New mobile network for Afghanistan

Afghanistan became the latest battleground for mobile phone companies on Sunday with the launch of the country's second commercial cellular network.

    Two networks are vying for a share of the nascent market

    Roshan - or 'light' in Dari and Pashto - is a new General

    Systems for Mobiles (GSM) network launched by the Telecom

    Development Company of Afghanistan Ltd. (TDCA).

    TDCA is owned by an international consortium in which the Aga

    Khan Fund for Economic Development holds 51 percent, Monaco Telecom

    International 35 percent and US-based MCT Corp. nine percent.

    France's Alcatel holds five percent and also provides financing for e

    quipment.

    Dozens of mostly Afghan customers on Sunday morning filled the

    firm's new shop in the upmarket Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood of

    Kabul.


    "The pent-up demand is huge"

    Roshan CEO Karim Khoja

     

    Roshan chief executive officer Karim Khoja said by the end of

    the year the firm aimed to have a 50 percent share of the market

    currently dominated by the Afghan Wireless Communication Co.

    (AWCC).

    AWCC is a joint venture between Afghanistan's ministry of

    communications and Telephone Systems International, a private New

    Jersey-registered firm founded by Afghan emigre Ehsan Bayat.

    "AWCC has around 40,000 (customers), we expect to be at a 50

    percent market share by the end of the year and we intend to be the

    market leader within 12 months," Khoja told reporters Thursday.

    "The pent-up demand is huge," the Canadian said.

    Price war breaks out

    Afghanistan has a very limited fixed line network, with just

    26,800 digital lines serving the capital Kabul and the main cities

    of Herat and Kandahar in a country with a population of around 24

    million - two million of those people in Kabul alone.

    There are an additional 31,900 lines on the country's ageing and

    mostly redundant analogue fixed network, a ministry of

    communications official said.

    While the sign-up fees of 110 or 135 dollars are more than twice

    the monthly salary of an Afghan civil servant, Khoja said plenty of

    Afghans were able to afford the service.

    "We don't underestimate this market or the people who can afford

    this service," he said.

    "This shop isn't meant for expats, this shop is for Afghans."

    Roshan's imminent arrival on the Afghan cellular scene has

    already prompted price cutting by its rival, with AWCC dropping its

    sign-up fee for a SIM card from 130 dollars to 50 dollars.

    Despite their high cost, satellite phones remain popular with

    officials, journalists, the military and aid workers due the lack of

    a reliable and nationwide fixed or mobile network.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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