Triumphant Turkmen return for Russian telecoms major

Aug 22, 2012

Russia’s telecommunications giant Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) will return to Turkmenistan by the end of August, Reuters reports, 20 months after Turkmen authorities revoked the company’s license for reasons that have never been clarified.

In late July, the Turkmen government granted MTS a five-year license with a renewal option, Reuters reports. The company reportedly sustained a $140 million loss during its absence from the market, where it had held an 85 percent share.

In the meantime, government-owned Altyn Asyr has been the only Turkmen mobile phone provider but has failed to make good its promises to improve quality, according to the Associated Press, which notes that unlike MTS, the company offered no roaming services.

Success for MTS in Central Asia’s most tightly controlled communications market contrasts with developments in Uzbekistan, where a court recently suspended all the company’s licenses, RFE reports. The Uzbek troubles of the telecoms operator started in mid-July, with a temporary suspension on the basis of alleged technical violations and a tax audit that hit MTS with a $900 million bill for back taxes.

MTS vice president for strategy Michael Hecker accused the Uzbek court of violating the company’s rights to a fair trial and due process. The size of the tax bill suggests the government may be positioning itself to expropriate the company, he told RFE.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia user A.Savin

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Transitions Online ( is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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