Uzbekistan’s Communications and IT Agency has warned Unitel, a 100% subsidiary of No. 2 Russian cellular provider VimpelCom, that its license could be revoked if further network disruptions are encountered.
The agency had written to Unitel regarding an outage that lasted for 3.5 hours on the morning of November 14, depriving the city of Tashkent and its environs and the Syrdarya region of mobile services. Disruptions in the Unitel networks have been reported in other regions of Uzbekistan.
In addition, the State Communications Inspectorate has been receiving more and more complaints from subscribers about the quality of services.
The inspectorate told Unitel in writing in October and November to eliminate its network problems, but this was not done.
The Communications and IT Agency plans to suspend or withdraw the Unitel license if the violations are repeated.
Unitel said it was not ready to comment on the situation.
VimpelCom’s press office told Interfax that the company received the letter from the regulator on Monday. Artem Minayev, the senior PR manager, said the disruption on November 14 was caused by a software update at a switch.
"We’re waiting for Huawei [one of VimpelCom’s main equipment suppliers in Uzbekistan] to clarify the reasons for the glitch. Once we get this we will notify the Communications and IT Agency about what action we intend to take in order to avoid a repeat of this," Minayev said, adding that Finland’s Nokia also supplies equipment for the network, in addition to Huawei.
The information is already worrying Unitel customers, who fear a repeat of the situation with joint venture Coscom.
The Communications and IT Agency suspended GSM operator Coscom’s license for 10 days in February 2007 because of license agreement violations resulting from network operation problems. The company lost a large number of customers and suffered financial losses.
Vimpelcom in early 2006 completed a deal for the second largest mobile phone operator in Uzbekistan Unitel. It acquired the operator from an international consortium led by Germanos S.A. of Greece. Unitel began offering its services under the Beeline trademark in September 2006.
There are five mobile phone operators in Uzbekistan: Uzdunrobita (controlled by MTS) , Unitel, Coscom, Perfectum Mobile and Uzbektelekom Mobile, a branch of Uzbektelecom.