Ireland-based Digicel and Claro, a unit of Mexico's América Móvil, signed contracts for the provision of wireless service in Panama, where their concessions oblige them to install four radio bases.
Manuel Troitiño, telecommunications director of the National Public Services Authority (ASEP), said both companies would have to apply to ASEP for frequencies or microwave links between the radio bases.
The project consists of the construction and operation of a greenfield mobile cellular telephone network in Panama.
The total cost is estimated at US$334 million. The proposed IFC investment is up to US$50 million 'A' loan for IFC's own account.
The project is expected to create high-quality employment opportunities in Panama both at the company and distribution levels. Digicel plans to hire 350 people directly in its operations and estimates the indirect employment of additional 1,000 people.
Panama imported $190 million worth of mobile phones in 2008, at a time when Claro was not operating in the country and Digicel was just starting.
This industry is growing at rapid pace, fueled by the fast advances in technology, as new features are being added almost constantly: longer lasting batteries, internet navigation, video calls, GPS, etc.
Panama's mobile phone penetration stands at 115%, meaning that each Panamanian uses more than one device on average.
Cell-phone companies have 6.6 million wireless phone numbers allocated, but only 3 million are active.
Through March 2009, Cable & Wireless (C&W) and Telefónica Móviles (Movistar) have 2.7 million lines each, Digicel has 900 thousand and ClaroPanama, which has just begun operations, has 300 thousand, according to data from the National Authority for Public Services published by Prensa.com.
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