Rising personal incomes, a stronger economy and even a bumper grain harvest are pushing Russians to spend more on telephone services, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said. Overall revenues for telecom services rose 45 percent year on year to 195.4 billion rubles ($6.14 billion) in the first nine months of 2002, he told at a news conference. Reiman said that the cellular market has shown the largest growth, with the total number of mobile-phone users rising to 14.7 million, about 11 percent of the population, at the end of September, up from 6.2 million at the same time in 2001. The number of cellular users could reach 16 million by the end of the year, he said. "A broader stratum of society is using mobile phones," Reiman said. "We think we'll double the number of mobile-phone users this year, like we have in previous years." Reiman said that Internet use has also shown significant growth, although it is difficult to determine by how much. "According to the majority of estimates, there are 8.5 million Internet users in Russia," he said. Foreign investment in the telecoms industry jumped 30 percent year on year to $277 million in the first nine months of 2002, while domestic investment grew 19.7 percent to 28.5 billion rubles ($896 million), Reiman said, adding that companies were starting to target underserved markets outside wealthy cities, the Saint Petersburg Times wrote.
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