The State Committee of Uzbekistan on Demonopolization, Support of Competition and Entrepreneurship has issued beleaguered cellco MTS Uzbekistan fines totalling USD80 million for violating antimonopoly, consumer protection and advertising laws. MTS has said it will appeal the decision, but is unlikely to receive a reprieve. Since June this year, MTS has been accused of breaking numerous laws, from failing to acquire the correct permissions before erecting towers to laundering money, as part of what is widely believed to be a government shakedown. Late last month, the cellco had its operating licences suspended, for ten days at first though the duration was subsequently extended to 90 days. Whilst MTS cannot operate, its customers – which numbered 9.5 million in March 2012 according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database and represented 37.6% of the wireless market at that date – have flocked to rival providers, though local news reports have raised doubts over the capability of the smaller cellcos to deal with the sudden influx of subscribers.
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