Azerbaijan - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Azerbaijan's infrastructure of roads and railways is poorly maintained and needs investment. Important transport links with Russia were periodically cut off due to the war in Chechnya (an autonomous Muslim republic in southwestern Russia) that disrupted much of the road and rail links. The total length of the railways is 2,125 kilometers (1,320 miles) in common carrier service, excluding industrial lines. Much of these rails need an overhaul; however, Azerbaijan does not own repair facilities. The 24,981 kilometers (15,523 miles) of roads are also in poor condition. The European Union has sponsored a project to provide new transit routes. The number of passenger cars was 35.5 per 1000 people in 1998.

There are 69 airports in Azerbaijan, 29 of which have paved runways. There are flights to other former Soviet republics, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Iran, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. Baku, Ganja, and Nakhichevan have international airports that are in need of reconstruction and repair. Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, and British Airways have offices in Baku.

Azerbaijan has maritime connection to the high seas only through the Volga-Don canal, a Russian waterway. Baku has the largest port on the Caspian Sea, but it needs repair. Azerbaijan has a 55-ship marine fleet (1000 GRT or over) and a total of 3000 kilometers of pipelines for crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas, which are also main sources of export income.

Azerbaijan has an 18.9 billion kilowatt electricity generating capacity (1998), which is sufficient for domestic consumption. Hydroelectric power stations account for 18 percent of the total generation capacity. The generation technology is in need of replacement. The government subsidizes the household consumption of electricity, yet the collection of charges from the consumers is a persistent problem due to the fact that for many consumers the cost is still high considering the low income levels.

As a result of heavy investment during the Soviet era, Azerbaijan has an extensive natural gas distribution and use system. Its gas distribution network extends to over 80 percent of the population and comprises 4,500 kilometers (2,797 miles) of high-pressure transmission lines, 7 compressor stations, and over 31,000 kilometers (19,263 miles) of medium and slow pressure distribution lines. While the country was at one time self-sufficient in gas, declining oil and gas production in recent years has led to a need for substantial gas imports to meet increasing supply shortfalls. The gas sector recovered in 1998, after Azerbaijan managed to eliminate gas imports from suppliers such as Turkmenistan. Azerbaijan is likely to become a gas supplier to Turkey within 10 years.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Azerbaijan 27 23 254 0.1 8 N/A N/A 0.23 8
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Armenia 23 224 218 0.4 2 0.1 4.2 1.85 30
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

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Azerbaijan's telecommunications system is poorly developed. Baku has the most telephones, whereas about 700 villages still do not have public telephone service. Although fixed telephone users are very small in number, mobile phone use is increasing, especially among a growing middle class, large commercial ventures, international companies, and most government officials. The Ministry of Communications (Azertel) handles international telephone requirements through the old Soviet system of cable and microwave which is still serviceable, and the satellite service between Baku and Turkey, which provides access to 200 countries. Azerbaijan is a signa-tory of the Trans-Asia-Europe Fiber-Optic Line (TAE) that is hoped to improve international communication; however, the lines are not yet laid.

Though Internet and e-mail services are available only in Baku, it is strictly controlled by the government. As of January 2001, Internet service cost was about US$0.62 per hour; however, given the relatively high cost of this service for many Azerbaijanis, the poor conditions of phone lines, and the high costs of imported personal computers and modems, the average number of Internet hosts was only 20 per 100,000 residents in January 2001. The number of television sets was estimated to be around 2 million in 1998.

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