Turkey's mobile phone imports, including smartphones, increased by 26 percent in the first quarter, the Communication Authority said on Tuesday.
Data provided by the Information and Communications Technologies Authority of Turkey (BTK) indicates that Turkey imported nearly 4 million mobile devices from January to March of this year.
The total cost of mobile imports is estimated to be around $630 million in the quarter, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
In comparison, there were imports of 3.15 million mobile phones in the first quarter of last year.
Turkey imported 16.8 million mobile devices last year and 15.8 million in 2013. The total cost of mobile imports is estimated to be around 11 billion Turkish liras ($4.1 billion) in 2014.
Travelers brought 178,480 mobile phones to Turkey
Mobile phones carried into the country by travelers also increased by 27 percent in the first quarter of 2015 to 178,480 compared with 140,938 mobile phones in the same quarter of 2014. These imports are calculated to total 612,913 in the last year compared with 1.08 million in 2013 and with 1.12 million in 2012.
The data also shows that 10,455 mobile phones were lost in the country in the first quarter, an increase of 35 percent compared with the same quarter of last year.
Turkey imposes strict controls on mobile phones imported by individuals, blocking handsets not purchased in the country from using a local Turkish SIM unless they are registered and taxed.
Experts estimate that the negative impact of mobile phone imports, boosted by the rising demand for smartphones, added almost $5 billion to Turkey's current account deficit in 2013.
As of March 2015, more than 72 million Turks were thought to be using mobile phones. That number accounted for almost 94 percent of Turkey's population.
Locally-produced cell phones increased by 59 percent
According to the BTK, the number of cell phones produced locally in Turkey increased by 59 percent in the first quarter of the year compared with the same quarter of 2014.
The government sees the production of high-tech goods like smartphones, computers and electronic optic systems within its borders as the main solution to reduce the current account deficit which was at $45.8 billion for 2014, $19 billion less than $65 billion in 2013.
Analysts say that half of imported phones in Turkey are smartphones. Smartphones, which dominate worldwide mobile phone markets, are at least three to four times more expensive than cellphones.
In 2013, 347,000 cell phones were manufactured in Turkey. But last year, local production rose to 1.71 million, indicating an increase of 208 percent.
The current production was far from satisfying the Turkish market, where approximately 15 million smartphones are sold every year, according to BTK statistics.
Local producers call for import tariffs on mobile phones
Last year, Turkish electronics and domestic appliances maker Vestel has asked the government to impose emergency import tariffs on mobile phones.
Vestel's petition to the government said the value of mobile phone imports into Turkey had risen from $1.1 billion in 2009 to $2.7 billion in 2013, with 99.9 percent of imports coming from China, Vietnam, South Korea, India or Taiwan in 2014.
A safeguard measure should be implemented against mobile phone imports in order to eliminate negative impacts and serious harm to the domestic economy, its petition said.