New World Telephone claims to be running neck-and-neck with Peoples Telephone in the race to sign up PCS mobile customers. New World PCS chief executive Alan Wong said the company had about 160,000 subscribers, up from the 120,000 customers it claimed to have in May. The most recent Government figures put the total number of PCS users at 440,000 at the end of July. Mr Wong said he estimated the market now had about 450,000 users in total, meaning New World controlled an estimated 36 per cent of the PCS market. He said it was important for the PCS operators to attract the largest possible customer base because the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) had promised increased bandwidth to companies which reached certain subscriber targets. 'Ofta has said in the past it would increase our bandwidth from 7.5 megahertz to 10 megahertz if we had enough customers,' he said. Mr Wong said the relative difference was added capacity - at present, the PCS operators have space for 400,000 to 500,000 customers. With the increased bandwidth, capacity would jump to 600,000 to 700,000 customers. Admittedly, he said, those user numbers were 'really far off in the future'. But as the trend in telecoms heads towards bundled services and convergence, the added capacity would prove strategically important for telecoms companies, he said. In mid-July, Peoples Telephone said it had about 135,000 customers, while Sunday PCS last claimed in March to have 85,000 subscribers. Sunday launched a subscriber retention programme this week in the hope of curtailing customer desertion - which it estimated at 2.5 per cent per month - and to attract new customers. Mr Wong said that New World's customer churn rate was less than 2 per cent, adding that the average usage rate was about 300 minutes per month for each of its subscribers. However, Mr Wong said the number of new clients it lured away from other PCS competitors was 'a very small percentage'. 'Only about 20 per cent of the new subscribers we have added recently buy only our SIM card and, presumably, this number would include the people bringing their own handsets from the other networks,' he said. However, he said the number of SIM card-only customers had increased 10 to 15 per cent in recent months. Meanwhile, Pedro Ching, chief executive of New World Telephone and the chief of its fixed-line arm, said the company's IDD 009 service had seen a slight drop in usage in the first half of this year due to the slowing economy. 'However, if we compare the results in July of this year with the results from the same month last year, we still see reasonable growth,' he said. Mr Ching said the service now had about 400,000 subscribers, with more than a quarter active users. He added that the company had about 10,000 fixed-line customers.