Azerbaijani WiLL operator Caspian American Telecommunications (Catel) has criticised the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) for refusing to grant it a cellular operating licence when there are ‘no legal grounds’ for it doing so. The Azerbaijan-US joint venture has offered voice and data services via a CDMA2000 1X WiLL network since 2003, but has long held ambitions to enter the cellular market to compete against incumbents Bakcell and Azercell, and applied to the MCIT for a concession in March 2004. Catel says it outlined plans to invest USD10 million in launching cellular services, but claims the regulator will not licence a new player until a much delayed new telecoms law is introduced.
The introduction of such a law could yet be some way off. In May this year a draft of the new legislation was criticised by industry heads for failing to comply with European standards by omitting provisions for the elimination of the wireline monopoly of PTO AzTelecom and the wireless duopoly of Bakcell and Azercell. Osman Gunduz, the head of Azerbaijan’s Multimedia Centre, told a working group of the parliamentary commissions on economic and legal policies that the draft bill’s definition of a monopoly operator – any telco with control of 35% or more of the market – does not match that of neighbouring countries, where 25% is the standard figure. The working group recommended that the draft law be revised and little progress has been made in the interim.