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Turkmen regulator under fire from MTS following licence suspension

Russia’s largest operator Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has filed a case against Turkmenistan’s regulatory authorities, following the latter’s decision to suspend the licence of Barash Communications Technologies (BCTI) – a subsidiary of MTS – for one month.

MTS has stated that its operations in Turkmenistan were approved by the country’s Ministry of Communications in an agreement that, “unless extended pursuant to its terms and conditions”, was due to expire on 21st December 2010 – the date on which BCTI’s licence was suspended.

The Russian operator claims that, under the belief that the agreement would be renewed, it requested an extension before the deadline, but that the regulator "failed to grant the extension in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”

The operator’s future in Turkmenistan is therefore uncertain; MTS may well be unable to continue offering its services if it cannot find a solution following the month’s suspension. A Wireless Intelligence survey found BCTI to have 2.39 million subscribers at the end of Q3 2010.

MTS has stated that it will “vigorously defend its legal rights and interests”; indeed, the Turkmen regulator is not the operator’s only target of legal action. The Russian operator is also filing cases against two state-owned operators, Turkmen Telecom and Altyn Asyr, claiming that both have failed to uphold interconnect agreements with BCTI.

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