Afghanistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Internet and Forecasts

Executive summary

Afghanistan operators rolling out 3G networks potentially delivering big boost for internet access

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. By end-2001, as a result of the US-led military action, the Taliban had been removed from power and a broad-based transitional government was established. 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.

By 2003 recovery had commenced. 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. Coming into 2014 there were four major mobile operators (and one minor one) competing in Afghanistan’s telecom sector; between them they were claiming a total of just over 20 million subscribers, representing an overall mobile penetration of 68%. All four of the major operators were carrying estimated market shares in excess of 20%.

In the meantime, internet penetration remained generally low throughout Afghanistan. With internet access relying heavily on dial-up services and only around 3,500 broadband subscribers in place, the online segment of the market was looking for a boost. The boost had come in the form of 3G mobile licences. The newly launched 3G services being offered by the various operators provided a special opportunity for delivering mobile broadband to Afghanistan’s population.

The political and civil stability of the country remains a big question; it is of course a constant threat to effectiveness of the telecommunications network and the viability of the telecommunications sector. The certainly does appear to be a will to secure the future of telecommunications in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan – key telecom parameters – 2013 - 2014

Category
2013
2014 (e)
Fixed-line services:


Subscriber penetration
0.9%
1.0%
Internet:


Total number of fixed internet subscribers
180,000
210,000
Mobile services:


Subscriber penetration
68%
71%

(Source: BuddeComm)

Market highlights:

  • Afghanistan’s mobile market continued on its positive expansion path in 2013, although at a somewhat slower rate;
  • The mobile market continues to be resilient, approaching 70% penetration in what has been a most difficult environment;
  • By end-2013 mobile coverage (population) had reached 90% according to the MCIT;
  • the telecom regulator having begun issuing 3G licences in 2012, the process continued into 2014;
  • by early 2014, five mobile operators had been assigned 3G concessions;
  • in the meantime, four of the five had launched 3G services;
  • the first moves were being made in adopting 4G technology;
  • the country’s internet market continues to struggle but steady growth has been evident;
  • a major surge in internet users reported by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2009, there was finally a positive mood surrounding longer term internet growth;
  • the arrival of 3G mobile services was expected to be a major boost to internet access with the offering of mobile broadband services;
  • most importantly the price of internet is dropping;
  • the MCIT issued broadband WiMAX licences to a number of service providers in 2012;
  • the country’s first satellite, Afghansat-1, was set to go into service in early 2014 under a strategic partnership with Eutelsat;
  • On a broader front, the ongoing political and civil unrest continued 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:

  • Key statistics;
  • Market and industry overviews;
  • Regulatory environment and developments;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Mobile market – voice and data;
  • Internet and the broadband market;
  • Operators – mobile and fixed;
  • TV broadcasting.
  • Scenario forecasts (fixed, internet, mobile subscribers).

