New report provides detailed analysis of the Telecommunications market
Belarus has enjoyed strong consistent economic growth despite significant government involvement, a fact that is also reflected in the development of its telecommunications market. Fixed-line density has grown steadily although much of the country remains underdeveloped. The high degree of government ownership in the sector reflects the status of the general economy, which is estimated to be 75% state owned.
The latest global financial crisis has hit Belarus particularly hard, which was forced to seek IMF help, securing ?1.8 billion in credit from the organisation in January 2009. One of the obligations placed on Belarus by the IMF has been a devaluation of the Belarusian rouble, which dropped by 20% in early January 2009, leading to foreign owned telecom operators in Belarus to raise prices.
Fixed-line services are offered by monopoly telecoms operator Beltelecom, which has improved network capacity and international Internet bandwidth to support bandwidth-intensive services such as broadband Internet access and broadband TV (IPTV).
Broadband Internet services are available via ADSL, cable and wireless broadband and now account for approximately half of all Internet connections. The incumbent has reduced the cost of wholesale data lines to stimulate retail broadband take up.
Broadcasting is available via IPTV, cable and terrestrial TV platforms. Digital TV availability is expanding as part of a government initiative to ensure universal coverage by 2015.
The mobile sector is experiencing strong growth, with three GSM operators and one CDMA operator in operation. Mobile lines outnumber fixed lines, attributed to increased competition following the entrance of foreign players into the market which brings technical and marketing knowledge. Foreign ownership requirements have relaxed, allowing foreign players to acquire majority stakes in Belarus' mobile network operators. With the mobile voice market maturing the focus has shifted to mobile data services, with BeST and Belcel possessing networks capable of delivering mobile broadband services.
Previously unwilling to allow majority ownership of telecom participants, the government has signalled an increased willingness to allow foreign investors into the market, leading to majority ownership of two mobile network operators within the space of one year.
Broadband now represents over half of all Internet connections after increasing six fold during 2008, with DSL the most popular platform. This figure is expected to rise on the back of falling broadband rates, as evident by a 20% reduction in August 2009 for the cost of unbundled local loops.
Digital TV availability is expanding following the launch of digital services by a cable TV operator in May 2009, offering both SDTV and HDTV programming. Digital TV is also accessible via IPTV and terrestrial TV; the government is committed to ensuring digital TV accessibility in all regional centres by 2010 and full population coverage by 2015.
Mobile market competition is reinvigorated following the entrance of Telekom Austria and Turkey's Turkcell into Belarus' mobile market. Turkcell's acquired operator has obtained radio frequencies and contracted a vendor in July 2009 to build a 3G network. Telekom Austria's operator has taken a different route, entering into an exclusive agreement with a CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev A operator to offer mobile broadband services with speeds of up to 3.1Mb/s.Belarus - key telecom parameters - 2006; 2009