Malaysian telcos get kick out of World Cup battle

Malaysia's telecom companies have joined battle around the FIFA World Cup. When the game kicks off, traffic volume for both calls and short messaging service (SMS) are expected to increase during the one-month period. Business Times reported that Maxis Communications Bhd has launched an early raid, powered by a RM60 million right as the main broadcast sponsor of the event. Rivals Celcom (Malaysia) Bhd and DiGi.Com Bhd didn't want to miss the boat, following suit with their football-related campaigns. Celcom introduced Football Mad Nation Ruled By Celcom, while DiGi launched DiGi Destination Germany 06 campaign.

"During the past few weeks, the two telcos have flooded the local television channels, billboards and newspapers with their football-related advertisements, which somewhat link them to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, directly or indirectly. The reason: The widely-watched football event represents a golden opportunity for telcos to boost their subscriber base and squeeze more revenue from their users as they offer soccer-related promotions, products and contents. As such, the pre-World Cup campaigns are crucial as they help increase the telcos' subscriber base," the newspaper commented.

In a recent interview, Maxis Communications Bhd senior general manager and head of consumer business division, Thomas Schnitker said he expects to see at least five percent growth in traffic volume, a modest estimate compared with most analysts' feedback. "We could likely see double-digit growth in volume usage of voice and data pick-up and ultimately peak closer to the finals," Avenue Securities telecommunications analyst Mohd Izhar Mohd Allaudin told the newspaper.

Currently, there are more than 20.6 million mobile users in Malaysia, which represent a penetration rate of 77.7 per cent. During the 2002 World Cup, there were only around nine million mobile phone users. "With almost eight out of 10 Malaysians owning a mobile line, telcos will need to focus on retaining existing customers, while going at each other to get new subscribers ... And with an event like the World Cup coming up, the telcos just simple couldn't afford to be left out," an analyst said.

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