Displaying items by tag: Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan lays groundwork for move to digital television
Uzbekistan’s State Unitary Enterprise ‘Centre of Radio Communication, Broadcasting and Television’ (SUE CRRT) announced it will rely on SES Video for the upcoming launch of its first DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) multiplex, using NSS-12 at 57 degrees East to transmit TV signals to all head-ends of its DTT network.
Under the multi-year agreement announced by satellite operator SES, SUE CRRT, which is Uzbekistan’s sole operator of analogue and terrestrial TV distribution, has contracted satellite capacity to deliver a minimum of 12 free-to-air TV channels in standard definition and four radio channels from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to all DTT head-ends throughout the country.
“The launch of our first digital terrestrial multiplex is a significant step forward for the analog switchover process in Uzbekistan,” said Mr. Turgunov M., Technical Director at SUE CRRT. “Our network will cover the entire territory, offering new viewing possibilities to a potential audience of 31.5 million people. As Uzbekistan is one of the largest countries in Central Asia, with desert and mountainous areas, satellite is the only reliable technology that can enable us to reach the entire population as well as neighboring countries, and beyond.”
“SUE CRRT already entrusted SES with the carriage of state TV and radio channels for DTH and cable contribution two years ago, and this new contract clearly underscores SES’s position as the satellite provider of choice for Central Asia, more particularly the Republic of Uzbekistan,” said Norbert Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Commercial Europe at SES Video. “We look forward to supporting the Republic of Uzbekistan in the launch of its DTT multiplex with the help of satellite and in its journey towards digital television.”
Telia to pay $1.4 billion in fines for bribes committed in Uzbekistan
Swedish telecom operator Telia announced on Thursday, September 15, that U.S. and Dutch authorities are seeking $1.4 billion in fines from the company to settle an investigation into alleged bribes committed by Telia in Uzbekistan. The investigation was opened in March 2014, focusing on payments made to an Uzbek firm for the purpose of obtaining a mobile operating license and a 26 percent stake in the Uzbek operator Ucell.
Telia said in a statement on Thursday that the proposal for the settlement did not go into detail, “but suggests a total settlement amount of approximately USD 1.4 billion”. The company began operating in the Central Asian, former Soviet republic in 2007 via a Dutch holding company, according to Telia officials.
“I have said on many occasions in the past that Telia Company’s entry into Uzbekistan was done in an unethical and wrongful way and we are prepared to take full responsibility,” said the company’s board chairwoman, Marie Ehrling in a statement.
In a similar case earlier this year, Netherlands-based Russian telecom operator VimpelCom agreed to fork out $835 million to settle U.S. and Dutch charges it paid in massive bribes to also penetrate Uzbekistan’s telecommunications market, AFP reported. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, some of the funds transited through U.S. accounts, ended up with a ‘relative’ of Islam Karimov, the former Uzbek president, for mobile phone licenses and frequencies.
The so-called ‘relative’ has not yet been identified by U.S. officials in the case, but the dots have been joined since Karimov’s daughter Gulnara Karimova was placed under house arrest two years ago under investigation for corruption. Transparency International, an anti-corruption agency, said in a report that Karimova “is suspected of receiving more than $1 billion worth of shares and payments from mobile phone companies in exchange for her influence.”
Telia is committed to cooperating with U.S. and Dutch authorities according to Ehrling, and the company will “now have to analyze the information and decide on how to proceed with the ongoing discussions with the authorities.” She added that “our initial reaction to the proposal is that the amount is very high.”
Even though Telia are willing to cooperate, the company seems to be surprised by the high price it has to pay for corruption. For instance, Ehrling spoke to Swedish public radio about how the amount being sought by the U.S. and Dutch authorities “shows that the cost of acting badly is expensive.” The company’s shares subsequently dropped 1.1 percent in morning trading hours in Stockholm.
Russia’s MTS is selling its stake in Uzbekistan following U.S. corruption probe
Following a corruption probe by U.S. regulators, Mobile TeleSystems PJSC, commonly referred to as MTS, Russia’s largest wireless mobile carrier, announced it will sell its majority 50.1 stake in Uzbekistan’s Universal Mobile Systems (UMS) to the Uzbek government. Some sources believe it’s a move by MTS to avoid fines related to the U.S. investigation.
“Due to a variety of business reasons and other circumstances, MTS decided to sell its stake in the joint venture UMS LLC,” said MTS vice president Andrei Smelkov in a statement on Friday, August 5. Uzbekistan is to become the full owner after purchasing the 50.1 percent stake MTS held. According to reports, MTS will write off about 3 billion rubles ($46 million) due to the sale in its Q3 results. Data from AC&M Consulting says the subscriber base of UMS totaled 1.3 million at the end of March – equal to 6 percent of the total Uzbekistan mobile subscriber base.
MTS once provided its mobile services under the MTS Uzbekistan brand through the subsidiary Uzunrobita, which boasted a subscriber base of 9.3 million in 2012. The subsidiary was accused of unpaid taxes by the government then and its license was suspended and then revoked. Uzunrobita declared bankruptcy in 2013. MTS finally resumed its services in Uzbekistan in December 2014 after founding the joint venture UMS with the state.
MTS’s sale of UMS to the Uzbekistan government has been linked to an investigation by the U.S. Ministry of Justice and securities regulator SEC is investigating three Uzbekistan mobile operators - MTS, VimpelCom and Telia – for possible corruption in obtaining licenses through connections with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan. Some sources suggest that MTS’s exit from Uzbekistan could be an attempt to avoid fines related to the investigation.