Turkmenistan’s telecommunications market in this poor and predominantly rural country is relatively small. Its telecom services were considered to be the least developed of all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries when they took shape. Since then, poor growth in telecom services can be attributed to a large extent to the slow development of the private sector and state control over most economic activities. Efforts to move towards a more market-oriented economy have been limited. In the telecom sector there has been some progress, but this limited progress has in turn been overwhelmed by significant setbacks.

Turkmen Telecom has been the primary provider of telecommunication services, and through a subsidiary, TM-Cell, it has been operating a GSM mobile network in competition with a private mobile operator, MTS Turkmenistan, since 2005 a subsidiary of the Russian-based MTS. Not surprisingly it has been the mobile services that have been dominating the expansion activity.

Turkmenistan has experienced a number of problems relating to communications technology. Despite recent efforts to upgrade the country’s telecom infrastructure, the telephone network remained poorly developed and many villages have been left without telephone services.

Broadband access remains limited in scale and nature. Fixed broadband penetration reached less than 1% by 2015. Market penetration is predicted to continue to remain low over the next five years to 2021. However Turkmenistan’s mobile market has experienced very strong growth over the last few years. However the market has moved closer to a saturation phase with a subsequent slowing in the growth rate. Market penetration reached 122% in 2015.

In 2015 the Turkmenistan President signed a decree founding the telecommunications company Asgabat Saher Telefon Ulgamy (ASTU). The new operator will provide telecommunications services in the capital city. The aim of setting up the new operator is to increase competition in the telecommunications market. Also in 2015 the country’s first communications satellite which was successfully launched.

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