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Tajikistan - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet

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Tajikistan - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet

More solid growth marks Tajikistan's mobile market but take-up of internet still lags badly

Note: This report has had a statistical update in November 2013 bringing most information up to end-2012 and some to mid-2013. There has also been some additional information added to the text.

Tajikistan's mobile sector has been growing strongly for over a decade and is the standout feature of the country's telecom industry. Mobile penetration passed the 90% milestone in 2012 and the mobile subscriber base was continuing on a positive growth path in 2013. The launch of 3G mobile services in Tajikistan has also provided an optimistic note in the telecom market place. However, overall the telecom sector has continued to struggle. With one of the lowest fixed-line teledensities in the region (around 6% in 2012), at least the market was continuing to grow, although only at a modest rate. Fixed internet connections are also extremely low; however, but an expanding internet user population was a positive sign for the country's future. This has been helped by the increasingly widespread presence of mobile internet services.

When the Soviet Union collapsed Tajikistan's telecommunications infrastructure was arguably the least developed of all the former Soviet republics. With a telecom network that was near to totally dysfunctional, the government inherited the daunting task of bringing it up to modern standards. Apart from its outmoded and poorly maintained infrastructure, a succession of natural disasters causing damage to plant and equipment further undermined the integrity of the network.

The Tajikistan government announced its National Program of Communications Development in the mid-1990s. This was aimed particularly at the modernisation and development of communications throughout the country. Specifically it included plans to privatise communications, broadcasting and television to attract foreign investors, although the state was expected to remain a major shareholder.

The ambitious plan began to be implemented within the context of a traditional regulatory and operating structure. The Ministry of Communications (MOC) was made responsible for providing all public communications, including local, national and international telephone services, as well as postal services, TV and radio broadcasting. As part of a long-term program, the MOC aimed to build a national communications system to world standards. The government also laid out plans to ultimately transfer all responsibilities from the MOC to a new independent regulatory authority which duly happened. The Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) now has responsibility for regulating the telecom sector.

The government indicated there would be a transition period leading up to privatisation of Tajiktelecom in 2004 and liberalisation of the local and international long-distance switched telephony sector in 2006. As part of the privatisation strategy, a substantial number of private operators were allowed to enter the telecom market after 1996, notably in the mobile and internet sectors. In fact, telecommunications has become one of the most dynamically developing sectors within the Tajikistan economy. Although still inadequate, its contribution to the county's GDP has been actively growing, as new and diversified technologies were quickly becoming the norm. The privatisation of Tajiktelecom has, however, been subject to a series of delays.

The state-owned incumbent operator, Tajiktelecom, continues to maintain a major presence in the market, providing local, long-distance and international telephone services throughout the country. In addition, seven mobile operators had been licensed as well as more than 10 Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Note: It is pointed out that there are considerable inconsistencies with the market statistics available for Tajikistan as well as the total absence of statistics for some indicators

Market highlights:

By 2012 mobiles in Tajikistan had reached just over 90% penetration, with subscriber growth continuing to run at a reasonably strong annual rate;
Overall mobile subscriber numbers had increased by a factor of almost 40 in just seven years;
The growth rate peaked over that period when in 2007 Tajikistan's mobile subscriber numbers expanded at an annual rate of almost 200%;
Four mobile operators were granted 3G licences and had subsequently launched networks;
Initially demand for 3G services was low, but the market expanded rapidly through 2012 and into 2013;
Fixed-line penetration in Tajikistan was low, with this market remaining a sluggish growth area;
Although up to date official figures were not available, by 2012 the conversion of the country's fixed network from analogue appeared to have achieved a digital level in excess of 90% and the country was well on the way to achieving its 100% target;
Tajikistan's internet usage has been expanding quickly, with reports suggesting internet user penetration of around 15% by 2012;
However, the actual number of internet subscribers remained relatively low;
Fixed broadband internet access was virtually non-existent, although mobile broadband was growing quickly;
In 2012 Sweden's TeliaSonera attracted criticism for abetting an authoritarian regime' with its operations in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan key telecom parameters 2012 - 2013
Category | 2012 | 2013 (e)
Fixed-line services:
Subscriber penetration (population) | 5.6% | 5.8%
Total number of fixed subscribers1 | 30,000 | 35,000
Mobile services:
Subscriber penetration (population) | 92% | 96%
(Source: BuddeComm)
Note: 1estimates for both 2012 and 2013
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Tajikistan.

Subjects covered include:

Key statistics;
Market and industry overviews;
Major operators (mobile and fixed);
Regulatory environment;
Mobile market voice and data;
Internet market.

1. Executive summary
2. Key statistics
2.1 Country overview
2.1.1 Background
2.1.2 Economy
3. Telecommunications market
3.1 Overview of Tajikistan's telecom market
3.2 Government criticism of telecom industry
4. Regulatory environment
4.1 The regulatory authority
4.2 Law on Electrical Communication
4.3 Liberalisation
4.3.1 Privatisation of Tajiktelecom
4.3.2 World Trade Organization (WTO)
4.3.3 Censorship
5. Fixed network operator
5.1 Tajiktelecom
6. Telecommunications infrastructure
6.1 National and international
6.2 Infrastructure developments
6.2.1 Next Generation Networks (NGNs)
7. Internet market
7.1 Overview
7.2 Internet statistics
7.3 Internet regulation
7.3.1 Overview
7.3.2 Government control
7.4 Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
7.5 Government's e-strategy
7.6 WiMAX
8. Mobile communications
8.1 Overview of Tajikistan's mobile market
8.2 Mobile statistics
8.3 Mobile technologies
8.3.1 Third Generation (3G) mobile
9. Major mobile operators
9.1 Babilon Mobile
9.2 TCell (Indigo-Somoncom)
9.2.1 Indigo Tajikistan
9.2.2 Somoncom
9.3 Tacom / Beeline
9.4 TK Mobile
9.5 TT Mobile (Megafon)
9.6 M-Teko
10. Related reports
Table 1 Country statistics Tajikistan 2013
Table 2 Telecom revenue and investment statistics 2008
Table 3 Telephone network statistics 2012
Table 4 Internet user statistics 2012
Table 5 Mobile statistics 2012
Table 6 National telecommunications authorities
Table 7 Tajikistan's GDP real growth rate 2003 - 2014
Table 8 Fixed lines in service, annual growth and teledensity 1995 - 2014
Table 9 Internet users 1999 - 2013
Table 10 Internet subscribers (fixed) 1999 - 2013
Table 11 Fixed broadband subscribers 2007 - 2014
Table 12 International internet bandwidth 2005 - 2013
Table 13 Mobile subscribers and annual change 1996 - 2014
Table 14 Mobile operators systems and launch dates 2012
Table 15 Mobile subscribers by operator and market share 2012
Table 16 3G mobile subscribers 2007 - 2009
Table 17 3G mobile subscribers by operator March 2009
Table 18 Babilon Mobile subscribers 2009; 2011 - 2012
Table 19 Indigo-Somoncom (TCell) mobile subscribers 2009; 2011 - 2012
Table 20 Tacom (Beeline) mobile subscribers 2009; 2011 - 2013
Table 21 Tacom (Beeline) - mobile ARPU 2011 - 2013
Table 22 Tacom (Beeline) - mobile broadband subscribers 2011 2013
Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service, annual growth and teledensity - 2000-2013
Chart 2 - Internet users - 2004-2013
Chart 3 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2004-2013
Chart 4 - Mobile operator market share 2012

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