Deregulation of Macau's telecommunications market is expected to make significant strides towards the end of the year, offering Hong Kong companies opportunities to expand into its mobile phone and Internet access service markets. Scott Ma Chi-kwong, general manager of product innovation marketing for Macau's dominant telecoms firm, Companhia de Telecomunicacoes de Macau (CTM), said the government was inviting interested parties to submit proposals for mobile-phone operator licences. He said the government had announced it would issue by October not more than three one-year temporary licences to potential operators, of which those fulfilling certain conditions would be granted eight-year operating licences. Mr Ma was speaking after CTM announced Macau's first high-speed Internet service, operated using equipment provided by United States-based network equipment giant Cisco Systems. He said a number of Hong Kong firms had expressed interest in Macau's mobile market but declined to name them. A spokesman for Hong Kong mobile operator Peoples Telephone said the company was interested in the Macau market and was studying its feasibility. A Hutchison Telecommunications spokesman said the firm was studying the licensing terms. SmarTone Telecommunications and New World Telephone declined to comment. CTM marketing director Vandy Poon said the company was prepared for the impending competition, but he was not too worried about a Hong Kong-style price war that could drive down profitability. 'Price-cutting is only one of the ways operators compete. They also compete on service quality, comprehensiveness of services and customer services, and we are quite prepared to compete on these,' he said. CTM has about 130,000 mobile subscribers - about one-third of Macau's population. Average monthly revenue per subscriber is less than HK$300. CTM has monopolies in Macau's mobile-phone, long-distance calling and fixed-line telephone markets. CTM is 51 per cent-held by Britain-based Cable & Wireless, while Hong Kong-listed Citic Pacific holds 20 per cent, Portugal Telecom 28 per cent and the Macau Government 1 per cent. Meanwhile, Macau's telecoms authority is expected to issue additional Internet access service licences this year. CTM and Macau Web are at present the only service providers. CTM has about 20,000 dial-up service customers and a market share of about 90 per cent. The firm is hoping to recruit 10,000 to 20,000 high-speed service customers this year.