Vimpelcom’s Uzbek subsidiary Unitel has been awarded a licence to provide third-generation (3G) mobile services, seven months after rival Uzdunrobita received its 3G permit. Unitel, which was acquired by the Russian wireless giant last year, said in a statement that the Uzbekistan Agency for Communications and Information (UzACI) had awarded it a national concession, but did not reveal when it plans to launch the new network.
Unitel was formed on 24 July 2006 on completion of the merger of two wireless licensees – Buztel and Unitel – both of which had been acquired by Vimpelcom earlier in the year. On 18 January 2006 Vimpelcom acquired 100% of Buztel for USD60 million plus the assumption of approximately USD2.4 million in debt and a month later it purchased 100% of Unitel for USD200 million plus USD7.7 million in debt. Unitel had been awarded a national GSM-900/1800 concession in January 2005 (expiring August 2016) while Buztel won an equivalent concession in July 2005 (expiring July 2020). The merged Unitel immediately filed applications with UzACI for the re-issue of Buztel’s licences and related frequencies to itself. In the second half of 2006 the enlarged Unitel adopted the Beeline brand, in line with Vimpelcom’s regional strategy.