The Tajik communications service agency has prepared a draft law "On Telecommunications Law" in a new edition.  Its authors say the law will contribute to ensuring the national budget revenues through collection of fees from the telecommunications sector.   Does this mean an increase in the cost of the already expensive mobile connections and the Internet?  

The draft law has reportedly been developed by the Communications Service under the Government of Tajikistan upon the instruction of the head of the President’s Executive Office and was agreed with the relevant ministries and agencies back in 2019. 

After discussion by participants of the telecommunications market, the draft law will be resubmitted for approval to ministries and agencies.  

Specialists consider that the telecommunications law, which has been in force since 2002, is outdated despite numerous amendments made to it.  They, in particular, note that new services and technologies have appeared that require proper legislative regulation.  

The communications service agency representatives emphasize that over the past 19 years, new operators and providers have appeared and mobile services have evolved from the analog standard to the new 5G standards.   The emergence of new Internet services and social networks, NGN technologies, fiber optic communications and other technologies and services is also noted. 

The development of the draft law is justified by “ensuring information security, healthy competition and development of the telecommunications sector, and preventing new threats and fighting crime using telecommunications networks.” 

The draft law authors say the law will contribute to ensuring the national budget revenues through collection of fees from the telecommunications sector, with taking into account development of the information and communications technologies.  

The communications service agency refute the existence of even intentions to increase the tax burden on mobile communications operators and Internet service providers (ISPs), which will inevitably be followed by an increase in the cost of services in these markets.  

The Communications Service managers claim that the new law has nothing to do with raising tax rates and pricing.  

Indeed, such rates are set by other legislative, subordinate legal acts.

Meanwhile, a representative of one of mobile communications operators told Asia-Plus on the basis of anonymity that during the discussion of the draft law with service providers that took place the week before last, the possibility of increasing fees from participants in the telecommunications market to replenish the national budget, including through excise tax.

A source close to the telecommunications market, who also wanted to remain unnamed, has confirmed these words.  

Moreover, the upcoming increase in the excise rate on communications services (from current 7.0% to 10%) has also been discussed by social network users.  

The representative of the mobile communications operator noted that any additional burden on the service providers will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the users.  

However, independent experts have repeatedly said that imposition of additional fees upon mobile communications operators, all parties related to the market will suffer as operators' revenues will decrease, and at higher rates subscribers will not be able to afford to use communications in the previous volumes, and consequently, revenues to the country's budget will decrease.  

Currently, mobile communications operators and the Internet service providers pay a 15-pecent value added tax (VAT), a 20-percent tax on incomes, a 2.5-percent license fee, and a 7.0-percent excise tax.  

The April Speedtest Global Index ranks Tajikistan 129th among 138 countries in term of the mobile Internet speed and 130th among 180 countries in terms of speed of the fixed broadband Internet. 

For comparison, Kazakhstan ranks 72nd and 101st, respectively; Kyrgyzstan – 83rd and 84th; and Uzbekistan 104th and 89th.