South African-backed cellco MTN Afghanistan has paid USD25 million for Afghanistan’s second 3G licence, following the award of a concession to Etisalat in March this year. At yesterday’s signing ceremony, presided over by the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), telecoms minister Amirzai Sangin said: ‘3G technology is a key factor for growth of economic and rapid development of our country in different sectors like economics, education, health commerce and other sectors conductive to our life. We are introducing 3G services aimed at improving people’s lives by enhanced speed and connectivity.’
For its part, MTN said it expects to make 3G services available to its customers within 20 days, though it did not comment on the extent of the network’s planned coverage. At launch, rival Etisalat’s 3G footprint was limited to the capital Kabul, though the network was extended to Jalalabad earlier this month. Still waiting to be awarded 3G licences are the Telecom Development Company Afghanistan, more commonly known as Roshan, and the Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC). Both companies have previously expressed intentions to add third-generation services, but have been awaiting the disbursal of authorisations. The duo are expected to be offered licences in the near future and at the same price paid by MTN and Etisalat.
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, with fewer than 5,000 broadband subscribers at the end of March 2012, but more than 18.5 million wireless subscribers at that date, 3G is poised to satisfy Afghanistan’s demand for internet services by mobilising the nation’s large wireless market, filling the void left by the poor provision of traditional fixed internet services.