Telecommunications in Belarus
The Media and telecommunications in Belarus are dominated by the state which owns most of the corporations and infrastructure.
The Ministry of Telecommunications controls all telecommunications originating within the country through its carrier unitary enterprise, Beltelecom, which is controlled as a monopoly. The phone calling code for Belarus is +375.
Belarus has 4 GSM operators (TM velcom, MTS, life and Diallog), the NMT-450 and CDMA-2000 operator. Mobile operators are experiencing rapid growth. Minsk has a digital metropolitan network; waiting lists for telephones are long; fixed line penetration is improving although rural areas continue to be undeserved; intercity - Belarus has developed fibre-optic backbone system presently serving at least 13 major cities (1998); Belarus's fibre optics form synchronous digital hierarchy rings through other countries' systems; an inadequate analogue system remains operational.
Belarus is a member of the Trans-European Line (TEL), Trans-Asia-Europe Fibre-Optic Line (TAE) and has access to the Trans-Siberia Line (TSL); three fibre-optic segments provide connectivity to Latvia, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine; worldwide service is available to Belarus through this infrastructure; additional analogue lines to Russia; Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Intersputnik earth stations
During the first 10 years of Lukashenko's presidency, most of the Belarusian media outlets (newspapers, radio, television) were brought under the control of the state. The state-controlled media present pro-government points of view and interpretation of events as in the Soviet period. There are a number of privately owned media outlets, mostly small independent newspapers. They operate under a permanent threat of being closed down for violating various government regulations, such as misstating their corporate name on publications or operating out of an office not registered with the government (in fact, this is the situation for all private enterprises in Belarus).
Television broadcast stations: 77 of which 48 are privately owned (2010)
Belarus is switching from an analog to digital broadcast television. The process is due to finish by 2015.
Television channels with news content and nationwide coverage are all either state owned or state controlled (i.e. state bodies own more than 50 percent of the shares). There is not a single privately owned TV channel with nationwide coverage. Licenses for TV and radio broadcasters are issued by the Republican Commission on Television and Radio Broadcasting, the chair of which is the minister of information. Other regulatory functions are undertaken by the information ministry directly. The only producer of broadcast news is the Belarusian Television and Radio Company (BT). Regional channels produce 25-40 percent of their own programming. They do not produce their own news or current affairs programs, relying instead on news from national channels. Some 400,000 homes in Belarus have satellite dishes.
Radio broadcast stations: 156 with 21 privately owned, including 29 FM stations (2010)
Radios: 3.02 million (1997)
Newspapers and magazines
There are two types of newspaper, state owned and privately owned, divided into sharply contrasting camps. State owned newspapers make up some 80-85 percent of newspaper circulation. The state owned newspapers have large circulations running into hundreds of thousands.
The most important of these is the daily Sovetskaya Belarussia – Belarus Segodnya (Soviet Belarus – Belarus Today), published by the presidential administration, with a circulation of about 500,000. Other significant state owned newspapers are the daily Respublika (The Republic), published by the Cabinet of Ministers, and the weeklies Sem’ Dnei (Seven Days) and Narodnaya Gazeta (The People’s Paper).
In 1999 it became obligatory to register with the state press distributor.
The state telecom monopoly, Beltelecom, holds the exclusive interconnection with Internet providers outside of Belarus. Beltelecom owns all the backbone channels that linked to the Lattelecom, TEO LT, Tata Communications (former Teleglobe), Synterra, Rostelecom, Transtelekom and MTS ISP's. Beltelecom is the only operator licensed to provide commercial VoIP services in Belarus.
Until 2005-2006 broadband access (mostly using ADSL) was available only in a few major cities in Belarus. In Minsk there were a dozen privately owned ISP's and in some larger cities Beltelecom's broadband was available. Outside these cities the only options for Internet access were dial-up from Beltelecom or GPRS/cdma2000 from mobile operators. In 2006 Beltelecom introduced a new trademark, Byfly, for its ADSL access. As of 2008 Byfly was available in all administrative centres of Belarus. Other ISPs are expanding their broadband networks beyond Minsk as well. On July 2011, Beltelecom announced a plan to raise the capacity of its Internet gateway to Russia by 20Gbit/s by the end of 2011 and announced a tender to provide the service.
- According to a 2006 survey of 1,500 adults by Satio, a third of Belarusians use the Internet—38% of the urban population and 16% of the rural population.