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
  • 3. Country overview
    • 3.1 Background
    • 3.2 Economy
  • 4. Telecommunications market
    • 4.1 Afghanistan’s telecom market
      • 4.1.1 Overview
      • 4.1.2 Minister of Communications and Information Technology
      • 4.1.3 Background
  • 5. Regulatory environment
    • 5.1 Regulatory authorities
      • 5.1.1 Background
      • 5.1.2 Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA)
    • 5.2 Regulatory developments
      • 5.2.1 Years 2012 / 2013
      • 5.2.2 Illegal operators
      • 5.2.3 Year 2011 and earlier
  • 6. Fixed network operators in Afghanistan
    • 6.1 Overview
    • 6.2 Afghan Telecom
    • 6.3 Other operators and licences
      • 6.3.1 Afghan Wireless Communications Co (AWCC)
      • 6.3.2 Wasel Telecom
      • 6.3.3 Other licences
  • 7. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 7.1 Overview
      • 7.1.1 Background
      • 7.1.2 Post-2001
    • 7.2 Fixed-line statistics
    • 7.3 Forecasts – fixed-line market – 2015; 2020
    • 7.4 Infrastructure development
      • 7.4.1 National network - background
      • 7.4.2 Local Fixed Services Plan (LFSP)
      • 7.4.3 Optical fibre backbone
      • 7.4.4 Telecommunication Development Fund (TDF)
      • 7.4.5 Satellite services
    • 7.5 Infrastructure projects
      • 7.5.1 Globecomm contracts
      • 7.5.2 Noori Fiber Tech project
      • 7.5.3 AWCC’s microwave ring
      • 7.5.4 Satellite project (Afghansat-1)
  • 8. Internet market
    • 8.1 Overview
    • 8.2 Internet statistics
    • 8.3 Forecasts – internet services – 2015; 2020
    • 8.4 Internet market developments
      • 8.4.1 E-health
      • 8.4.2 e-Government
      • 8.4.3 Internet cafes
    • 8.5 Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • 9. Mobile communications
    • 9.1 Overview
    • 9.2 Background
      • 9.2.1 Pre-2001
      • 9.2.2 Post-2001
      • 9.2.3 Under-served areas
    • 9.3 Mobile market statistics
    • 9.4 Forecasts – mobile market – 2015; 2020
    • 9.5 Third Generation (3G)
      • 9.5.1 Overview
      • 9.5.2 Background
      • 9.5.3 Bidding process
      • 9.5.4 Licensing
      • 9.5.5 Service launches
    • 9.6 Mobile data services
      • 9.6.1 Malomat
      • 9.6.2 Mobile banking
    • 9.7 Mobile operators
      • 9.7.1 Afghan Wireless (AWCC)
      • 9.7.2 Roshan
      • 9.7.3 MTN Afghanistan
      • 9.7.4 Etisalat Afghanistan
      • 9.7.5 Afghan Telecom (Aftel)
    • 9.8 Satellite mobile
  • 10. Broadcasting market
    • 10.1 Overview
    • 10.2 National broadcaster
    • 10.3 Badakhshan TV
    • 10.4 Herat TV
    • 10.5 Satellite TV
    • 10.6 Afghan TV
    • 10.7 Cable TV
  • 11. Notes on scenario forecasts
  • 12. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics Afghanistan – 2013
  • Table 2 – Telephone network statistics – 2013
  • Table 3 – Internet statistics – 2013
  • Table 4 – Mobile statistics – 2013
  • Table 5 – National telecommunications authorities
  • Table 6 – Afghanistan’s GDP real growth rate – 2006 - 2014
  • Table 7 – Historical - Fixed-line subscribers and teledensity – 1994; 2000 - 2004
  • Table 8 – Fixed-line subscribers and teledensity – 2005 - 2014
  • Table 9 – Fixed wireless (WLL) subscribers – 2011 - 2013
  • Table 10 – Fixed-line subscribers – wireline and wireless – September 2013
  • Table 11 – Forecast fixed-line subscribers – 2015; 2020
  • Table 12 – Historical - Internet users – 2002 - 2006
  • Table 13 – Internet users – 2007 – 2014
  • Table 14 – Historical - Internet subscribers – 2002 - 2004
  • Table 15 – Fixed internet subscribers – 2005 - 2014
  • Table 16 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2005 - 2014
  • Table 17 – International internet bandwidth – 2005 - 2013
  • Table 18 – Forecast fixed internet subscribers – 2015; 2020
  • Table 19 – Mobile subscribers and annual change – 2002 - 2014
  • Table 20 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – 2013
  • Table 21 – Market share by major operators – 2013
  • Table 22 – ARPU by operator – 2008 - 2009
  • Table 23 – Forecast mobile subscribers – 2015; 2020
  • Table 24 – AWCC’s mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2013
  • Table 25 – Roshan’s mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2013
  • Table 26 – MTN’s mobile subscribers – 2007 - 2013
  • Table 27 – MTN’s ARPU – 2011 - 2013
  • Table 28 – Etisalat’s mobile subscribers – 2007 - 2013
  • Table 29 – Key broadcasting statistics – 2013
  • Chart 1 - Afghanistan's GDP real growth rate - 2006 – 2014
  • Chart 2 - Fixed-line subscribers and teledensity - 2005 - 2014
  • Chart 3 - Fixed-line subscribers - wireline and wireless - 2013
  • Chart 4 - Internet users - 2008 – 2014
  • Chart 5 - Mobile subscribers and annual change - 2005 - 2014
  • Chart 6 - Market share by major operators – 2013
  • Chart 7 - AWCC's mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2012
  • Chart 8 - Roshan's mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2012
  • Exhibit 1 – Telemedicine in Afghanistan

Focus Report profile

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