Kazakhstan’s Committee for Protection & Development of Competition (ZK) has confirmed that domestic conglomerate Freedom Holding, led by Kazakh businessman Timur Turlov, participated in December 2022’s 5G frequency auction which was won by a consortium of state-owned Kazakhtelecom’s subsidiaries Kcell and Tele2-Altel. The annual report of the Committee published this month noted that a Freedom group company, International Telecommunication Systems of Kazakhstan, placed bids in the auction for 3600MHz-3800MHz licences, driving up prices but ultimately losing out to the Kazakhtelecom group, whilst the country’s largest mobile operator by subscriptions, Kar-Tel (Beeline), did not enter any bids.

Furthermore, this month the Freedom founder and CEO has declared on social media his intention to enter the Kazakh mobile market with a 5G-based start-up venture. Turlov said he planned ‘to create a completely new mobile operator of the 5G standard within a few years,’ although his post did not provide further details of the proposition. Supporting a potential new entrant, the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation & Aerospace intends to auction additional 5G spectrum, reportedly targeting early 2024, although Forbes.kz quotes Sergey Konkov, CEO of Tele2-Altel, suggesting in an interview this month that the next 5G 3.5GHz auction will not happen for around two years. Regardless of timing, the antimonopoly committee has recommended to the government that existing 5G spectrum owners, i.e. Kcell and Tele2-Altel, should be limited in their participation in upcoming spectrum contests, while Vice Minister of Digital Development Askhat Orazbek was previously quoted as saying: ‘We plan to free up two more frequency bands. Those companies that already own the [5G] frequency bands will not be able to take part in new auctions.’

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