- A 2006 study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development indicates 56.5% of Belarus' population were internet-users.
- The International Telecommunications Union showed Internet penetration (Internet users per 100 population) in 2009 at 27% for Belarus, 42% for Serbia, 37% for Romania, 29% for Russia, and 17% for Ukraine.
- According to Internet World Stats, Internet penetration in June 2010 was 47.5%. For comparison, Internet penetration in the Ukraine was 33.7%, in Romania 35.5%, Russia 42.8%, and Serbia 55.9%.
The most active Internet users in Belarus belong to the 17–22 age group (38 percent), followed by users in the 23–29 age group. Internet access in Belarus is predominantly urban, with 60 percent of users living in the capital Minsk. The profile of the average Internet user is male, university educated, living in the capital, and working in a state enterprise. The Ministry for Statistics and Analysis estimates that one in four families in Belarus owns a computer at home. The popularity of Internet cafés has fallen in recent years, as most users prefer to access the Internet from home or work. Russian is the most widely used language by Belarusians on the Internet, followed by Belarusian, English, and Polish.
In mid-2009 there were more than 22,300 Belarusian Web sites, of which roughly 13,500 domain names were registered with the top-level domain name ‘‘.by’’.
In June 2011 E-Belarus.org listed:
- 2 ISPs in the Brest region, 4 in the Gomel region, 1 in the Grodno region, 26 in the Minsk region, 1 in the Mogilev region, and 1 in the Vitebsk region
- 4 ADSL providers
- 3 technology parks
- 2 educational networks
- more than 30 Internet cafes and Wi-Fi Hotspots
Limited free expression
Many western human rights groups state that civil rights and free expression are severely limited in Belarus, though there are some individuals and groups that refuse to be controlled and some journalists have disappeared.
The situation is complex, however, because the relatively free Russian media is allowed to transmit television programming, sell newspapers and conduct journalistic activities in Belarus (though some Russian journalists have been expelled by the Belarusian government) thus giving some members of the public, typically those in large cities with many Russian residents, access to an alternative point of view in the Russian language (nearly all Belarusians understand and most of them speak Russian).
Because the Belarus government severely limits free expression, several opposition media outlets are broadcast from nearby countries to help provide Belarusians alternative points of view. This includes the Belsat TV station and European Radio for Belarus (Eŭrapéjskaje Rádyjo dla Biełarúsi)
Reporters Without Borders ranked Belarus 154th out of 178 countries in its 2010 Press Freedom Index. By comparison, the same index ranked neighbor Ukraine, 131st and Russia, 140th. The closest other European countries were considerably better in terms of press freedom, with Serbia ranked 85th and Romania 52nd.
In the 2011 Freedom House Freedom of the Press report, Belarus scored 92 on a scale from 10 (most free) to 99 (least free), because the Lukashenko regime systematically curtails press freedom. This score placed Belarus 9th from the bottom of the 196 countries included in the report and earned the country a "Not Free" status.
- "Развитие связи в Беларуси", BELTA 6 May 2011
- "Mass media in Belarus", Belarus.by, the Official Web site of the Republic of Belarun, June 2010
- "ONI Country Profile: Belarus", OpenNet Initiative, 18 November 2010
- Beltelecom holds tender to expand internet gateway to Russia
- Минский Курьер: №1096 Пятница 22 Декабря 2006г[dead link]
- "Information Economy Report 2007-2008", United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD.org), 6 February 2008, ISBN 978-92-1-112724-9
- "Estimated Internet users 2000 to 2009", spreadsheet, International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
- "Internet Usage in Europe", Internet World Stats, 30 June 2010
- "ITC in Belarus", E-Belarus.org. Retrieved 13 June 2011
- "Attacks on the Press in 2003 – Belarus", Committee to Protect Journalists, February 2004, available at UNHCR.org
- "Dissent hits Belarus via Warsaw", Gordon Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 29 January 2011
- Press Freedom Index 2010, Reporters Without Borders, 20 October 2010
- "Country report: Belarus", Freedom of the Press 2011, Freedom House, 21 April 2011
- The Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian)
- The Ministry of Communications and Informatization of the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian)
- Media in Belarus, e-Belarus.org
- Mass media in Belarus on the official website of the Republic of Belarus
Major telecommunications operators broadcast in Belarus (in Belarusian):