Uzbekistan has suspended Russian telecommunication company MTS’s license for 10 days on 17 July. The authorities accused the company of “numerous and systematic violations,” of its contractual obligations, according to Reuters.
MTS, who has invested in Uzbekistan since 2004, serving 40% of the Uzbek mobile phone market, denies any wrongdoings, writes The Financial Times.
The head of the Uzbek division of the company, Bekzod Akhmedov fled to Russia last month when the authorities accused him of theft and tax evasion. Along with the license suspension, the police have detained at least two managers, who are facing criminal charges.
The shutdown has left almost 10 million Uzbek, a third of total population, without connection.
This has caused a phone-provider exodus, as people desperately try to switch to rival companies. Uzbekistan News reports that queues of hundreds of people could be seen outside shops selling SIM cards. Given the increase in demand, prices for SIM cards have tripled, writes Eurasianet.
MTS is not new to this kind of police intervention. In 2010, its license to operate in Turkmenistan was revoked, leaving two million users without signal.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia user Eric Jones, Creative Commons