Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) officially launches its complete GSM service on Friday, October 18, becoming the first mobile carrier licensed to operate nationwide. The launch is months behind schedule because of regulatory obstacles only now surmounted by TIM?s parent, Telecom Italia, which recently relinquished part of its equity holding in an incumbent LEC, Brasil Telecom. TIM enters the market with 1,000 sale outlets and an aggressive marketing strategy geared not only to attracting new users but also to poaching customers from the competition. National and international roaming is available to prepaid as well as postpaid customers, as is GPRS for data transmission. Access to GPRS will be free until the end of this year as part of a special promotion that also includes free calls between TIM phones, discounts for postpaid users and additional credits for prepaid in different service plans. Customers who prefer not to be locked into a specific plan can ask for rebates or discounts according to usage each month, and can switch from postpaid to prepaid or vice-versa while keeping the same number. Management says the idea is to add value to prepaid service.
TIM Brazil?s new GSM service will eventually cover the entire country but currently it?s available in 94 cities in Rio de Janeiro, the North, Center-West, part of the South, and São Paulo. The goal is to have 200,000-300,000 customers by the end of 2002 and 1.5 million by the end of 2003. Next year it plans to overlay GSM on top of its existing TDMA network in the South, Northeast and Minas Gerais (Maxitel). Customers who switch from TDMA to GSM will be able to keep the same number. TIM has some 5m TDMA customers nationwide and has invested 1bn US Dollars in GSM to date, installing 1,952 base stations (many shared with other operators) as well as two call centers specifically for GSM with a total of 470 agents. It has signed an infrastructure and network sharing agreement with Oi, Telemar?s GSM service, guaranteeing roaming throughout Region I (covered by Oi) for local calls in areas where TIM as yet has no base stations of its own.