|Turkmenistan Telecommunications Research|
Turkmenistan - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet
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 a large extent 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 trying boldly to expand 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, BCT (BCT became MTS Turkmenistan in 2005). Combined fixed-line and mobile teledensity was around 40% in early 2010. Not surprisingly it has been the mobile services that have been dominating the expansion activity. In 2008 the country saw annual subscription growth in excess of 140%, although growth slowed significantly to about 33% in 2009. As a consequence, in a two-year period Turkmenistan, one of the smallest markets in the region, saw its mobile penetration jump from 8% to 30%.
It had certainly not been 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 fell 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 mid-2008. By May 2010 the exchange was still 14,250TMT to one US dollar. 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 back 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.
After two decades of repression, the incoming president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, announced in early 2007 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 was not immediately clear how far these reforms would go. By 2010 it was evident that the new president was keeping his promise about keeping the Internet cafes open. There were still considerable restrictions on the use of Internet, however.
By early 2010 mobile subscribers in Turkmenistan were still relatively low in number, having just passed the 1.5 million mark, being a penetration of almost 30%;
For a number of previous years, growth had been outstanding; mobile subscriber numbers increased by almost 300% in the two year period 2008/09;
The country's mobile subscriber base was still expanding but the rate had slowed in the second half of 2009 and into 2010;
Fixed-line penetration in Turkmenistan was struggling to break through the 10% penetration barrier, and 2009 had seen the fixed market virtually stagnating and it was not clear where further growth would come from;
Although no updated official figures were available, progress on converting the country's fixed network from analogue to digital was slow; by 2010 the conversion program still had a long way to go;
Internet growth in the country had been hindered by severe government controls until 2007 when there was an apparent easing of restrictions; this has not, however, seen the expected lift in Turkmenistan's Internet usage; again, it was hard to confirm the precise situation with the limited official figures available;
There were early signs of broadband Internet access being made available in the country; but a low broadband penetration of 0.05% in 2009 did not look promising.Turkmenistan - key telecom parameters - 2009 - 2010
Total number of subscribers478,000488,000
Fixed-line penetration (population)9.4%9.4%
Total number of subscribers (million)1.52.0
Mobile penetration (population)29%38%
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Turkmenistan. Subjects covered include:
Market and industry overviews;
Major operators (mobile and fixed);
Last Update: 11 Aug 2010 Number of Pages: 16
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