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As Turkey readies for 4G row brews over fiber broadband network

As Turkey prepares for the launch of high-speed 4G cellphone services next month a row is brewing over rivals wanting cheaper access to partly state-owned Turk Telekom’s fiber optic network, saying that otherwise they cannot compete in a market where fixed-line and mobile services are set to converge.

At stake is a fast-growing market of 78 million people where the median age is around 30, younger than anywhere else in Europe, and an attractive proposition for telecoms companies, as younger people demand more bandwidth to stream movies, play online games and communicate both at home and on the move.

Turk Telekom has spent 20 billion lira ($7 billion) over the last decade on building the country’s most extensive fiber-optic network and is now looking to bundle high-speed fixed line and mobile services into a single contract to attract more mobile customers after the April 1 launch of 4G services.

While Turk Telekom has just 23.4 percent of the mobile market, compared with 46.2 percent for Turkcell and 30.4 percent for Vodafone Turkey, analysts say its fiber network is the big attraction.

It has laid 213,000 km of fiber, six times more than Turkcell, while Vodafone is further behind still. It charges its rivals to use the network, setting the price itself. Turkcell and Vodafone want prices regulated and are pushing for the creation of a joint company to manage the network.

“We have to bring fiber to every household and that requires a mobilisation for digital transformation,” Turkcell Chief Executive Kaan Terzioglu told Reuters. He estimated that by working together on building fiber networks, rather than investing separately, operators could save $12.5 billion.

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