ATRA acknowledges sector challenges, but urges telcos to adhere to QoS requirements

12 Mar 2020

Sector watchdog the Afghanistan Telecoms Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has revealed that it has issued fines totalling AFN1.2 billion (USD15.7 million) to the nation’s five major telcos – Afghan Telecom (Aftel), Roshan, Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC), MTN Afghanistan and Etisalat Afghanistan – for failing to meet quality of service (QoS) standards. The watchdog did not detail a timeframe for when the fines were issued, however. The regulator revealed that the cellcos had deployed a combined total of 7,072 sites, covering around 90% of the country’s population, whilst total investment in the sector reached AFN183 billion by the end of December 2019. Despite the financial penalties, the ATRA acknowledged that the operators were facing an uphill struggle to maintain and improve the nation’s mobile networks. The regulator pointed to the ‘unlimited use of jammers by government authorities, foreign troops and individuals’, the destruction of telecom sites and cutting of fibre by insurgent groups, limited fibre backbone infrastructure and restrictions on the distribution of additional spectrum resources as significant factors affecting QoS. Further, the ATRA recognised that operating costs were higher in Afghanistan than elsewhere, citing: security issues, high customs fees, no direct access to submarine cable networks for international bandwidth, and a reliance on generators at sites due to the nation’s limited energy grid. Nevertheless, the regulator stressed that operators must adhere to the terms of their licences or face punitive measures.