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Afghanistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Internet and Forecasts

Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

The Afghanistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Internet and Forecasts report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.

Executive summary

In what has certainly been a challenging task, Afghanistan has built some positive momentum in its effort to put national telecom infrastructure in place and to offer effective telecom service throughout the country. The process involved in achieving this, however, has not been a smooth one. The 2001 war in Afghanistan destroyed telecommunications infrastructure that had already been suffering serious disrepair due to neglect by the pre-war Taliban government. The nation’s network of telephone lines was left barely functioning. There were only 12,000 telephones in the capital city, Kabul, with its population of almost 2 million residents.

In 1998 electricity was restored in a few buildings in Kabul and some fixed telephone lines dating back to the 1950s were reconnected in the capital and in Kandahar, via manual exchanges in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and the Pakistani border town of Quetta. Typically, the few telephone services that were in place had not been maintained for 20 years. Setting up an international call could take hours. There existed the remnants of two basic fixed networks, one dating back to the Soviet occupation in 1979, the other a newer, Chinese-built system. By end-2003 recovery had commenced and there were around 37,000 fixed lines in the country, with about 20,000 of these to be found in the capital, Kabul.

In an important strategic move, the government announced in 2005 that licences were to be issued to allow the private sector to establish independent telephone companies. This initiative was called the Local Fixed Services Plan (LFSP). The main objectives of the LFSP licences were to facilitate faster rollout of services to small towns and rural areas and to provide an investment opportunity for small-medium local investors across the country.

The other major impact on telecommunications in Afghanistan came with the introduction and subsequent expansion of the mobile telephone service. In 2003, growing off a low subscriber base, the country’s mobile network operated exclusively at the time by the Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC), started to attract customers at an extraordinary rate. The launch of a second mobile service, operated by Roshan, boosted the market even further and strong subscriber growth continued through 2004 and into 2005. By 2010 there were four mobile operators competing in Afghanistan’s telecom sector; between them they were claiming a total of 13.6 million subscribers by March 2010, representing an overall mobile penetration of 48%. All four were carrying market shares in excess of 20%.

Afghanistan - key telecom parameters - 2009 - 2010
Category20092010 (e)
Fixed-line services:
Total number of subscribers129,300175,000
Annual growth30%35%
Fixed-line penetration (population)0.5%0.6%
Fixed-line penetration (household)3.4%4.2%
Total number of subscribers (e)75,000100,000
Annual growth15%33%
Internet subscriber penetration (population)0.3%0.4%
Internet subscriber penetration (household)2.1%2.8%
Mobile services:
Total number of subscribers12.7 million16.0 million
Annual growth38%26%
Mobile penetration (population)43%54%
(Source: BuddeComm)

Market highlights:

Afghanistan’s mobile market continued on its positive growth path in 2009, with an annual growth rate of more than 30% coming into 2010;
With mobile penetration fast approaching 50% by mid-2010, the mobile market has been demonstrating considerable resilience in what has been a most difficult environment;
The country’s four mobile operators continued to provide healthy and energetic competition in the mobile market, with all four operators being well represented in terms of market share;
The country’s Internet market appears to be growing (if the available statistics are accurate), with a major surge in Internet users reported in 2009 and the likelihood of this continuing through 2010;
On a broader front, however, the ongoing political and civil unrest will continue to be of concern to the country and its people, with any deterioration in the situation certainly having an impact on the telecom sector.This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Afghanistan. Subjects covered include:

Key statistics;
Market and industry overviews;
Regulatory environment;
Mobile market;
Internet market.

  • Executive summary
    • Table Afghanistan - key telecom parameters - 2009 - 2010
  • Key statistics
    • Table Country statistics Afghanistan - 2009
    • Table Telephone network statistics - March 2010
    • Table Internet statistics - 2009
    • Table Mobile statistics - March 2010
    • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • Country overview
  • Telecommunications market
    • Overview of Afghanistan's Telecom market
  • Regulatory environment
    • Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA)
  • Fixed network operators in Afghanistan
    • Afghan Wireless Communications Co (AWCC)
    • Afghan Telecom
    • Wasel Telecom
    • Other licences
  • Telecommunications infrastructure
    • Overview
      • Background
      • Post-2001
        • Table Fixed-line subscribers and teledensity - 1994; 2000 - 2011
        • Table Fixed lines installed - 2002 - 2006
      • National network
      • Local Fixed Services Plan (LFSP)
    • Infrastructure projects
      • Globecomm contracts
      • Noori Fiber Tech project
      • AWCC's microwave ring
      • MICT project
  • Internet market
    • Overview
    • Internet statistics
      • Table Internet users - 2002 - 2011
      • Table Internet subscribers - 2002 - 2011
      • Table Broadband subscribers - 2004 - 2010
    • E-health
    • E-government
    • Internet cafes
      • Table Licensed Internet Service Providers - August 2008
    • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • Broadcasting market
    • Table Key broadcasting statistics - 2009
    • National broadcaster
    • Badakhshan TV
    • Herat TV
    • Satellite TV
    • Afghan TV
    • Cable TV
  • Mobile communications
    • Overview of Afghanistan's mobile market
      • Background
      • Post-2001
      • Mobile licences
        • Table Mobile subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2011
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - September 2009
        • Table Market share by operator - September 2009
        • Table ARPU by operator - 2008 - 2009
    • Mobile operators
      • Afghan Wireless (AWCC)
        • Table AWCC's mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2009
      • Roshan
        • Table Roshan's mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2009
      • MTN (Areeba)
        • Table MTN's mobile subscribers - 2007 - 2009
      • Etisalat Afghanistan
        • Table Etisalat's mobile subscribers - 2007 - 2009
    • Third Generation (3G)
    • Satellite mobile
  • Forecasts
    • Overview
    • Forecasts - fixed-line market - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast fixed-line subscribers - 2015; 2020
    • Forecasts - Internet services - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast Internet subscribers - 2015; 2020
    • Forecasts - mobile market - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast mobile subscribers - 2015; 2020
    • Notes on scenario forecasts

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