Strong mobile sector in Kazakhstan sees start of a boom in mobile broadband services
Although growth slowed significantly in 2009, Kazakhstan has continued to experience a healthy telecom market and coming into 2013 it included a mobile penetration of 175% and an impressive figure of more than 50 internet users per 100 people. By early 2013 mobile broadband services comprised around one quarter of the total mobile market as this service platform continued on a rapid growth path. The country’s strong telecom market has come about on the back of a growing economy (despite the more recent setbacks) and a program of positive regulatory reform within the telecom sector. Legislation adopted in 2004 largely laid the foundation for liberalisation and development of the country’s telecom industry and put an end to the monopoly enjoyed by Kazakhtelecom, the state-controlled telecom operator.
The rapid and successful development of telecommunications in the country encouraged a number of foreign companies – both service providers and suppliers - to establish a presence in this emerging market. Since 1992, international operators and manufacturers have been active in Kazakhstan in providing services and installing state-of-the-art equipment, especially as part of the country’s international telecom network. Companies such as Motorola, Lucent, Siemens, Alcatel, Nokia, Daewoo and Nortel Networks have all been active in the market. Recognising the long-term potential of this market, many foreign telecom companies have been looking to invest and form partnerships with local telecom enterprises.
By 2005 four private operators had been licensed to provide international and long-distance services in competition with the incumbent Kazakhtelecom. They were state-railway subsidiary TransTelecom, KazTransCom (a subsidiary of the national oil company), Ducat and Astel. Up to 1,500 new telecom service providers of various kinds had been licensed by 2005.
Kazakhstan has a relatively energetic fixed-line market with six operators providing fixed-line telephone services to about 4.5 million subscribers. There had been long waiting lists for fixed-line telephone services over the years. Despite the opening up of the market the bulk of the country’s fixed services (93% in 2012) were being provided by Kazakhtelecom.
In the meantime, and by contrast, the country’s mobile market has been booming since 2000 (no doubt boosted to some extent by the long delays in obtaining fixed-line services). The number of mobile services had exceeded fixed-lines by 2004 and has raced on to surprisingly high levels of penetration. Demand for mobile services was so strong that in 2006 that the government went on to auction a third GSM licence (and fourth mobile operator licence), which was duly awarded to NeoTelecom, a subsidiary of Kazakhtelecom. NeoTelecom then launched its mobile service in 2007.
Of special note has been the recent healthy growth in internet activity in Kazakhstan, with the move to broadband access in particular taking place at a rapid rate. Fixed broadband subscribers as a proportion of the population had reached an encouraging level by 2012, with the market expected to continue its current expansion. By the same stage, however, fixed broadband was being completely overshadowed by the rapid mobile broadband expansion. (Note: It was difficult to obtain a full statistical picture of the internet market in Kazakhstan, with indicators often not being unavailable or information conflicting.)
- After a decade of particularly strong growth in Kazakhstan’s mobile market, there has been a marked slowing;
- With mobile penetration over 175% in early 2013, the market was continuing to grow but was expected to saturate in terms of total subscribers over the next few years;
- Broadband internet was quickly expanding on top of a general upturn in demand for internet services;
- Mobile broadband made up one quarter of the total mobile subscriber base by early 2013;
- There had been a significant shift to broadband access in 2009 and by 2013 the vast majority of internet subscribers were using broadband (Note: There were some inconsistencies in the publicly available market statistics for internet services);
- Incumbent Kazakhtelecom continues to maintain a considerable presence across the market; however, this strong presence has not stopped the development of a diversified market that offers an energetic and competitive business environment, especially in the mobile sector;
- GSM Kazakhstan (K’Cell) went with an IPO in late 2012, selling off some 25% of shares in the company;
- Altel launched a pilot LTE 4G network in December 2012, starting a major roll-out of the service;
- In the meantime, Altel began progressively switching off its 3G network in 2013 as the LTE 4G roll out moved forward;
- On the economic front, after Kazakhstan experienced an eight-year period in which GDP had been growing at an annual rate in excess of 8%, a major slowdown occurred in 2008/2009;
- A modest but sustained recovery in the local economy was taking place in the short term; GDP growth of around 5% was forecast by the IMF for both 2013 and 2014.
Kazakhstan – key telecom parameters – 2012 - 2013
|Subscriber penetration (population)|
|Fixed internet subscriber penetration (population)|
|Subscriber penetration (population)|
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Kazakhstan. Subjects covered include:
- Key statistics;
- Market and industry overviews;
- Regulatory environment;
- Mobile market;
- Internet market, including broadband;
- Scenario forecasts for fixed-line, internet and mobile segments.