Lebanese company Investcom has won a licence to provide mobile services in Afghanistan. Investcom was bidding with the Alokozay Group of the United Arab Emirates for one of two GSM concessions being auctioned by the Afghan telecoms regulator, the Ministry of Communications (MoC). Investcom owns 60% of the consortium, with Alokozay owning the remaining 40%. The second licence was awarded to Watan Mobile Afghanistan, a consortium made up of Saudi Arabia’s Al Houbi Telecom and US companies Cellular One and GlobeCom Systems. Both concessions are valid for 15 years, renewable for a further ten, and cost USD40.1 million each. Investcom says that it intends to launch a commercial GSM network by mid-2006 under the brand name Areeba.
Mobile phone services came late to Afghanistan. Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC) – a joint venture between the MoC and Afghan expatriate Ehsan Bayat’s US-based Telephone Services International (TSI) – launched the country’s first GSM service in 2002, and a second GSM player, Telecom Development Company Afghanistan (TDCA, operating under the brand name Roshan), rolled out its network in mid-2003.