Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/30/2013 -- BMI View: Telecoms markets across Central Asia have evolved rapidly in recent years and in 2012 have high levels of penetration in mobile services as well as rapidly growing demand for wireless data services. Growth of wireless data demand has driven investment in network infrastructure, with 3G and 4G services available in the majority of urban areas across the region - with rural rollout also underway. In contrast to the bright outlook in terms of demand and reach of services, political risk has continued to be a trend undermining this positive outlook. Operators are exposed to significant uncertainty in terms of the regulation of the sector and wider government intervention, as evidenced by recent events in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
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- Following the loss of MTS, which had its licenses revoked and assets awarded to the state, BMI has downgraded the forecast for mobile subscription growth. We now expect 23.031mn subscriptions at YE12, equating to penetration of 82%.
Key Trends And Developments: Government intervention has been a key feature in Central Asian telecoms markets in recent quarters. Events in Uzbekistan were most prominent in the past three months since MTS, which controls leading operator Uzdunrobita, had its licenses revoked by the regulator in July 30 2012 and on September 17 2012 it was announced that an Uzbek court confiscated all the assets of Uzdunrobita in favour of the Uzbek state. Meanwhile TeliaSonera, which operates as UCell, also become embroiled in a political dispute after claims surfaced in September 2012 stating it had paid SEK2.2bn (US$335mn) in bribes in the process of acquiring its Uzbek business UCell in 2007. TeliaSonera denies the claims, which were aired on Swedish TV. These events underline the uncertainty in Uzbekistan's business environment which looks set to be a key theme in coming quarters.
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