The telecommunications sector in Kyrgyzstan has been generally characterised by an open market that welcomes both foreign and domestic investors. This has been effectively done in accordance with the requirements set down by the WTO. Despite the market being ‘fully competitive’ there remained more to be done on the regulatory front to take full advantage of the reforms already in place. There also remains a culture of poor transparency in some aspects of corporate behaviour; this needs to be addressed if the telecom market is to reach its full potential.

The telecom sector has been part of the final phase of a large scale privatisation program that has been steadily progressing in the country since 1992.

The start of market reforms saw the state telecommunications agency, Kyrgyztelecom, begin to expand and upgrade its legacy telecom network, which at the time was out-dated and poorly distributed. With the expansion of the telecoms sector, upgraded standards have been adopted. At the same time, a new regulatory authority – the National Communications Agency which later became known as the National Agency for Information Resources, Technologies and Communication - was set up to oversee the sector. At an early stage, Kyrgyztelecom was restructured as a public corporation and the government moved towards a partial sale of the operator to the private sector. Around 10% of the company quickly passed into private hands. After a series of failed attempts to sell off the government shareholding, the government continued to hold almost 78% of Kyrgyztelecom.

In the meantime, private operators, which actively function in the mobile market and in the provision of internet services, have been actively investing in the necessary infrastructure. The two big GSM operators – Sky Mobile (Beeline) and MegaCom – have continued to dominate the market, claiming around 75% of the total mobile subscriber base between them. They have been joined by Nur Telecom;

The mobile subscriber growth rate in 2015 and 2016 was a flat 0.2% as the market reached 7,595,000 subscribers in 2016. The mobile market is now mature. Further slow growth is also predicted over the next five years to 2021. Mobile broadband continues to grow strongly. The 4G mobile market is slowing growing as major operators launch services.

Over the past few years there has been particularly strong growth in mobile broadband subscriptions. This phenomenon is rapidly changing the shape of the internet market. The active mobile broadband subscriber penetration reached 33% in 2016.
During 2012 to 2016 the internet penetration in Kyrgzstan has been increasing steadily, increasing from 23% in 2012 to 30% in 2015 and 32% in 2016. The percentage of households with the internet has risen from 8.7% in 2013 to 16.5% in 2016.

Fixed broadband penetration continues to grow strongly but from a very small base. It reached 4.4% in 2016, up from 2.4% in 2013 and 0.9% in 2012.

The international internet bandwidth has risen significantly over the last five years rising from 1,200 Mb/s in 2010 to 12,700 in 2015.

For more information see – Kyrgyzstan - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses