Turkmenistan taps Etisalat to take over suspended network

The government of Turkmenistan has reportedly approached Etisalat with the suggestion that the UAE giant could assume control over the country’s suspended mobile network, currently owned by Russian operator MTS.

Turkmenistan’s Communication Ministry has reportedly stated that talks have taken place with the aim of establishing such an arrangement. The network has been down since the end of 2010, when the 5-year licence lapsed following the decision by the Turkmen authorities not to renew it.

The network, which is owned by the Barash Communications Technologies (BCTI) division of MTS Russia, served around 80% of Turkmenistan’s mobile subscribers – roughly 2 million people. Its only competitor, the state operator TM-Cell, has been unable to step up services to accommodate this sudden increase in demand.

The suspension of the network has ignited a legal dispute, with MTS initiating proceedings with the claim that Turkmenistan’s regulator “failed to grant the [licence] extension in accordance with the terms of the agreement.” The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has countered the allegation by claiming that the Russian firm’s reinvestment of profit in the network was inadequate, and that its tariffs were “unreasonably high”.

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