Kazakhstan to Emerge as Regional Digital Hub with 5G Expansion

ASTANA – Kazakh mobile operators will expand 5G coverage in Astana, Almaty, Shymkent, and regional centers to complete the introduction of 5G mobile communications by the end of 2025, Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry Zhaslan Madiyev said at a June 18 government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Olzhas Bektenov.

Olzhas Bektenov chairs a June 18 government meeting. Photo credit: primeminister.kz

As stated by the Prime Minister’s press service, 1,144 base stations have been installed in 20 cities. By the end of 2027, mobile network carriers will invest over 450 billion tenge (US$994.3 million) in the telecommunications industry.

Madiyev reported that internet usage in Kazakhstan is on par with that of developed countries. Internet traffic growth increased by 61.5% compared to 2020, and the number of users rose by 12.9%.

According to Ookla’s Speedtest data for April 2024, Kazakhstan ranks 66th globally in average internet speed, with 43.6 megabits per second, surpassing Russia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan.

Measures to improve quality

New systemic measures under consideration include the launch of Voice over Wi-Fi technology, enabling voice calls over Wi-Fi networks instead of traditional cellular networks. This will improve communication quality in places with poor cellular coverage, such as parking lots.

The national project provides for laying a 370-kilometer underwater fiber-optic line along the Caspian Sea to develop the Digital Silk Road initiative. Investments by telecom operators in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan will exceed 23 billion tenge (US$50.8 million).

A joint venture has been created between Kazakhtelecom and Azertelecom, and a tender to select a contractor for the design and installation of the underwater fiber-optic line is nearing completion.

Another measure to advance the Digital Silk Road is the construction of a national west-east hyperhighway to increase transit traffic across Kazakhstan. Freedom Telecom has proposed investing over 17 billion tenge (US$37.5 million), with completion expected by the end of 2025.

Additionally, a data processing center will be built to store transit and international traffic. Freedom Telecom plans to invest more than 90 billion tenge (US$198.8 million) in this project, which will be completed by the end of 2027.

These measures will provide an alternative route for international data transit and attract BigTech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to the Kazakh market.

Internet in rural areas

There are 6,290 villages in Kazakhstan with fiber optics connected to 2,606 of them via wired internet. The national project aims to connect optical communication lines to 3,010 villages through a public-private partnership mechanism. For areas lacking last-mile connections, a mechanism will subsidize 50% of the capital costs for small and medium-sized telecom operators.

This is expected to provide internet access to 2.4 million people, attracting private investment from telecom operators exceeding 340 billion tenge (US$751.2 million).

Currently, mobile internet is available in 4,866 villages. Tax incentives in 2023 facilitated 4G connectivity for 1,161 villages, and work is ongoing in the remaining 1,424 villages.

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