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Turkey’s new 4G mobile network comes with many dark clouds

Turkish mobile phone users had to wait for bureaucratic infighting and uncertain market conditions to clear up before they could use faster data connections. In May 2015, following an intervention by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and lobbying efforts by a mobile service provider that was not ready to compete, Turkey’s Information and Communications Technologies Authority postponed the 4G tender to August 2015.

Today, those uncertainties seem to be a thing of the past. Turkey’s move to its self-declared “4.5G” network is taking place amid much pomp and fanfare. On April 1, Minister of Communications Binali Yildirim launched the new system by holding a video conference with Erdogan, who was in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Turkish mobile operators have engaged in even more impressive marketing stunts to sell new phones and data plans. The market leader Turkcell appeals to popular and patriotic sentiments with its “bagliyiz biz” (we are tied / connected / loyal to each other) campaign. Vodafone, with its “4 bucak g” (4 corners g) campaign, showcases folk dancers from the four corners of Turkey performing their own regional dances as well as those of other areas. Former telecom monopoly Turk Telekom (previously Avea) takes a different route and uses Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to emphasize its 4G network’s speed.

These campaigns, however, have had a limited effect on the target audience. While service providers, phone vendors and consumers are excited about the long-awaited boost to connection speeds, high prices discourage customers. Three store owners in Ankara’s affluent Cankaya district told Al-Monitor that although customers with phones that are not equipped to use mobile data have expressed interest in upgrading to 4G-compatible phones, they get cold feet upon finding out that the cheapest devices cost 750 Turkish lira


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