The Turkmenistan - Telecoms, Mobile & Internet report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation. Please review the Executive Summary and Table of Contents for more details.
Turkmenistan’s telecommunications services are considered to be the least developed of all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. Poor growth in telecom services can be attributed to the slow development of the private sector and state control over most economic activities.
Overall, the telecom market in this poor and predominantly rural country is relatively small but has been boldly expanding in recent years. The state-owned Turkmen Telecom has been the primary provider of public telephone, email and Internet services, and through a subsidiary has also been operating a GSM mobile network in competition with a private mobile operator, Barash Communications Technologies (BCT) Combined fixed-line and mobile teledensity was estimated at 33% in early 2009, having doubled from 12 months earlier. Not surprisingly it has been the mobile services that have been dominating the expansion activity. In 2008 the country saw a 143% annual subscription growth. As a consequence, Turkmenistan, one of the smallest markets in the region, saw its mobile penetration jump from 8% to almost 20% in one year. The growth rate was continuing to run at more than 100% in 2009.
However, all was not smooth sailing over the 2008/09 period as the mobile operators felt the impact of the global financial crisis on their revenues. The monthly ARPU recorded by BCT in Turkmenistan had fallen more than 70% to less than 10 by the fourth quarter of 2008. The fall was mainly due to the Central Bank of Turkmenistan changing the exchange rate for the Turkmenistani manat (TMM) from 5,200 to the US dollar in December 2007 to 14,250 in May 2008. In local currency terms, BCT’s ARPU fell 24%, from TMM250 in the fourth quarter of 2007 to TMM189 in the fourth quarter of 2008, because of the further dilution of its customer base with the increased level of subscriptions.
Growth of the Internet sector had been seriously stifled in 2000 when the four existing independent ISPs were forced out of business due to the government’s decision to grant Turkmen Telecom a monopoly over data services. The abrupt closure of the ISPs was consistent with government policy, which required tight control over all communications in the country. Internet access continued to be severely restricted, and the few Internet cafes that existed in Ashgabat were closed down in 2002.
In early 2007, after two decades of repression, the incoming president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, announced that the government had re-opened Internet cafes in the capital Ashgabat and was set to follow this move in regional centres. One hour of computer time cost about US$4, however, a high price in a country where two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line and the average monthly income was less than US$100. It remained unclear how far these reforms would go.