MTS Turkmenistan, which had its mobile concession suspended in December 2010, and has been offline ever since, is reportedly preparing to re-launch operations, according to Prime Business News Agency. Citing Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a major shareholder in AFK Sistema, which holds a 50.8% stake in the Turkmen cellco’s parent company Russia-based Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the report claims that a deal has been reached with the Turkmen authorities which will allow the former market leader to re-enter the sector. While no details of the agreement between MTS and the government have been disclosed, Mr Yevtushenkov said of the development: ‘I am happy that the parties have reached an agreement on the resumption of MTS’ work in Turkmenistan.’ Services are expected to be re-introduced with three to six months, The Washington Post has meanwhile suggested.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, following the one-month suspension of MTS’ licence the cellco was quick to claim that it concession was not due to expire until February 2012. Despite this, and contrary to its expectations of being back online by end-January 2011, that month the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) publicly stated that the operating agreement it signed with MTS in 2005 was only valid for five years. The Ministry expanded further on the reasons for its non-renewal of MTS’ licence in March 2011, claiming that among its reasons were allegations that the cellco had charged ‘unreasonably high tariffs’ and failed to reinvest sufficient levels of its profits in its infrastructure. More recently, in March 2012 MTS confirmed that it had failed to reach an agreement with the Turkmen government regarding the resumption of services, and while a legal challenge to the non-renewal of its permit was still reportedly ongoing, the company had actually expressed doubts as to whether it would be able to restart operations in Turkmenistan.