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Number of Tajik cell phone users grows

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Tajik customers are embracing cell phones as access expands and rates drop, using them to talk, text and connect to the internet.

Even the mountainous country's most remote villages can access the internet today, now that cell phone access has expanded to reach 95% of the area.

Growth in the phone business in the past four years has been remarkable. By January 1, cellular operators had sold more than 11.2m SIM cards, the government press office said, noting that 6.4m cards are active and that 3.8m Tajiks use the internet. The country has a population of 8m.

In 2010, the country had 6m cell phone users and 1.3m internet users. The first GSM carrier began operating in 2000.

Competition means quality

A favourable competitive environment, the large-scale involvement of private capital and high demand all have boosted the development of mobile communications in Tajikistan, analysts say.

"Five cellular operators serve the country today, with the government down to a 5% market share," Internet Providers' Association of Tajikistan Chairman Asomiddin Atoyev said. "The high profit margin enables IT business owners to invest in new projects."

The high level of competition encourages provider companies to vie for customers and improve technology and service quality, he said.

"Cellular operators are constantly under pressure to reduce their rates," he added.

"The decline in internet fees and improvements in the quality of communications have been very visible to me," Khujand resident Jamshed Ismoilov told Central Asia Online. "Just a few years ago I would waste a lot of time browsing for information online because of a slow connection; now I don't come across such problems anymore. In 2010, I paid US $60 (307.9 TJS) a month for internet services, and now for ... high-speed internet, I pay US $20 (102.6 TJS) less."
Future belongs to high-speed internet

One of the leading cellular operators, Babilon-T, in 2012 became the first nationwide to introduce LTE. Its subscribers enjoy a maximum speed of 40Mbps.

Following in Babilon-T's footsteps, Indigo Tajikistan, working under the brand name Tcell, offered 4G services and, in addition to Dushanbe, covered Sughd Oblast capital Khujand and its suburbs - Chkalovsk, Gafurov and Kairakkum. As a result, high-speed internet became available to a territory with 3m residents.

"[4G] services are available to the owners of 4G USB (Universal Serial Bus) Tcell modems and LTE-compatible smartphones," Rustam Mirsaidov, Indigo's advisor on government affairs, said. "Currently, LTE phones work at a speed of 50Mbps, but in the future, [4G] devices will be designed for 300Mbps."

"Also, we are working to tailour our service packages to different customers' purchasing power, while constantly cutting rates," Mirsaidov said. "This policy has given us the most customers, 3m today."

The establishment of a nation-wide communication network embracing the country's ministries and other government agencies is slated for completion by the end of 2015.

Tajikistan plans to set up a domestic communication network that will provide all those agencies with e-communications, including the internet.

"This is envisioned by the [national] e-government development plan," government press office deputy chief Rafikjon Shokirov said. "Implementation of this plan will improve the quality of inter-agency interaction and make [the agencies] more efficient."

This article originally appeared on Central Asia Online.

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Tags: Tajikistan