Residents of Tajik areas bordering Kyrgyzstan chose Kyrgyz mobile network operators because services offered by them are cheaper and more qualitative than services offered by Tajik mobile network operators.
Residents of Sughd’s districts (northern Tajikistan) bordering Kyrgyzstan and the Lakhsh district in the Rasht Valley (eastern Tajikistan) have been using SIM cards of Kyrgyz mobile operators Megacom and O!.
Citing representatives of these mobile operators, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reports the number of Tajik subscribers in Kyrgyz segment has reached 10,000.
“The majority of those 10,000 people have been using services offered by Megacom,” Zhumalbek Omurkanov, the head of the Megacom PR and Information Department, was quoted as saying.
Kyrgyz mobile network operator O! covers part of Tajikistan’s Sughd province. O! administrator, however, refused to give information about expansion of the operator to Tajik territory and the number of subscribers in Tajik border areas.
Tajik communications service agency is aware of the problem
A source in the Tajik communications service agency says terminals of Kyrgyz mobile network operators are installed at gas refueling stations along the whole road to Ovchi-Qalacha. Since there is no precise border line between the countries, Tajik nationals cross into Kyrgyz territory and pay for communications offered by Kyrgyz mobile network operators without any problems. “We cannot check them because they are in Kyrgyz territory,” the source noted.
Tajik nationals like Kyrgyz mobile communications
Tajik nationals like Kyrgyz mobile communications because it is cheaper and more qualitative.
Thus, O! offers 8 gigabytes of Internet for 390 som (equivalent to 50 somoni) and night traffic is unlimited.
Megacom offers ‘DayNight’ pack for 180 som (equivalent to 23 somoni). You receive 6 gigabytes of Internet and night traffic is unlimited.
And what we have? In the Sughd province, mainly Tcell operates and it offers 1 gigabyte of Internet for 33 somoni. The Antimonopoly Agency has set the same cost for other Tajik mobile network operators as well.
In addition to high prices, the speed of Internet offered by Tajik mobile network providers is slow.
From best to worst?
Before 2010, Tajikistan had topped Central Asia’s nations in terms of level of development of mobile network. That time, Tajikistan had competed with Russia and Ukraine over the quality of communications and prices for that service. But introduction of an excise tax on mobile communications services has affected Tajikistan’s mobile communications market. A 3-percent excise tax was introduced in 2010 and it was raised to 5 percent in 2014.
The Tajik authorities established the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center last year and required that all Internet and mobile communications traffic be run through the single state-owned telecoms provider, Tojiktelecom. The Center centralizes all telephone and Internet communications with the aim of facilitating surveillance on the grounds of combatting terrorism and extremism. It allows the government to have complete control over domestic communications without any safeguards.
The idea of creating a government-administered information gateway has been circulating since 2005. The stated aim of the recurring initiative has been to prevent “illegal” communications that could undermine national security.
Beginning from this year, all Internet traffic is required to pass through the infrastructure owned by Tojiktelecom.
In a report released at a news conference in Dushanbe, Tojiktelecom top manager Muzaffar Himmatov noted on January 25 that such rules operate in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Himmatov, however, refrained from commenting on prices of Internet traffic for Tajik ISPs.
Meanwhile, Tojiktelecom lowers Internet prices for its customers. On November 1, 2017, Tojiktelecom reduced Internet prices for its customers by 20 percent.
According to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), they now receive Internet from Tojiktelecom at the rate of 51,000 U.S. dollars per gigabit (VAT not included).
For comparison, Tajik ISPs had earlier received Internet from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan at the rate ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. dollars per gigabit.
Tajikistan remains dependent on satellite-based connections using Discovery Global Networks, as the cost of fiber remains high. The country is connected to the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic highway passing through Uzbekistan, and a second connection is from Kyrgyzstan.
In Tajikistan, most Internet users are young and access the Internet through Internet cafés close to schools and universities.
Although more than 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas, Internet access is mainly restricted to urban areas because of poor infrastructure and low afford-ability.
According to the latest data, some 1.6 million citizens of Tajikistan, which is some 19 percent of the country’s population, use Internet.
The majority of them see the Internet as an informational and educational resource, but not as a means to create local information resources.
The World Bank report, Reaping Digital Dividends: Leveraging the Internet for Development in Europe and Central Asia, which was presented in Dushanbe on June 13, 2017 in particular, notes that the residents of Central Asia and the South Caucasus pay some of the highest prices in the world for internet connections that are slow and unreliable.
The report says the fixed-line Internet access in Tajikistan remains limited to major urban areas, and the primary method of access is via dial-up or leased-line connections, while a handful of Internet service providers (ISPs) also provide satellite and fiber broadband services.
The Internet in Tajikistan emerged in the 1990s and Internet services developed largely without state interference.