Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission today removed national operator ArmenTel’s controversial monopoly on the provision of international internet access for voice and data transmission, making good on one of the promises given by its new Russian owner Vimpelcom. The Commission has amended ArmenTel’s licence No.60 pertaining to international internet access, giving all alternative operators rights to provide such services henceforth. Local industry watchers note that this is the first step towards the liberalisation of the Armenian communications market, and will be welcomed by local ISPs which have long complained about the high cost of services.
Following a nearly USD500 million deal agreed in November 2006, ArmenTel is 90% owned by Vimpelcom of Russia. The remainder is state owned, although the government has hinted at selling its minority holding in return for a promise from ArmenTel’s new owners to relinquish the company’s monopoly on the provision of fixed line services. Oleg Bliznyuk, ArmenTel’s newly appointed executive director, said the Russian firm is prepared to accept market liberalisation and is also ready to face ‘civilized competition’.