Bulgaria - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Bulgaria's transportation infrastructure includes railroads, with 3,979 kilometers (2,472 miles) of track in use, and about 36,724 kilometers (22,819 miles) of paved roads, although some of these are unsatisfactory. There are only about 250 kilometers (160 miles) of 4-lane highway. Back in the 1980s, Somat, the state trucking company, was among the largest in Europe. However, political troubles involving Serbia made the road route to Western Europe across Serbian territory problematic. The result was greater traffic via Romania across the only existing bridge with a ferry crossing on the Danube. Bulgaria recognized the need for a second bridge, but mixed signals from Romania have held up the project. However, the reopening of traffic through Yugoslavia following the ousting of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 may rule out bridge construction.

Bulgaria has many highway projects under construction, notably portions of the Trans-European motor-way connecting Budapest, Hungary, with Athens, Greece, via Sofia, and with Istanbul, Turkey, via eastern Bulgaria. International investors and the state budget are the main sources for financing road network improvements. Completion and modernization of portions of the Trakia, Cherno More, and Hemus expressways are being given out to contractors, and there are plans for a north-south tunnel under Mount Shipka.

The Danube River is an important artery, and much of the freight traffic uses the Black Sea. There is a sizeable merchant marine fleet operated by the Navibulgar shipping company. Two major seaports and east-west transport corridor gateways, in Varna and Burgas, are planned for rehabilitation. Balkan, the national airline, serves major cities and international destinations, although it has suffered after its recent sale to the Israeli Zeevi group in a questionable privatization deal. Smaller airlines also operate, and 3 major international airports, in Sofia, Varna, and Burgas, are currently undergoing modernization. There are 129 airports with paved runways.

Bulgaria's energy sector is state-owned and derives most of its output from thermal plants burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas (52 percent), nuclear plants (41 percent), and hydroelectric facilities (7 percent). Newer units of the Kozloduy nuclear plant will be upgraded under a contract between the National Electric Company and the U.S. company, Westinghouse. Bulgaria exports energy, primarily to Turkey and Yugoslavia. The country produced 38.423 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy in 1998, a slight decrease from the previous year, and electricity consumption stood at 35.493 billion kWh. Studies to determine the feasibility of oil pipelines carrying oil from the Caspian Sea through Bulgaria to the Greek Aegean Sea coast or the Albanian Adriatic Sea coast could bring future opportunities for expansion. There are extensive networks of pipelines carrying natural gas throughout the country.

Bulgaria has the highest penetration of telephone service in Eastern Europe, at 38.47 percent. The network is operated by the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). In 1998, it replaced antiquated facilities with up-to-date equipment and connected major cities with digital exchanges, satellite ground stations, fiber-optic lines, and digital microwave networks in a $300 million project funded by international investors. Residential telephone development will reach EU standards by 2008. There is analog cellular telephone network operated by the Mobifon company, created as a joint venture between Cable & Wireless (49 percent), BTC (39 percent), and the Bulgarian company Radio Electronic Systems (12 percent). The Bulgarian company, Mobiltel, operates a digital cellular telephone network,

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Bulgaria 257 543 398 28.8 15 N/A N/A 11.89 235
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Romania 300 319 233 119.2 29 N/A 10.2 9.01 600
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

and the country has many small, unregulated, Internet service providers. Privatization of 51 percent of the BTC, worth more than $500 million, will be the largest privatization deal in Bulgaria, and was being prepared in 2001, while the Greek telecommunications company, OTE, was granted a license for a second national digital cellular phone network.

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