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Mobile growth subsides in Turkmenistan in an increasingly mature market
Turkmenistan’s telecommunications market in this poor and predominantly rural country is relatively small. Its telecom services were considered to be the least developed of all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries when they took shape. Since then, poor growth in telecom services can be attributed to a large extent to the slow development of the private sector and state control over most economic activities. Efforts to move towards a more market-oriented economy have been limited. In the telecoms sector there has been some progress, but this limited progress has in turn been overwhelmed by significant setbacks.
Turkmen Telecom has been the primary provider of telecommunication services, and through a subsidiary, TM-Cell, it has been operating a GSM mobile network in competition with a private mobile operator, MTS Turkmenistan, a subsidiary of the Russian-based MTS. Not surprisingly it has been the mobile services that have been dominating the expansion activity. Turkmenistan’s mobile market has experienced very strong growth over the last few years, however the market has moved closer to a saturation phase with a subsequent slowing in the growth rate. Market penetration reached 148% in 2016. Market penetration in the mobile market is predicted to reach between over 150% by 2021.
Turkmenistan has experienced a number of problems relating to communications technology. Despite recent efforts to upgrade the country’s telecom infrastructure, the telephone network remained poorly developed and many villages have been left without telephone services. Fixed line penetration over the past four years has been increasing slowly from a relatively small base. Penetration increased to only 12% in 2016.
The penetration of internet users in Turkmenistan has been growing moderately over the past four years from a relatively small base. Penetration has increased from 10% in 2013 to 12% in 2014, 15% in 2015 and 17% in 2016. Broadband access remains limited in scale and nature. Fixed broadband penetration reached less than 1% by 2016 and penetration is predicted to continue to remain low over the next five years to 2021.
- The country’s first communications satellite has been successfully launched.
- The penetration of Internet users has been growing moderately over the past four years from a relatively small base.
- Internet growth has been hindered by severe government controls. Strict controls remain in place.
- Turkmenistan’s mobile market has experienced very strong growth over the last few years.
- However the mobile market has moved closer to a saturation phase.