. Bite's early tariffs/prepaid rates will have to look very good and the company will simply swallow any losses on the extensive national roaming in the first months or half-year of operations.
Again, I remind him that if he wants to burn through the 40 000 numbers he has available, selling them through a link to the Latvian Friendster, could be one way to do it. There are 330 000 potential buyers of a better pre-paid card out there.
As far as the business offering, I wonder how much of the "one price for the whole neighborhood" scheme of Vodafone Passport we will see Bite taking over. It would be great to be able to use them to call for the same price in Latvia, the other Baltics, Sweden and maybe Britain and Germany.
And now for LIGO, pronounced Leegou, the merry refrain of Latvian Midssummer Song.

Little Bite's flying north
Ligo, Ligo!
Juris* better watch your hive
Ligo, Ligo!
Bite's got the sweets for it..
Ligo, Ligo,
Gonna lure your queens away!
Ligo, Ligo

*Juris Binde, president of LMT.

So I'm going to do some Ligo myself and be back after the long weekend. Local readers, please celebrate sensibly.

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