says Tajikistan ranks third in the region, overtaking Uzbekistan in terms of mobile penetration – 10.14 million SIM cards per 9.64 million population, which is 105.2 percent.  In other aspects of the telecommunications sector, Tajikistan, along with Turkmenistan, is often in the last positions in Central Asia and in the world.  Only one third of the country’s population has access to the Internet – 3.36 million people, or 34.9% of citizens.

The country still has an expensive and slow Internet connection.  As of August 2021, Tajikistan is ranked 131st in the list of countries in terms of mobile Internet speed with a mark of 15.70 Mbps, and 106th in the rating of broadband Internet speed with an indicator of 33.85 Mbps.

According to the rating, the average price per gigabyte of mobile internet is $ 2.16. The price for broadband internet access is also high at $ 19.76 per month.  In this regard, the country is in the last part of the ranking in the Internet accessibility index.  The Internet remains expensive for the majority of the population.

Nevertheless, Tajikistan was one of the first in Central Asia to launch a 5G network.  In August 2020, the operator Tcell activated 5G base stations in Dushanbe.  A year later, in May 2021, another operator “Zet-mobile” completed testing and today offers full 5G connection services at four points in the capital.

There are five operators on the Tajik mobile market: MegaFon Tajikistan; Tcell; Babilon-T; ZetMobile; and O Mobile..

One of the first foreign first foreign investors to appear on the Tajik telecom market is the Russian company MegaFon, which launched the MegaFon Tajikistan brand in 2001 through the closed joint stock company TT-Mobile. MegaFon managed to remain the main shareholder with a 75% stake, and the remaining 25% belong to the national operator OJSC “Tojiktelecom”.

“Tcell”, which is the largest mobile operator in the country, was launched in 2001.  In terms of geographical coverage, the company consisted of two operators: “Tcell North” and “Tcell South”.  In 2003, the two companies merged under a single Indigo brand.  In 2007, a controlling stake in both owners was sold to the largest Swedish-Finnish company TeliaSonera.  In 2017, the shares of TeliaSonera were fully redeemed by the Aga Khan Economic Development Fund (AKFED) for US$27.7 million.  Today AKFED is the sole owner of the company.

Russian VimpelCom launched the Beeline operator in 2006 through its subsidiary Takom LLC.  VimpelCom itself is part of the VEON group of companies. In 2018, due to tax harassment, VEON sold 98% of the shares of Tacom to its local partner, ZET Mobile, which at that time had only 2% of the shares. So the Russian shareholders left the market, and the operator became fully owned by the local company.  In 2019, a rebranding took place and the operator changed its name to ZET-Mobile.

Founded in 2000, Babilon-T is the first national operator; it is owned by Babilon Mobile CJSC.   

“O Mobile”, which is the youngest player in Tajikistan’s mobile communications market, was launched in October 2020.  “O Mobile” reportedly leases the technical infrastructure from “Tcell” and its general director is a former employee of “Tcell”.

In general, despite the fact that there are five mobile operators in the country, Tajikistan ranks last in world rankings by many criteria.  All this points to an underdeveloped market, high monopoly and low competitiveness of local communication providers.  This, in turn, leads to high prices and low quality, poorly developed infrastructure, and inaccessibility of the network in some villages and remote corners of the country.

In order to remove the country’s market from monopolies, structural reforms are needed, the creation of more favorable conditions for foreign or private investors, and the creation of an independent regulatory body.  Perhaps, in this case, the market situation will really change in a positive direction.