Belarus’s government and telecom regulator have in place three programs running through to 2020 which are aimed at developing the telecom sector and digital economy. Considerable progress has been made, in particular with enabling the mobile network operators to trial 5G services and with extending the reach of fibre infrastructure.
These programs were initiated while the country experienced declining economic growth (in 2015 and 2016) and formed part of wider efforts to secure economic growth through promoting the digital economy and developing the ICT sector. Such considerations have also encompassed a growing interest in applications relevant for smart cities.
There remain many opportunities for growth in coming years, particularly in the broadband segment where the incumbent telco Beltelecom is migrating its PSTN network to a fibre-based network. This will better position the company to offer a range of bundled services. Although the sector has been reformed, this has not yet resulted in the privatisation of the incumbent despite the government being pressed to sell state enterprises in a bid to reduce overall debt. Revenue growth for Beltelecom is expected to come from the FttP sector, where much of the company’s capex is directed.
The mobile sector has also experienced some growth, with a rise in mobile penetration attributed to effective competition which has helped drive down consumer prices. Operators have concentrated on developing mobile broadband and data services with a view to capitalising on such services to increase ARPU. Recent spectrum auctions have facilitated the development of mobile broadband access, particularly in rural areas, while the state-sponsored operator beCloud, charged with developing a wholesale-based LTE network, has enabled commercial LTE services to be extended to about 80% of the population. beCloud is also charged with developing the network infrastructure to support 5G services.
In early 2015 the government decreed that the 1.5% tax on revenue derived from telcos (which was put in place in 2007) should be channelled to developing universal telecom services, particularly aimed at rural areas. In mid-2016 the cash-strapped government increased the tax on all telecom services from 20% to 25%, while a ‘Google tax’ was imposed from the beginning of 2018.
Beltelecom, Cosmos TV, Minsk TV and Information Networks (MTIS), Teleradio, Belcel, A1 Belarus (MDC), MTS Belarus, BeST life:)
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Last updated 7 Jun 2019
Analyst: Henry Lancaster
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