Saturday, November 06, 2004

I got a couple of text message on my cell phone from Karabakh Telecom, the first on 04 Nov 2004 at 19:56:13, which read: “Hayastani Hanrapetutyunum Karabakh Teleconin tramadrvel e bjjayin kapi carayutyunneri matucman licenza. Harganqnerov, Tnorinutjun.” and then at 20:12:04 I got the second message which read: “Karabagh Telecom official got a license to operate the second GSM Network in the Republic of Armenia. Best Regards, The management.”

When you read the following story, keep in mind that Karabakh Telecom (KT) rolled into Karabagh 3 years ago and before they had a signed agreement, they were already installing a cellular phone network. A few months later, they were give the telecommunication network to operate. The Artsakh president announced KT’s presents in the country, stating that he has not allowed the same mistake to take place as they did in Armenia, with a monopoly, but in fact the “licenza” (license) that they were given by the Prime Minister, gave them what equates to a 30 year monopoly on all communication in Artsakh.

For KT to be awarded a lucrative agreement to operate the second cellular phone system in Armenia without any competition, does not surprise me and I would go so far as to say that high ranking government officials had much to profit from this deal going as it has.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 11/05/2004

Government Tight-Lipped On Choice Of New Mobile Operator

By Ruzanna Stepanian

The government declined on Friday to provide a clear explanation of its controversial decision to choose Armenia's second mobile phone operator without a transparent and competitive bidding.

Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian, normally accessible for reporters, refused to comment, referring all inquiries to the press service of his ministry. The ministry spokeswoman, Tamar Ghalechian, told RFE/RL that the hitherto unknown firm K-Telecom was granted the lucrative license because of its Lebanese owners' positive' track record in Nagorno-Karabakh. They have run the Armenian-controlled region's telephone network for the last three years.

Ghalechian confirmed that K-Telecom was the only bidder in a `tender' formally called and administered by the government at its weekly session on Thursday. He could not say why it was arranged so hastily and why the government did not hold a genuine bidding that might have resulted in more attractive bids.

The decision came less than one day after ministers approved a compromise agreement to settle their long-running disputes with ArmenTel, Armenia's dominant telecom operator. Under the terms of the deal negotiated by Justice Minister David Harutiunian, ArmenTel will abandon its legal monopoly on mobile telephony in exchange for a string of other government concessions. One of them stipulates that only one alternative wireless operator will be allowed to operate in Armenia until 2009.

The Communications Ministry spokeswoman said K-Telecom has pledged to put in place a wireless network covering Yerevan and surrounding areas by the end of 2005 and extend it to the rest of Armenia within the next two years. She said the company hopes to attract 50,000 subscribers during the first year of its operations.

As of mid-August there were only 140,000 cellular phone users in Armenia. The figure pales in comparison with similar statistics in the two other South Caucasus states. Azerbaijan boasted 870,000 such users in 2002, while Georgia had 522,300 of them as of last year.

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