Internet becoming more accessible in Central Asia countries
- Written by Maria Levina
BISHKEK (TCA) — The Internet penetration increases every year in Central Asia countries. The World Wide Web and the new opportunities it provides are becoming more accessible and diverse.
The Internet is used for effective management and promotion of business not only by the private sector but also by government bodies and the media.
Over the last five years, the volume of Internet services has doubled and amounted to 80.3 billion tenge in Kazakhstan ($1=380 tenge). According to Finprom.kz, the number of Internet users increased by 654.6 thousand for this period of time.
There were 2.5 million of Internet users in Kazakhstan at the end of 2018.The largest number of subscribers with high-speed Internet access was recorded in Astana and Almaty.
The Internet appeared in 1994 in Kazakhstan, when the ".kz" top-level domain was registered.
Internet access is now no longer just a service but a necessity. There are points with free Wi-Fi in public places, transport, cafes, restaurants and shopping centers in Almaty, Astana and other big cities.
Kazakhstan is in the 57th place in the world in terms of Internet speed but it ranks third after Russia and Belarus among the Eurasian Economic Union member countries.
The speed of access to fixed broadband and mobile Internet can be estimated using the popular SpeedTest service (https://www.speedtest.net/global-index).
According to the latest data for January 1, 2019, Kazakhstan occupies the 61st place (speed of 31.86 megabits per second — Mbps) in the broadband Internet speed ranking among 177 countries.
Russia ranks 46th (47.27 Mbps), Kyrgyzstan — 92nd (20.52 Mbps), Tajikistan — 113th (15.66 Mbps), Uzbekistan — 131st (11.31 Mbps), and Turkmenistan — 176th (3.32 Mbps).
The situation with the quality of mobile Internet is worse than with the broadband one in Central Asia. Kazakhstan ranks 70th with 19.48 Mbps, the best speed among the CIS countries. Russia holds the 82nd place (19.16 Mbps), Kyrgyzstan — 111th (12.44 Mbps), Uzbekistan —129th (8.80 Mbps), and Tajikistan is at the last, 137th position (5.04 Mbps).
In Kazakhstan, the Internet cost per month at a speed of about 10 Mbps is $10.5-$13, when connecting by an official provider. It will cost less if to connect to the operators who put the common modem on the apartment building, and the apartment has only a Wi-Fi router.
In Uzbekistan, the broadband access costs about $12, and in Kyrgyzstan — $17-18. Uzbekistan ranks 69th among 230 countries in cheap mobile Internet, according to the Worldwide mobile data pricing.
A number of CIS countries are among the very cheapest in the world for mobile data and all but one sits inside the less expensive half of the table. Kyrgyzstan is a very close second to India in the world table with an average of $0.27, just ahead of third-placed Kazakhstan ($0.49) and fourth-placed Ukraine ($0.51).
Turkmenistan is the only CIS nation to appear among the most expensive in the world where 1GB of data costs $19.81 on average – that’s more than four-fold what it costs in the second most expensive CIS country, Tajikistan ($4.84).
From March 27, the Internet price will rise dramatically in Tajikistan. The Antimonopoly Service of Tajikistan demanded that Internet providers and mobile operators set the cost of 1 gigabyte at least $5.3. Currently, the cost of 1 GB costs an average of $3.1- $3.7, Radio Ozodi reports.
According to the Communication Service of Tajikistan, there are about 3 million Internet users in the country
Subscribers often complain about poor connection speed. Since the beginning of 2018, after all Internet traffics go through the Unified Communication Center, its speed and quality have declined among Tajik providers.
The Internet in Tajikistan is among of the most expensive in the world. For this reason, according to World Bank experts, only a small part of organizations and companies use Internet capabilities in their work. The high cost of Internet services is the result of excessive state control and the introduction of excise tax for Internet providers, the experts said.
However, experts believe Tajiks will not give up the mobile Internet. In the mountainous regions instant messengers and social networks remain the only reliable means of communication.
Last year, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered to sharply reduce the Internet access prices, as well as to increase the connection speed at least four-fold in 2019, bringing it to the level of the CIS countries by 2020.
Many Uzbeks have noted a significant improvement in the Internet quality this year. However, interruptions in connection are still observed, according to the local media.
According to experts, problems are not in the Internet but in the outdated infrastructure.
Providers stated that Uzbektelecom, the sole Internet supplier in the country, is trying to monopolize the telecom services market.
Meanwhile, Facebook and YouTube are still not working in Uzbekistan. According to official data, these problems do not come from the Uzbek side.
The Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, reporting on the work on the Internet expansion, announced the introduction of new tariff plans, which allowed "a significant increase in the number of Internet users."
With the introduction of the internal Internet system, subscribers of the Altyn Asyr cellular operator have the opportunity to watch seven national television channels by mobile phones, the orient.tm reported.
The number of users has increased 1.2-fold over the past year. In Ashgabat, the data transfer rate averages up to 20 GBs.
However, according to some subscribers, after the Russian MTS left the market, the Internet communications became worse even in Ashgabat, not to mention the regions.
According to the Ministry of Communications, the price of the Unlimited Home Internet has fallen 17-fold in Turkmenistan since 2012. Turkmen providers are working on reducing the cost of providing Internet access by purchasing new international Internet channels, technical modernization and automation of services.
According to trend.az, Internet banking and mobile banking services are actively introduced in the country, and the number of educational institutions with access to the Internet is growing.
Kyrgyzstan began to introduce Internet technologies in 1992, when the communication network and the “.kg” domain were created. In 1997, there were significant changes for both providers and users. Low-speed modems were replaced by more advanced ones, and the National Data Transmission Network was engaged in providing access to the Internet from all regions of the country.
In 2003, the state-owned Kyrgyztelecom became the copyright holder for the provision of Internet access services throughout the country, including the development of a tariff policy.
There are now three mobile operators in Kyrgyzstan — Alfa Telecom CJSC (MegaCom TM), Sky Mobile LLC (Beeline TM) and Nur Telecom LLC (O! TM).
Affordable smartphones and rates for mobile Internet are the key factors in the growth of the Internet audience. More and more people choose a convenient financial instrument, e-wallets, to pay for utilities no matter where they live, in a city or in a small village.
According to a survey conducted by Internews, 59% of Kyrgyzstan’s population uses the Internet. In the northern regions, the share of the World Wide Web users is higher than in the southern regions (64% and 55%, respectively). Over 80% of Bishkek residents use the Internet.
About 73% of cities residents use the Internet, while in villages their share does not exceed 52%.
In addition to mobile phones, about 20% of Internet users use home computers in cities. In rural areas, 94% of population uses mobile phones only.
Kyrgyzstan is significantly dependent on the purchase of bandwidth Internet from Kazakhstan and Russia.