This annual report offers a wealth of information on the Mobile market in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Taijikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Subjects covered include:
Trends, Analysis, Players, Revenues, Subscribers, Prepaid
Spectrum Auctions, Developments, Govt. Policies
Infrastructure, GSM, CDMA, 3G
Mobile Data - Market Issue, Paging, Dedicated Services
SIM, SMS, MMS, GPRS, EDGE, WAP, M-Commerce
Telemetry, Location Services, Bluetooth
Mobile Satellite Services
Armenia’s telecommunications sector has started to grow. There are, however, major structural issues to be addressed in the sector. Amid growing dissatisfaction over the performance of the telecoms network, in November 2004 the government reached a compromise agreement with ArmenTel, the country’s national telecom provider, to end its exclusive rights to provide GSM, satellite, and mobile radio communications services in exchange for various other concessions, including the stipulation that only one alternative mobile operator would be allowed to operate in Armenia until 2009. Previously, ArmenTel had been granted exclusive rights to the provision of all telecommunications services in Armenia until 2013 (apart from data services). ArmenTel announced in 2002 that it was increasing its commitment to a US$24 million network upgrade plan. The amended program was expected to eventually provide network coverage to around 85% of Armenia’s population.
Azerbaijan is making steady progress in developing its telecommunications sector, but still faces numerous problems. Poor quality infrastructure has been a major ongoing problem. The two cellular service providers in Azerbaijan now have to contend with two new mobile licences that were issued in December 2005 as the existing mobile operators were unable to provide sufficient services due to the rise in calls and subscribers.
Georgia Although steadily improving its telecommunications infrastructure, as a result of gradual under-investment over decades, Georgia has a network that is outmoded and inadequate. However, there has been an upward trend in the country’s telecom market over the past few years, with rising revenues and increased investment in infrastructure. Mobile communication systems have become increasingly important because the fixed-line facilities provided in many places (particularly in rural and remote areas) are outdated and a mobile phone represents the only effective means of communication. In an interesting move, in April 2006, the country’s telecom regulator, the Georgian National Communications Commission, awarded a 3G mobile licence to textiles company Argotex. Further spectrum was due to be auctioned.
Following the launch of the country’s first mobile network in 1994, three more operators launched mobile services. As a result, the number of mobile subscribers has grown rapidly year on year. The annual growth rate in the mobile sector in 2004 was more than 40%, followed by similar growth in 2005. By March 2006, the mobile subscriber numbers had reached 1.5 million (penetration 33%), having passed the fixed line subscriber base in 2003.
Kazakhstan has a booming telecoms market that will ensure the rapid introduction of new infrastructure and the upgrade of old equipment (Just over 70% of the national network was digital in early 2006). A healthy boom in mobile services has occurred. Mobile subscriber numbers have surged from 260,000 in 2000 to over 5 million (a penetration of over 33%) in early 2006. The annual growth rate was running at almost 90%. Competition in the market was boosted, when Altel, the country’s original mobile operator, was joined by two other operators offering GSM services. The arrival of the competing operators quickly resulted in lower prices and broadening of services.
Kyrgyzstan While much has been done to modernise Kyrgyzstan’s telecom network, geographical conditions, a high incidence of poverty and a still developing legal and regulatory framework are key obstacles to the healthy expansion of telecom operations. The good news is that the market has been opened to both foreign and domestic investors and an independent regulator has been established to oversee the sector.
Mobile services have been provided in Kyrgyzstan by two operators - Katel (D-AMPS) and Bitel (GSM). A second GSM network was also launched in April 2006. The mobile market is still in the early stages of development. Having grown by close to 50% in the previous 12 months, the mobile subscriber base had reached a penetration of almost 11% by March 2006.
Tajikistan’s telecommunications network is arguably the least developed of all the countries that emerged from the former Soviet Union. With a telecom network that was near total collapse, the government has commenced the daunting task of bringing it up to modern standards. At the same time, a gradual process of liberalisation is under way and over the last decade a number of private operators have been allowed to enter the telecom market, notably in the mobile and Internet sectors. The country has five operators providing mobile service, a number of additional licences having been granted recently. The mobile subscriber numbers had remained relatively flat for some years, but the market has started to grow more rapidly over the last year or two. After a growth surge of 120% in 2005, the total subscriber base had risen to an estimated 430,000 (a penetration of almost 6%).
Turkmenistan is yet another of the nations that emerged from the former Soviet Union with a relatively underdeveloped telecommunications sector. In fact, it is claimed that telecommunications services in Turkmenistan are the least developed of all the CIS countries. Combined fixed-line and mobile teledensity was estimated at just over 10% by end-2005.
Turkmenistan’s mobile market, served by one private and one state-owned operator, has been slow to grow. However, 2005 saw the first signs of a more energetic mobile market with growth in excess of 100%. By March 2006, there were 110,000 mobile subscribers for a penetration of just over 2%.
Uzbekistan has been struggling to bring its telecom system up to the standard found in developed countries. Although steadily improving, some of the telecommunications infrastructure remains outmoded and inadequate.
Combined fixed-line and mobile teledensity was estimated at roughly 12% in early 2006, with the mobile sector growing at 100% per annum coming into 2006. Six operators provide mobile services in Uzbekistan, the largest of which are Uzdunrobita JV and Daewoo Unitel. The market grew by over 80% in 2004, lifting mobile penetration to 2%. Then in 2005 the market witnessed another strong year of growth with subscriber numbers increasing by 100%. By March 2006, there were a total of 1,232,000 mobile subscribers in the country and mobile penetration had been lifted to over 4%.