Two mobile phone companies -- Two Closed Joint-Stock Companies (CJSCs) Indigo-Tajikistan (Tcell trademark) and TT-Mobile (Megafon Tajikistan trademark) -- that were granted license to provide high-speed Internet to Tajikistan say they are interested in providing high-quality Internet to all citizens and in increasing the affordability of the Internet.  

CJSC TT-Mobile was speechless and just said that independent traffic import requires a thorough study of the market, current price offers from foreign providers, and analysis of a number of technical and some other issues.    

CJSC Indigo-Tajikistan has provided sufficiently detailed information. 

They say they are currently considering proposals from some large Internet service providers in Russia and Europe.  The selection will be based on reliability, speed, technical support and price.  

The company reportedly already has the infrastructure for direct purchase of Internet services.  

To provide high-speed and uninterrupted Internet, Indigo-Tajikistan plans to increase the volume of supplied traffic up to 100 Gbit/s. 

Asked whether Indigo Tajikistan will supply Internet directly or through the Tojiktelecom’s Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center, they say that in accordance with Article 14 of Tajikistan’s law on telecommunications, services and access to network are provided by the licensee in accordance with the procedure established by the Government of Tajikistan.  

“Our company will provide Internet in accordance with the requirements of the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center,” they said, noting that that they will provide Internet, first of all, to their subscribers, “but we will also consider the possibility of selling to other companies.”  

They say Tajikistan is not a transit country, and “as for the end consumer, the Internet still costs us more than transit countries due to intermediate transit costs.”  

“But the fact is good that prices still fall every year.  At the moment, we have already made internet packages with more favorable prices.  For example, mobile Internet package “G” decreased in price by an average of 20-30%.  This is the first step in our strategy to make the Internet even more accessible to our customers.”  

Recall, Indigo-Tajikistan and TT-Mobile have been granted a license to provide high-speed Internet to Tajikistan.

According to information posted on the communications service agency’s official website on November 17, the document was issued for period until July 2027.  

This step is expected to help reduce the cost and improve the quality of the Internet.

The communications service agency noted on November 16 that “this move will contribute to the creation of a healthy competitive environment in the telecommunications sector and attraction of private capital in this sector.”  

In Tajikistan, the process of monopolization of the telecommunications market began in 2016 and that's when the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center, or EKTs in its Russian-language acronym (the centralized data spigot) was established.  The Tajik authorities required that all Internet and mobile communications traffic be run through the single state-owned telecoms provider Tojiktelecom.  The Center centralizes all telephone and Internet communications with the aim of facilitating surveillance on the grounds of combatting terrorism and extremism.  It allows the government to have complete control over domestic communications without any safeguards.

It should be noted that the idea of creating a government-administered information gateway has been circulating since 2005.  The stated aim of the recurring initiative has been to prevent “illegal” communications that could undermine national security.

Changes to the rules at the start of 2018 radically enhanced Tojiktelecom’s earning power.  Citing vague security concerns, the government deprived local fixed-lined and mobile service providers of the right to buy data traffic from neighboring countries.  Instead, Internet service providers (ISPs) were required to buy their data from Tojiktelecom. This has given the company a suffocating degree of leverage over its privately owned peers.

Previously, Internet service providers (ISPs) had purchased Internet directly in bulk from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and China at the rate fluctuating from 10,000 to 20,000 US dollars per one gigabit, while according to data of 2019, the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center sells Internet at the rate of 53,000 US dollars per 1 gigabit.  

The Center itself does not name the price at which it sells the Internet to ISPs, referring to trade secrets.    

Independent ISPs are as a result forced to pass on their own soaring costs to customers or, which is mainly what has happened, to reduce the quality of their services.  

The greatest risk of the state’s monopolistic control over data traffic is that in the event of any serious technical issues arising at the telecommunications agency, the entire country will be left without any means of online communication. Experts worry this could pose a security risk. 

It is to be noted that there were 4.1 million internet users in Tajikistan as of January 1, 2023.  At the start of 2023, Tajikistan’s internet penetration rate stood at 40.8 percent of the total population

Kepios analysis indicates that internet users in Tajikistan increased by 164,000 (+4.2 percent) between 2022 and 2023.

For perspective, these user figures reportedly reveal that 5.95 million people in Tajikistan did not use the internet at the start of 2023, suggesting that 59.2 percent of the population remained offline at the beginning of the year.