Development fund backs BTS in 107 provinces

1 Aug 2011

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Afghanistan Telecoms Regulatory Authority (ATRA) have selected sites for 110 base transceiver stations (BTS) in under-supplied regions to be developed next year. The BTS will be paid for with the Telecommunication Development Fund (TDF), which was established in 2003 to ensure telecoms access in rural areas and collects 2.5% of telcos’ gross revenues. The stations will be deployed by one of the existing operators which will expand its network into the areas outlined by the MCIT and ATRA, funded by a subsidy drawn from the TDF. The MCIT said that the operator will be chosen by a ‘competitive bidding process’, but did not stipulate what form the selection process will take. MCIT and ATRA chose sites in 107 districts of the lowest-ranked 31 provinces of the telecommunications development index, none of which has any existing network coverage. The development will grant 200,000 people access to telecoms services.

The announcement follows reports that services in several volatile provinces were being disrupted by threats from Taliban militants. According to local news, telecommunications services have not been functioning at night in six provinces, including Kandahar and Helmand. ATRA’s chief, Khair Mohammad Faizi said that the issue of security was of utmost importance, and steps would be taken to prevent the stagnation of the industry in those provinces.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at the end of March 2011 Afghanistan had 18 million wireless subscribers, representing a population penetration of 59.6%.