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Central Asia news

Uzbekistan: Coscom is back in business

16.02.2007 21:50 msk

RBK Daily, February 16, 2007, p. 12

Business Uzbekistan

Coscom, the third largest GSM operator in Uzbekistan, is back in business after a ten-day respite, according to the Moscow newspaper RBK Daily ("Coscom Will Share With MTS and VympelKom").

Disconnection of a major cell communication operator for ten days is something nearly unprecedented in this kind of business. Experts say that the interruption could cost Coscom 20% of its clientele - much to the delight of rival MTS and VympelKom. Players in the market ascribe what happened to Coscom to the pressure it is under on the eve of the intended sale.

Coscom had almost 400,000 subscribers before recently. Specialists say that its going off the air could cost the company 20-40% of the clients (80,000-150,000). "Let us abstain from making gloomy forecasts for the time being. Everything will be more or less clear by the middle of the next week when all of the subscribers have been informed that we are back in business. Sure, I admit that some of them may have decided to change the operator. That's a natural reaction," Coscom Press Secretary Aleksei Minin said.

Sources in Coscom claim that they have almost 15,000 corporate clients and that most of them have been met and talked with. "They are using other operators at this point but the majority promised to come back if we are back in business on time, as we told them we will be," insider said.

Coscom's rivals believe that experts exaggerate when they calculate the loss of custom. "That's way too much. Average income of the population in Uzbekistan is considerably lower than in Russia. Changing the operator involves additional costs and these considerations could stop a lot of customers from going over," MTS PR Director Yelena Kokhanovskaya said (MTS has over 1.5 million subscribers in Uzbekistan). "We did notice a slight rise of the number of corporate clients this week, but it's too early yet for drawing conclusions."

Artyom Minayev, VympelKom manager for Russian regions and CIS countries, admits to a noticeable swell of clientele in Uzbekistan. "The figure of our subscribers topped 1 million several weeks before we expected it. Coscom's withdrawal from the market, brief as it was, helped some," he said.

Players in the market also say that withdrawal from the market, even brief, may have a negative effect on Coscom's repute. "Getting the defected customers back will be difficult now. Even worse, potential clients will know that this company encountered problems once and that it may encounter them again," Oksana Pankratova of ComNews Research said.


Coscom website reports that "a special commission of the State Inspectorate of Communications and Uzbektelekom examined the work of the company and came up with a certificate confirming that quality of the services provided by Coscom and all its equipment and systems were satisfactory..."