Uzbek telecoms sector watchdog the State Inspectorate for Supervision of Communications and Information Communication Technologies (GIS) has threatened mobile providers Beeline Uzbekistan – owned by VEON (formerly VimpelCom) – and Ucell (owned by Telia Company) with the cancellation of their licences over ‘systematic and gross violations’ of their licensing terms. Russian-language news portal cnews.ru writes that the regulator found that the operators had installed base stations illegally in several areas, whilst both had been ‘repeatedly warned’ by officials to address complaints of deteriorating service quality.
The veracity of the accusations is difficult to ascertain, however, as Uzbekistan’s notoriously corrupt regime has reportedly used similar measures in the past to extort money from operators. The country has a deliberately byzantine system of regulation with numerous overlapping jurisdictions – often from completely unrelated sectors – all but guaranteeing that operators can be accused of failing to secure the necessary permissions or approvals for activities. Indeed, investigators discovered over the last two years that the daughter of former President Islam Karimov took bribes from several telecom firms looking to enter the Uzbek market in the late 2000s, in exchange for ‘guiding’ them through the labyrinthine bureaucracy.
Since Mr Karimov’s death last year, though, the nation’s telecoms authorities have begun work on simplifying the sector’s regulatory structure. Most recently, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Axborot texnologiyalari va kommunikatsiyalarini vazirligi, MITC) announced this week that it is working on draft regulations for mobile services, covering the ‘rapid development of new technologies’ and including measures to protect consumer rights.