Telkomsel gearing up for
iPhone fever

Indonesia will soon join Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines in making available Apple Inc.'s much coveted iPhone 3G mobile handset.

PT Telekomunikasi Seluler (Telkomsel), the nation's largest cellular operator, is hopeful it can launch the product soon, Telkomsel president director Sarwoto Atmosutarno told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

"We are now in the final preparation *to launch the product*," he said.

Telkomsel, which won the license from Apple to distribute the iPhone in Indonesia, targets this month to begin selling the second-generation iPhone, which is equipped with the fast 3G communications technology, at a price of around Rp 6 million (US$530) as part of a contract where the customer is not allowed to swap the imbedded SIM card with that of another operator.

Customers can pre-order the iPhone 3G on Telkomsel's website.

Telkomsel is 65 percent owned by state-run PT Telkom, the country's largest telecommunications company. The remaining 35 percent is owned by Singapore Telecom Mobile Pte Ltd.

The iPhone 3G, which offers faster download speeds compared to its predecessor, is available in 82 countries.

The device can be used to check email, surf the web, get directions via global positioning system (GPS), take and browse photos, watch videos and play music. These facilities, along with a calender and active stock tracker, have put the iPhone 3G in contention with Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and Palm Inc.'s Treo smart phones, which are designed for business users.

Telkomsel's biggest competitor PT Indosat, which is controlled by Qatar Telecom, is the sole provider of BlackBerry devices in Indonesia.

Indonesia's cellular operators primarily target the market of middle- to lower-income users, who typically spend less than Rp 200,000 per month using pre-pay and who account for an average more than 70 percent of the customer base for cellular providers.

The arrival of the iPhone is likely to heat up competition among mobile operators tapping cash-rich business clients, who account for a smaller portion of the market's customer base.

Telkomsel, which offers products Kartu Halo, Simpati and Kartu As, had 60.5 million subscribers as of the third quarter of last year, or a 46 percent market share.

The company has been losing a price war against its competitors, sending its profits plunging 7 percent during the first nine months of last year to Rp 9.7 trillion from Rp 9.08 trillion in the same period of 2007. The company has cut its call tariff by as much as 47 percent.

Indonesia is a home to 11 GSM and CDMA operators.

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