Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/19/2014 -- Executive summary
Big increase in mobile broadband numbers gives Armenia's internet market a major boost
After a run of strong growth in mobile subscribers, the telecom market in Armenia experienced a major slowdown triggered by the Global Financial Crisis in 2009. Coming into 2013 there has been some recovery in both the economy and the country's telecom market. Mobile subscriber growth had moderated to around 5% annually and this looked likely to continue for a few more years. With the fixed-line market having gone into decline and a generally slowing in fixed internet expansion, mobile broadband has emerged a real positive in the local market with strong growth over the last few years.
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The telecommunications sector in Armenia has been experiencing a rollercoaster ride over the last two decades. The sector slipped into decline following the collapse of the former Soviet Union back in the 1990s, with the fixed-line teledensity falling markedly. This was partly as a consequence of the prevailing socio-economic instability within the region, but more significant a factor was that the country initially failed to embrace any vigorous reform in the telecom sector. Despite steadily improving economic conditions as the country underwent economic reform, the telecoms sector was slow to respond.
Despite the global financial problems and their impact on the Armenian economy, the last few years have seen a number of positive signs in the development of the telecom sector. The mobile segment, having been considerably boosted by the introduction of competition into the market place, has seen subscriber numbers increase almost fivefold since 2006. The internet segment of the market has also been opened up to much wider competition and the market now offers an increasing range of sophisticated services. Internet was the one segment of the market initially exempt from the ArmenTel monopoly. Problems still exist however. The rate of regulatory change has been slow and seems to have slowed more recently. In 2004 the government reached a compromise agreement with ArmenTel to end its exclusive rights to provide a range of services, including GSM mobile, satellite and mobile radio communications services in exchange for various other concessions, including the stipulation that only one alternative mobile operator would be allowed in Armenia until 2009. ArmenTel was to also retain sole rights to internet telephony and the use of fibre optic cables. Despite the significant dismantling of ArmenTel's monopoly and the licensing of multiple new players since 2007 together with the arrival of a third mobile operator in 2009, the shadow ArmenTel's monopoly still seems to hang over many aspects of the market.
In the opening up of the mobile market, the government made a controversial decision in choosing a second mobile operator without transparent and competitive bidding;
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