December 24, 2010 / 1:58 PM / in 8 years

Turkish telecoms regulator says overhaul near end

* Regulative changes launched damaging price war

* Firms margins starting to recover

* Regulator says changes nearly completed

By Ozge Ozbilgin

ANKARA, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Turkey’s telecoms regulator, whose sweeping changes in recent years helped trigger a bitter price war, said its regulatory overhaul was near completion and inspections would dominate in 2011.

The regulator this year halved the fees charged to connect a call from one network to another — to the chagrin of operators, and in late 2008 introduced mobile number portability, which saw large numbers of customers change their service providers.

Information and Communication Technologies Authority Chairman Tayfun Acarer told Reuters in an interview some 23 million subscribers had changed network provider since then, a third of all Turkish subscribers.

Acarer said it was important that regulations were not detrimental to the three providers in the Turkish market — Turkcell (TCELL.IS), Turk Telekom’s (TTKOM.IS) Avea and Vodafone (VOD.L).

Shares in Turkcell have risen just 5 percent this year, severely lagging a 24 percent rise in the Istanbul index .XU100, although Turk Telekom, which has a broadband unit, has fared better. Turkcell has said it expects to return to a more normal business environment next year.

“One of the most important factors is the existence of competition. We do not want to lose any of the operators ... companies withdrawing from the sector makes our job harder as it harms competition.”

“All the companies would have gone bankrupt if the situation was as desperate as they claim. They all say they’re better off this year ... People talk more and pay less, this is due to the cut. The cut has increased the number of products on the market, hence boosting competition.”

Broadband subscriptions were also rising much faster than in the European Union, he said.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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