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7 February 2011
Turkmen president authorizes formation of three non-state mobile operators

ASHGABAT. Feb 7 (Interfax) - Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has authorized formation of no less than three non-state mobile communications operators.

"These companies should form enterprises with the leading communications companies worldwide and organize operations on the appropriate level," Berdimuhamedow said at a government meeting. "The domestic companies should have stakes of more than 50% in the companies," he said.

In the initial stage, the state will provide the companies with low-interest loans in the volumes required, he said.

Creation of new operators is aimed at fostering competition and the systematic expansion of volume and at raising the quality of services to the public, particularly provision of high-speed Internet.

All the new companies should have Turkmen names and operate in accordance with world standards, he said.

The president directed the appropriate officials to draw up proposals for submission by the next government meeting.

Berdimuhamedow also noted the need for Turkmenistan's sole mobile operator, state-owned Altyn Asyr, to be converted into a non-state organization.

It was reported earlier that on December 21, 2010 the Turkmen Communications Ministry suspended for one month the license of mobile communications operator Barash Communications Technologies (BCTI), a subsidiary of Russian Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) (RTS: MTSS). BCTI had been the leading operator in Turkmenistan with over 2 million subscribers.

MTS failed to secure the re-activation of the license on January 21. It has asked to enter into negotiations with the government to resolve all outstanding disputes.

MTS President Mikhail Shamolin has said the suspension will cost the company an estimated $585 million.