In early May, Turkmen netizens were excited to learn that following a verbal agreement with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the popular Russian mobile phone operator MTS will soon resume its work in Turkmenistan, after an unexplained closure by the government in 2010.
MTS entered the Turkmen market in 2005 after it acquired the controlling stake in an American company which was the leading mobile phone operator in the country. The Russian company soon became the largest and most successful operator in Turkmenistan, boasting an 85-percent share of the mobile service market in the country and serving 2.4 million mobile users by 2010 [ru].
In contrast, the Turkmen government-owned mobile phone operator Altyn Asyr had only about 500,000 customers by early 2011. MTS's services were very popular in the country because the company provided its customers with mobile web connection, including social media that were banned by the state-run internet provider. In effect, MTS's web connection served for many Turkmens as their ‘window to the world’.
However, Turkmenistan's Ministry of Communications revoked MTS's operating license in December 2010, without giving any reasons. The ensuing suspension of service affected roughly half of the country's population of about five million. Most people had little other option but to switch to Altyn Asyr. The state-controlled company soon had to deal with massive service disruptions because its infrastructure was not ready for the massive inflow of ex-MTS customers.
It is not surprising then that the news of MTS resuming operations in Turkmenistan has been greeted warmly by netizens.
Ураааааааа! Поздравляю! Будет конкуренция – будет нормальная связь!
Another reader, Anastasiya, added [ru]:
Супер новость, еще бы они вернули нам наши старые номера.
Krutoy was less inspired by the news, writing [ru] ironically:
Вау, воры возвращаются!
To which Vladimir replied [ru]:
Какая разница воруют они или нет[?] вы думаете Алтын асыр не ворует[?] да все и везде воруют. Да и не знаю остались ещё честные люди.
Leyla, a student that studies abroad concluded [ru]:
Наконец я смогу поговорить с родственниками.В Туркмении,что сотовая связь,что АТС г…о.