The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan is expected to lead to consolidation in the nation’s mobile market over the next 18-36 months, according to Karim Khoja, the CEO of Roshan, the country’s largest cellco by subscribers. Total Telecom cites the official as saying that the withdrawal of foreign troops has resulted in a shortage of high-value customers, leading to a drop of around 30%-40% in the value of the mobile market. Under such conditions ‘it doesn’t make sense to support five-to-six mobile operators’, Mr Khoja noted, adding that he expects state-owned Salaam, the newest entrant to the market, to be the first to be snapped up. Whilst the official did not reveal any specific plans for Roshan, Mr Khoja did say that the firm would not be leaving Afghanistan, but is ‘probably going to be a consolidator in this market.’ The official added that the process of consolidation may be problematic, however, as ‘there is no regulator of any competence’ in Afghanistan.
For its part, Roshan has signed a site-sharing agreement with an unnamed cellco in a bid to cut costs in the short term, and has wholesale access to the fibre backbone network of state-owned fixed line incumbent Afghan Telecom (Aftel). The operator is also looking at opportunities in the enterprise market, providing cloud and data centre services to over-the-top (OTT) players such as WhatsApp or Viber that – according to Mr Khoja – do not want a physical presence in Afghanistan.