Russian mobile group Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has taken full control of Turkmenistan’s dominant cellco Barash Communications Technologies Inc (BCTI), purchasing the 49% of the company it did not already own for USD18.52 million. MTS paid the founders of the company USD28.1 million for a 51% stake in BCTI in June and negotiated an option to purchase the remaining 49% at a price based on the operator’s performance over the next eight months.
BCTI is the only major wireless provider in the gas-rich central Asian country bordering Iran and Afghanistan, where less than 1% of its 6.6 million inhabitants has mobile phones and only 6% have a fixed line. The cellco was founded as a US-incorporated company created by a Russian expatriate, and holds exclusive rights to offer cellular and paging services in Turkmenistan. It was awarded a 25-year licence to operate an analogue AMPS mobile network in 1995 and received a GSM-900/1800 licence in 2000. The digital network, which was supplied by Siemens, covered only the capital Ashgabat and its immediate environs at launch, but has been steadily expanding in recent years and now accounts for the bulk of traffic. BCTI had 57,400 GSM subscribers and 1,700 AMPS users in June, according to MTS.