Turkish telecommunication infrastructure reloaded

Turkish telecommunication infrastructure reloaded

Turkey has improved its information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure greatly over the years. However, as a country it is still lagging behind many Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, even though billions of dollars are spent every year. 

According to the OECD, Turkish ICT infrastructures need to be improved and the government makes little use of the Internet to interact with citizens and businesses. Skills are weak, as 12 percent of the adult population has tertiary education and 13 percent of employees are in science and technology (S&T) occupations. Turkey has still few researchers (2.9 per 1,000 employees) but their number has almost tripled in 10 years. Moreover, only 1 percent of 15-year-olds are top performers in the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, and there are few graduates at the doctoral level with fewer in S&E programs.

The number of subscribers to different services according to Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) and the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) is as follows:

Mobile telephone subscribers: 71.9 million

Fixed line subscribers: 8.3 million

Mobile broadband subscribers: 24.1 million

Broadband subscribers: 32.5 million

The number of subscribers and the OECD overview tells us that Turkey is very good market for telecommunication companies. They have millions of paying customers, even though they are not receiving as good technology and services as other OECD member countries. As technology journalists we have been writing about this topic for a long time. There are certain reasons why Turkish people pay higher and get less and they are very well known to everybody. There is a total monopoly over all ICT services. Turk Telekom has the entire infrastructure and even though it is privatized, it still behaves as a state-owned company. Turk Telekom has 220,000 of 270,000 kilometers of total fiber in Turkey. It is really not very good at sharing. The same goes with Turkcell about mobile infrastructure. Because those two companies do not want to lose their monopolistic positions, every company had to invest in infrastructure from scratch and the prices never fell down, there is a unique thing called a “fair usage quota,” even if you have the fastest connection. Fair usage quota slows down your connection if you download a certain amount of data. While Netflix is trying to make its way to Turkey, you can only watch a couple of movies in HD and your quota is filled. That is totally unacceptable. But when you are a monopoly, who really cares? 

I have been wondering why nobody was addressing this issue. 

Finally there is an initiative to address the fiber connection issue. The Turkish Competitive Telco Operators’ Association is leading the charge against Turk Telekom’s fiber monopoly. Under its umbrella, Turkcell, Vodafone and Turksat agreed to establish a shared company to make infrastructure investments together. 

This will enable three companies to be able to give the same level of service to their customers as Turk Telekom, sooner than they would have been able to do on their own. And maybe finally they could manage to get prices lower and finish the fair usage quota. 

Maybe the same could be done with mobile infrastructure. Who knows?