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Uzbek internet service becomes faster, cheaper

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Uzbek internet users are enjoying cheaper and faster access than they have ever known. Starting August 1, the maximum internet speed in Uzbekistan reached 11.8 Gbps.

"The process is rapidly unfolding," Sherzod Shermatov, deputy chairman of the State Committee for Communication, Informatisation and Telecommunication Technologies, said. "During the past six months, speeds have increased by a whole 15%."

Internet speeds in Uzbekistan have increased almost six-fold during the past 10 years, according to Netindex.com. From an average 0.46 Mbps in 2004, the figure has grown to 2.71 Mbps today.

"We are also working on cutting prices," Shermatov said. "All internet service providers in Uzbekistan are centrally connected to the network. ... Fees are reduced several times per year, and in 2013 prices fell almost 20%."

"I can see the constant decrease in internet prices," Tashkent internet user Doniyer Nasymov said. "For many years, inexpensive unlimited internet at high speeds was just a dream. ... In 2013, 1-Mbps internet service still ran as high as $150-200 [349,227-465,636 UZS] per month. But this June I was able to sign up for a similar service for $55 [128,050 UZS] per month."

However, Uzbekistan is experiencing difficulties in expanding its internet link to the outside world.

"All data reach us from a single fiber optic cable that runs through Kazakhstan," Vladimir Derevyanko, an engineer at an Uzbek internet service provider, said. "Any maintenance work or service interruptions turn off the internet to the entire country. And other internet sources, for example satellite internet, are prohibited for security reasons."
More users than ever

Whatever the obstacles, more Uzbeks are turning to the internet. At the beginning of 2014, 7.1m Uzbeks had internet service, according to the government. By June 1, that number had grown to 8.5m, according to Internetworldstats.com.

And higher internet speeds will create new economic prospects, IT business owners say.

"Our country has huge prospects for developing its outsourcing industry," Timur Yaksarov, an IT businessman from Tashkent, said. "By bringing in orders to develop software, design and 3D graphics, we can create a new, distinct and competitive economic sector that will earn hard currency for government coffers (because) wages for the Uzbek 'creative class' are lower [than in other countries and therefore attractive to clients]."

"High-speed internet is not as critical for creating modern intellectual products as it is for self-education and development of human resources," Rinat Milibayev, director of the IT training centre HelpDec, said. "Daily self-education is the key to success and an opportunity to surpass everyone else."
More websites than ever

Along with internet access, the national .uz top-level domain is developing. About 18,000 Uzbek websites existed at the start of 2014. In 2009, only 9,000 domain names were registered, Eldar Mirsaliyev, spokesman for UzInfoCom, the state-owned Computerisation and Information Technologies Developing Centre, said.

To develop more Uzbek content, UzInfoCom annually holds the .uz domain festival, this year for the eighth time in a row. It runs from July 15 to September 22 this year.

The festival is an online competition. Any site registered with the .uz domain name is eligible to compete.

"The competition is being held in 10 categories," Mirsaliyev said. "On the first day of the festival this year, 100 sites had already applied. In 2013, more than 500 sites participated in the festival."

On the last day of the contest, which happens to be the first day of the Week of Information Technologies InfoCOM 2014, officials will announce the winners in Tashkent.

This article was originally published by Central Asia Online

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Tags: Uzbekistan