In a bid to make its state-owned telecoms company more attractive for privatisation, Kosovo has removed most unlicensed cell phone transmitters owned by operators from neighbouring Serbia, officials said on Monday.
Kosovo officials say they were losing around 200,000 potential consumers because of Serbian providers operating transmitters in Serb enclaves in Kosovo.
"We have cut off 26 stations and only two remain to be removed later," said Ekrem Hoxha, head of Telecommunication Regulatory Authority. "The signal is either eliminated or it is too weak."
The three-day action against unlicensed cell phone towers comes ahead of Kosovo's plans to privatise its national post and telecoms company (PTK) by August or September.
Some Serbs who have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state protested the craackdown.
Serbia's President Boris Tadic claimed the move "violates human rights" and said he will seek to restore the connections.
Kosovo's state-owned telecoms company said it is distributing free SIM cards for consumers left without service.
Hoxha said authorities will launch similar actions if they detect new signals from illegal operators.
Kosovo, a country of two million, has no country code as it is not a member of the United Nations and its International Telecommunications Union (ITU). International calls currently go through Monaco, Serbia and Slovenia.
Kosovo is recognised by 66 countries, including the United States and most EU member states.
So far, the government in Pristina has issued two mobile licences, one to state telecom and the other to Telekom Slovenije. The government is currently considering whether to invite bidders for another license.
Both Kosovo cell phone operators have said that some of their transmitters were damaged in explosions over the past three days in predominantly ethnic Serb northern areas where the Pristina government has no authority.
"This is a positive signal for investors who would want to buy telecoms, but Kosovo has to show that these (Serbian) operators will not start working again," said Safet Gerxhaliu, an economist for the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce.
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Nisan 2010, 08:56