Russia's Vimpelcom facing service problems in Uzbekistan

By bne IntelliNews April 22, 2013

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Mobile brand Beeline is reported to be struggling to provide service to many of its customers in Uzbekistan, raising worries that a second Russian operator may be under pressure in the country.

Uzbek subscribers to Russian-owned mobile brand Beeline are reporting difficulties in service with no connection at all in parts of the country. Vimpelcom, the Russian operator behind the brand, has offered no explanation for the problems. However, it is the second Russian telecoms operator to run into difficulties in Uzbekistan in recent months, following the confiscation of the operating licences of Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) last year.

Uzmetronom reported on April 18 that subscribers to Beeline have been experiencing connection problems for several days, with virtually no coverage outside Tashkent. Beeline 3G services also appear to have been shut down outside the Uzbek capital. One explanation for the hiatus is that the company could have the victim of some kind of deliberate attack aimed at squeezing it out of the market.

However, another theory being put forward is that with more than 9m MTS customers losing their provider, as one of its two main rivals along with TeliaSonera's Ucell, Beeline Uzbekistan may simply be having trouble keeping up with the increase in traffic. The Russian-owned company announced in March that revenues doubled in the final quarter of 2012. Subscriber numbers were up from 9.229m in the third quarter, to 10.194m in the final three months of the year.

MTS's Uzbek division, Uzdunrobita, was the largest mobile telecoms operator in Uzbekistan until its operating licence was suspended in July. The company filed for bankruptcy in Tashkent in January.

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