* TeliaSonera seeks 4G licences from Kazakh government
* Oil-rich country keen to develop IT, other high-tech sectors
By Mariya Gordeyeva
ASTANA, May 22 (Reuters) - Sweden-based telecoms group TeliaSonera, which controls Kazakhstan’s largest mobile phone company KCell, plans to launch a 4G high-speed wireless network in the oil-rich country.
TeliaSonera is seeking 4G licences from a Kazakh government keen to attract technology investment to help to diversify its fast-growing economy. Though foreign investors have pumped $170 billion into the central Asia country since the early 1990s, most of that has been in the oil and gas sector.
TeliaSonera Chief Executive Per-Arne Blomquist on Wednesday told Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Foreign Investors’ Council that his company is ready to launch 4G services “to contribute to the development of local infrastructure, the economy and to the running of business in this country”.
Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has ruled with a firm hand for more than two decades, chairs the council, which brings together international industry chiefs leading investment in his mineral-rich nation of 17 million people.
Fixed-line monopoly Kazakhtelecom was the first to launch a 4G service in the capital Astana and the country’s financial centre Almaty late last year through its mobile company Altel, the smallest among Kazakhstan’s four mobile phone operators.
“By developing innovative communication technologies, Kazakhstan is becoming Central Asia’s leader in IT and developing into a true information society,” Blomquist said. “Kazakhstan’s market is strategically important for TeliaSonera.”
The Swedeish company has invested about $2 billion in infrastructure in Kazakhstan over the past 15 years and has paid a further $2 billion in Kazakh taxes and other obligatory payments, he said.
Last year TeliaSonera paid $1.52 billion for 49 percent of KCell, which sold a 25 percent stake in an initial public offering in London and Kazakhstan last December.
KCell said on Wednesday that Ali Agan had been appointed as its new chief executive, effective from June 1.
Agan will succeed Veysel Aral, who was named president of BA Eurasia within the TeliaSonera Group in February 2013.
With more than 20 years’ experience in the international financial and telecoms sectors, Agan joined from Ucell, a subsidiary of TeliaSonera and the second-largest operator in Uzbekistan, KCell said.
KCell last month posted a 2.5 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 13.7 billion tenge ($90.4 million) on revenue up 4 percent to 45.05 billion tenge.
The company its Kazakhstan customer base had risen by 310,000 to 13.8 million subscribers. (Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Almaty; Editing by David Goodman)