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What’s the reason behind the MTS blackout?

Written by on Thursday, 2 December 2010
Media and Internet, Turkmenistan
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MTS users in Turkmenistan reported today that their mobile phones are inoperative. Calls made to MTS centers have been unsuccessful. In general MTS cannot be reached for comment, nor has it posted any explanation on its website.

This means that about 2 million people are currently without mobile service, and speculation is already emerging on Talyplar.com and Teswirler.com (here and here) that this may be a permanent shut down, or political in cause. Indeed, over the last few weeks there have been rumors that the government would shut down MTS before the end of the year. It’s feared that if this really is so, then TMCell would be hardly in a position to take over from it.

According to TMCell, the company only has 400,000 customers (measured by number of sim cards sold), and apparently only a portion of them are 3G internet-enabled. Meanwhile, according to MTS, it has 2 million customers (also measured by number of sim cards sold), of which 1 million are estimated to be 3G users specifically, internet users generally internet users.

Editor’s note: See Annasoltan’s earlier reporting on Tmcell and 3G access in Turkmenistan here.

Update: The number of 3G TMCell customers is only a rough figure. I’ve made the correction. Thanks to the readers and Annasoltan for alerting me. -Schwartz

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