Monday 23 September 2019

Emerging 5G Markets: Uzbekistan

With Long Term Evolution (LTE) rapid expansion and slowdown in 2G and 3G services, the Uzbekistan telecom market is evolving rapidly. Embracing mobile connectivity, IoT, cloud services and smartphones has become vital for telecom companies. Operators across the value chain are forced to adapt to these emerging market changes to sustain revenue and profit.

Telecom operators in Uzbekistan are witnessing wide range of challenges including rapidly changing customer patterns, financial and technological challenges. Identifying the emerging trends and converting them into actionable strategies is vital for sustaining profitability.

Ucell is the largest company in terms of subscribers (approx. 7.1 million) owned and operated by the Uzbek company COSCOM, itself owned by State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Assistance to Privatized Enterprises and Development of Competition (a governmental authority of Uzbekistan).

It uses the 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 2G services, 2100 MHz band for 3G with coverage in main cities and has launched 4G in 2600 MHz (band 7) and announced 700 MHz bands with coverage in 6 cities in 2017 so far: Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Navoi, Zarafshan and Jizzakh. Ucell has generally the best coverage in the country at the highest rate

In September 2019  Ucell carried out tests of 5G technology at its headquarters in Tashkent. Up to 1.376 Gbps speed was reached, according to measurements using the SpeedTest service. Equipment from Huawei was used for the test. They aim to launch a 5G network at the Tashkent International Business Centre this year, before expanding coverage.

Beeline is the second provider in the country. It's controlled by Russian-backed VimpelCom. In 2016 it covers 88% of the population by 2G, 52% with 3G and also started 4G/LTE in Tashkent in 2015 expanding to other towns. Beeline uses rare 850 MHz on bands 5 and 18 for 4G/LTE.

As of the first quarter of 2018 the subscriber base of Beeline in Uzbekistan totalled 9.6 million people.

Operator UMS is currently  undergoing a phased rebranding  and will eventually provide mobile services under the brand Mobiuz. The rebranding began in December 2018 with development of the name, color identification and other parameters of the brand. Further rebranding will be carried out in stages. In number of subscribers (approx. 1.1 million) it's the 3rd operator in the country.  In June 2016 they launched 4G/LTE services in Tashkent. Their LTE network uses the 800 MHz (band 20) and is available throughout the capital. In 2017 Samarkand was added. 4G services are available at no extra cost for existing 3G subscribers with compatible devices and SIMs.

The final operator Uzmobile, a subsidiary of the national operator Uztelecom, also has more than a million subscribers. Using a combination of CDMA-450 and GSM technologies – the latter of which was only launched in April 2015 – they have installed a total of 1,200 new 2G, 3G and 4G base stations since 2015. 4G/LTE was started in 2017 on 1800 MHz.

Uzmobile have also started testing 5G technology, Huawei equipment was used for these trials, and they have placed their first 5G base stations “into operation for pre-trial testing” on “frequencies up to 6GHz”. The testing will use non-standalone network infrastructure built on top of its 4G network, and will involve “multiple non-hierarchical (disproportionate) access and Massive MIMO” technologies.

The test results will inform the operator’s procurement and deployment plan, which is expected to take ‘more than one and a half years’. According to one of its engineers, the operator has achieved data connection speeds of 1.455Gbps (downlink)/114Mbps (uplink) on its Tashkent network.

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