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SlovakTelecomm ambitiously expands toward improvement

Slovakia's telecommunications system is one of the difficult aspects of living and doing business in the country. According to statistics from Slovak Telecomm (ST), the state-run telecommunications carrier, the waiting period for a new phone line can be 20 months. And even then, there's no guarantee that the line will be good, because of the 1 million phone lines in the country, only about 200,000 are connected to high-quality digital phone exchanges. The company, however, does have plans to improve the system. In fact (as those who have experienced the recent chaos of suddenly-changing phone numbers in Bratislava can bear witness) the company is pushing hard to connect 400,000 lines to digital exchanges this year.

Slovakia's telecommunications system is one of the difficult aspects of living and doing business in the country. According to statistics from Slovak Telecomm (ST), the state-run telecommunications carrier, the waiting period for a new phone line can be 20 months. And even then, there's no guarantee that the line will be good, because of the 1 million phone lines in the country, only about 200,000 are connected to high-quality digital phone exchanges.

The company, however, does have plans to improve the system. In fact (as those who have experienced the recent chaos of suddenly-changing phone numbers in Bratislava can bear witness) the company is pushing hard to connect 400,000 lines to digital exchanges this year. ST's main objective is to increase the number of telephone lines from the current level of 20 lines per 100 citizens to 35. This follows the second stage of Telecommunications Projects 1 and 2, which were designed in the old days of the Czechoslovak Federation.

Project 1 demanded that phone penetration rise from its 1992 level of 14 percent to 21 percent by 1995. The current level of penetration is at about 20 percent. However, Project 2 could be harder to complete, because it will cost a whopping $1.8 billion, $750 million of which must be invested from outside the company. That sum could be tough to meet.

Especially as any plans to privatize ST - which would ultimately be the source of that $750 million - are currently on hold. So while the government is moving forward with legislation that will end ST's monopoly on basic phone services by the year 2003, they are holding back from the kind of partial privatization deals that earned the Czech state company STP Telecom $1.45 billion.

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