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ALMATY, May 15 (Reuters) - Uzbekistan’s Unitel said on Monday it had filed a lawsuit in a local court challenging plans by the country’s regulator to strip the subsidiary of Amsterdam-based mobile network operator Veon Ltd of nearly half of its frequency band.
“The withdrawal of 47 percent of (our) frequency band is an unprecedented and extremely unfriendly move by the regulator,” CEO Dmitry Shukov said in a statement.
Uzbekistan’s telecommunications regulator said on Saturday it would redistribute frequencies among the Central Asian nation’s four mobile operators so that each would have the same band of 24.8 MHz, in order to facilitate the development of fourth-generation networks.
Unitel, which has 48.8 MHz and is the former Soviet republic’s biggest mobile operator, said the move would cost it over $50 million and violated an agreement signed last summer in which frequency bands were assigned until 2031.
Set up in Russia 24 years ago, Vimpelcom is dominated by LetterOne, the investment vehicle of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. It has operations in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
With more than 200 million customers, it is also active in markets including Italy, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Laos. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Jason Neely)