Telecommunications investments in Armenia have made major inroads in modernizing and upgrading the outdated telecommunications network inherited from the Soviet era. The network infrastructure is now 100% privately owned and undergoing modernization and expansion. A state monopoly on mobile-cellular services was also terminated and new providers began operations in the first decade of the 21st century.
Armenia had a 72% Internet penetration rate by the end of 2019. Fixed-line penetration is only 16%, whereas the mobile sector reaches 118%. The rollout of 4G networks is underway, and reliable fixed-line and mobile-cellular services are available across the capital of Yerevan and in major cities and towns. Mobile-cellular coverage is also available in most rural areas.
The fixed-line broadband market in Armenia has experienced moderate growth over the last five years, with penetration slowly increasing, and further growth is expected in the next few years. On the other hand, the mobile market has been mostly stagnant, and no significant increase is expected. However, the number of subscribers in the mobile broadband sector has grown over the past years. The mobile broadband market is being driven by increasingly faster speeds offered by the mobile operators as they roll out their 4G networks and falling prices due to growing competition. The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) is the country’s telecom regulator.
After the end of the Soviet era, Armenia joined the World Trade Organization in January 2003. The government has made some improvements in tax and customs administration in recent years, but anti-corruption measures have been largely ineffective. Armenia’s geographic isolation, a narrow export base, and pervasive monopolies in important business sectors have made it particularly vulnerable to volatility in the global commodity markets and the economic challenges in Russia. Armenia is particularly dependent on Russian commercial and governmental support, as most key Armenian infrastructure is Russian-owned and/or managed, especially in the energy sector.
Armenia’s rising government debt is leading Yerevan to tighten its fiscal policies – the amount is approaching the debt to GDP ratio threshold set by national legislation. Armenia will need to pursue additional economic reforms and strengthen the rule of law in order to raise its economic growth and improve economic competitiveness and employment opportunities, especially given its economic isolation from Turkey and Azerbaijan.
The Armenia Telephone Company CJSC, also known as ArmenTel and branded as Beeline, is an Armenian broadband and telecommunications company. The Armenian government had granted ArmenTel a monopoly for telecommunication services from 1998 to 2006. Since 2006, the telecoms sector was liberalised and ArmenTel/Beeline became a part of the VimpelCom group, one of the world’s largest integrated telecommunications services operators.