Uzbek capital becomes 4G testing ground

By bne IntelliNews September 3, 2010

Clare Nuttall in Almaty -

Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent has become the first city in the world where two 4G mobile networks have been launched simultaneously.

The local subsidiary of Russia's Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) announced on July 28 that it had launched the first commercial 4G network in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). MTS Uzbekistan got its licence to operate in the 2.5-2.7 GHz frequency range in October 2009, and has now set up its network based on the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) standard in central Tashkent.

Just days later, Uzbekistan's second-largest mobile operator Coscom, a 98% owned subsidiary of Sweden's TeliaSonera, also set up a trial LTE network in Tashkent. The company, which operates under the Ucell brand, received its 4G licence in July 2010. A spokesperson for TeliaSonera tells bne there had been "a lot of interest" in the technology. "Ucell will be the knowledge accumulator and test ground in this region," says the spokesperson. "We will limit our network to Tashkent until we have launched the services commercially, and then, when the demand has grown sufficiently, we will consider other big cities in Uzbekistan."

Miles apart

Scandinavia, the home of cutting-edge mobile technology, was the first place where 4G services were piloted, with TeliaSonera launching 4G networks in central Stockholm and Oslo in December 2009. Since then, the company has been followed by Vodafone, Verizon and O2 in selected cities in Germany, the US and the UK respectively.

Tashkent is many miles away - both literally and in terms of economic development - from the high-income cities of Western Europe and the US where the technology is being rolled out. However, MTS considers there is high potential in developing markets such as Uzbekistan, which have a relatively low level of fixed broadband penetration. "Development of next-generation networks is the main area of our company's growth, especially in regions with low levels of penetration of fixed broadband internet access," says a spokesperson for MTS. "By operating an LTE network in the Uzbek market, we can offer both corporate and private clients in the region reliable high-speed broadband Internet access."

Following the Tashkent launch, MTS plans to test LTE technology in other CIS markets such as Armenia and Ukraine.

According to telecoms consultancy BuddeComm, there were 16.5m mobile subscribers (almost 60% of the population) in Uzbekistan in early 2010, up from just 600,000 five years before. There has been a similar rapid spread of mobile adoption across Central Asia, with penetration fast approaching 100% of the population in Kazakhstan.

But while Uzbek consumers are being offered the latest in mobile technology, other Central Asian markets are lagging behind. The launch of 3G in Kazakhstan has been long delayed because the frequencies required are held by the military. Mobile operators are now in a dispute with the authorities, who want to charge higher licensing fees than operators say the market will bear.

In Tajikistan, telecom companies face problems from another quarter. In several speeches over the last few months, President Emomali Rakhmon criticised the use of mobile phones, which are widely used since fixed-line services only reach around 5% of the population, on the grounds they are a "health risk." A move to ban advertising by mobile companies was later abandoned, but the government is now reportedly considering a new tax on mobile services.

Related Articles

Retail trade slows in Kazakhstan amid economic uncertainty

Naubet Bisenov in Almaty - A free-floating exchange regime for Kazakhstan’s currency, the tenge, is taking its toll on retail trade as the cost of imports rise. While prices have not changed ... more

bne:Chart - Russia begins to steady the ship according to latest Despair Index

Henry Kirby in London - Ukraine and Russia’s latest “Despair Index” scores suggest that the two struggling economies could finally be turning the corner, following nearly two years of steady ... more

New Kazakh central bank governor re-adopts free floating regime

bne IntelliNews -   The National Bank of Kazakhstan, the central bank, has re-adopted a free-floating exchange regime under the new governor, Daniyar Akishev, who has ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.