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Consumers Gobble Up Last Remaining GSM Lines

December 3, 2004

AGENCIES of the Costa RicanElectricity Institute (ICE) and ICE-authorizedcellular phone dealers confrontedendless lines of customers Monday andTuesday hoping to buy the last 17,000GSM cellular phone lines available in thecountry.The GSM lines, which were madeavailable after ICE confiscated cellularservices from customers who had not paidtheir bills for two consecutive months,went on sale Monday morning and soldout by Tuesday noon, according to theICE press office.Customers endured seemingly endlesswaits to buy late-model GSM cellular phonelines. The daily La Nación reported that onewoman, who arrived at an ICE agency inHeredia, northwest of San José, at 2 a.m.Monday morning, found 61 people in lineahead of her and was still in line at noonafter ten hours of waiting.According to ICE, 38,000 TDMA cellularlines, which use older technologythat doesn’t permit Internet connections,are still available, but there is no tellingwhen customers in Costa Rica will haveaccess to more GSM lines.ICE cannot begin contract negotiationsto purchase additional lines until theConstitutional Chamber of the SupremeCourt (IV) rules on an appeal fromSwedish telecommunications firmEricsson. Ericsson, which had a contractwith ICE to provide 600,000 GSM lines(TT, May 21), is protesting theController’s Office’s decision to reject thecontract.If the court rejects Ericsson’s appeal,it could take ICE as long as two years tonegotiate a new contract for additionalcell phone lines.

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