Afghanistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Internet and Forecasts Executive summary
In what has certainly been a challenging task, Afghanistan has built some positive momentum in its effort to put national telecom infrastructure in place and to offer effective telecom service throughout the country. The process involved in achieving this, however, has not been a smooth one. The 2001 war in Afghanistan destroyed telecommunications infrastructure that had already been suffering serious disrepair due to neglect by the pre-war Taliban government. The nation's network of telephone lines was left barely functioning. There were only 12,000 telephones in the capital city, Kabul, with its population of almost 2 million residents.
In 1998 electricity was restored in a few buildings in Kabul and some fixed telephone lines dating back to the 1950s were reconnected in the capital and in Kandahar, via manual exchanges in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and the Pakistani border town of Quetta. Typically, the few telephone services that were in place had not been maintained for 20 years. Setting up an international call could take hours. There existed the remnants of two basic fixed networks, one dating back to the Soviet occupation in 1979, the other a newer, Chinese-built system. By end-2003 recovery had commenced and there were around 37,000 fixed lines in the country, with about 20,000 of these to be found in the capital, Kabul.
In an important strategic move, the government announced in 2005 that licences were to be issued to allow the private sector to establish independent telephone companies. This initiative was called the Local Fixed Services Plan (LFSP). The main objectives of the LFSP licences were to facilitate faster rollout of services to small towns and rural areas and to provide an investment opportunity for small-medium local investors across the country.
The other major impact on telecommunications in Afghanistan came with the introduction and subsequent expansion of the mobile telephone service. In 2003, growing off a low subscriber base, the country's mobile network operated exclusively at the time by the Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC), started to attract customers at an extraordinary rate. The launch of a second mobile service, operated by Roshan, boosted the market even further and strong subscriber growth continued through 2004 and into 2005. By 2010 there were four mobile operators competing in Afghanistan's telecom sector; between them they were claiming a total of 13.6 million subscribers by March 2010, representing an overall mobile penetration of 48%. All four were carrying market shares in excess of 20%.
Afghanistan - key telecom parameters - 2009 - 2010
Total number of subscribers129,300175,000
Fixed-line penetration (population)0.5%0.6%
Fixed-line penetration (household)3.4%4.2%
Total number of subscribers (e)75,000100,000
Internet subscriber penetration (population)0.3%0.4%
Internet subscriber penetration (household)2.1%2.8%
Total number of subscribers12.7 million16.0 million
Mobile penetration (population)43%54%
Afghanistan's mobile market continued on its positive growth path in 2009, with an annual growth rate of more than 30% coming into 2010;
With mobile penetration fast approaching 50% by mid-2010, the mobile market has been demonstrating considerable resilience in what has been a most difficult environment;
The country's four mobile operators continued to provide healthy and energetic competition in the mobile market, with all four operators being well represented in terms of market share;
The country's Internet market appears to be growing (if the available statistics are accurate), with a major surge in Internet users reported in 2009 and the likelihood of this continuing through 2010;
On a broader front, however, the ongoing political and civil unrest will continue to be of concern to the country and its people, with any deterioration in the situation certainly having an impact on the telecom sector.This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Afghanistan. Subjects covered include:
Market and industry overviews;
Internet market. Last Update: 26 Jul 2010 Number of Pages: 31