Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) has issued a request for expressions of interest to provide consultancy services regarding fibre-optic backbone (referred to locally as OFC) open access policy and tariff regulation. The ministry is requesting assistance in determining policy that will ensure ‘competitive and transparent access to the high quality capacity available on the national OFC backbone’ and establishing a regulatory framework to monitor use of the national fibre-optic backbone. The consultant will be called upon to hold public consultations with stake-holders and create a tariff calculation methodology for services based on the results of the consultations. To protect use of the OFC, a set of rules and regulations will also be drawn up and enforced by the telecoms watchdog, the Afghan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA).
The MCIT is hoping that, with a robust framework in place for the use of the backbone, it will achieve its goals of increasing population penetration of internet connectivity from 3% (MCIT figure provided for 2010) to 10% by 2016, and of telephone services from 55% (also 2010) to 80%.
The OFC project was first proposed in 2006, with construction starting the following year. With an initial budget of USD64.5 million, the OFC was due for completion by 2011, encircling the nation, and branching into Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. However, nearing the close of 2011, the MCIT is yet to release any details regarding the extent of the project’s progress, nor the cause of the delays.