Tajikistan - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet

Executive summary

Strong growth continues in Tajikistan’s mobile market but the internet market still lags

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 100% milestone in 2014 and the mobile subscriber base was continuing on a strong growth path into 2015. The launch of 3G mobile services in Tajikistan and more recently 4G/LTE have 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 (under 6% in 2014), at least this segment of the market was continuing to grow, although only at a modest rate. Fixed internet connections were 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 growing, as new and diversified technologies quickly become the norm.

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. The all-important privatisation of Tajiktelecom had, however, been subject to a series of delays. A total of seven mobile operators had been licensed, although there has been some rationalisation of the market since. More than 10 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been licensed.

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:

  • Coming into 2015 mobile services in Tajikistan had reached almost 110% penetration
  • mobile subscriber growth was running at an annual rate of 15%-20% by that stage;
  • Following the launch of 3G demand for services was low, but the market was expanded rapidly through 2012/2013;
  • Fixed-line penetration in Tajikistan was minimal, with growth in this market remaining sluggish;
  • Tajikistan’s internet usage has been expanding quickly, with reports suggesting internet user penetration of around 16% by 2013;
  • It was difficult, however, to pin point the actual number of internet subscribers;
  • Fixed broadband internet access was virtually non-existent, although mobile broadband was growing quickly;
  • Sweden’s TeliaSonera attracted criticism in 2012 for ‘abetting an authoritarian regime’ with its operations in Tajikistan;
  • the e-government development plan was set down for implementation by end-2015
  • Tcell launched a 4G network in April 2014 (this followed Babilon-T’s launch in 2012);
  • the Russian-owned operator MTT launched an MVNO service in late 2014.

Tajikistan – key telecom parameters – 2012 - 2014

Category
2012
2013
2014 (e)
Fixed-line services:
Subscriber penetration (population)
4.9%
5.2%
5.4%
Internet:
Total number of fixed subscribers1
30,000
35,000
40,000
Mobile services:
Subscriber penetration (population)
82%
92%
107%

(Source: BuddeComm)

Note: 1estimates for all years

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;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Mobile market – voice and data;
  • Internet market.

Table of Contents

  • 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 e-Government
    • 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) services
      • 8.3.2 4G / Long Term Evolution (LTE) services
    • 8.4 M-Teko
  • 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 Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) service
  • 10. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics Tajikistan – 2014
  • Table 2 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2008
  • Table 3 – Telephone network statistics – 2013
  • Table 4 – Internet user statistics – 2013
  • Table 5 – Mobile statistics – 2013
  • Table 6 – National telecommunications authorities
  • Table 7 – Tajikistan’s GDP real growth rate – 2003 - 2015
  • Table 8 – Fixed lines in service, annual growth and teledensity – 1995 - 2014
  • Table 9 – Internet users – 1999 - 2014
  • Table 10 – Internet subscribers (fixed) – 1999 - 2014
  • Table 11 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2007 - 2014
  • Table 12 – Households with internet access – 2005 - 2014
  • Table 13 – International internet bandwidth – 2005 - 2014
  • Table 14 – Mobile subscribers and annual change – 1996 - 2014
  • Table 15 – Mobile operators – systems and launch dates
  • Table 16 – Mobile subscribers by operator and market share –2013
  • Table 17 – 3G mobile subscribers – 2007 - 2009
  • Table 18 – 3G mobile subscribers by operator – March 2009
  • Table 19 – Babilon Mobile subscribers – 2009; 2011 - 2012
  • Table 20 – Indigo-Somoncom (TCell) mobile subscribers – 2009; 2011 - 2013
  • Table 21 – Tacom (Beeline) mobile subscribers – 2009; 2011 - 2014
  • Table 22 – Tacom (Beeline) - mobile ARPU – 2011 - 2014
  • Table 23 – Tacom (Beeline) - mobile broadband subscribers – 2011 – 2014
  • Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service, annual growth and teledensity - 2000-2014
  • Chart 2 - Internet users - 2004-2014
  • Chart 3 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2004-2014
  • Chart 4 - Mobile operator market share – 2013

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