ATRA issues notice for 4G auction

10 May 2021

The Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has published an Invitation To Apply (ITA) to participate in the upcoming auction of additional spectrum in the 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz bands for 4G services. The auction comprises three 2×5MHz lots of 1800MHz frequencies, two 2×5MHz lots in the 2100MHz range and three 2×10MHz blocks of 2600MHz airwaves. Operators will be limited to no more than a combined total of 2×10MHz from the 1800MHz and 2100MHz ranges, or 2×20MHz across all three bands. Following the completion of the allocation process, the ATRA plans to allow mobile network operators the opportunity to consolidate their holdings into contiguous blocks. The process will be carried out in close coordination with affected operators to minimise disruption, but cellcos will be invited to jointly propose plans for how they would like to consolidate their holding with ATRA to intervene ‘only as required’.

Whilst the allocations will be technology neutral, the regulator has included coverage obligations that relate to the provision of 3G and 4G services. Winning bidders will be required to phase in coverage of 4G data services in five of the largest cities in Afghanistan within 18 months and the next 13 largest cities within two years. In addition, successful bidders will be required to have at least five operational base stations in each of the remaining provinces within one year, and ten base stations in each within two years. Finally, every new base station installed after the assignment of the new spectrum blocks must provide the opportunity for sharing with at least two other providers. Each allocation is valid for 15 years and the ATRA has set reserve prices at: USD17.2 million for each 1800MHz lot; USD12.0 million per lot in the 2100MHz band; and USD11.0 million for each 2600MHz lot. Under the current timeline set out by the ATRA, interested parties have until 23 June to submit applications, and the auction will take place on 30 June.