Afghanistan to offer two more GSM licences

Khoja has some ambitious plans to tap into any continuing growth in Afghanistan’s economy ahead of the entry of further competition.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  April 25, 2005

Afghanistan’s communications ministry has announced that it is to award two further GSM licences. The two incumbent operators; Afghan Wireless Communication (AWCC) and Roshan; which launched GSM services April 2002 and July 2003 respectively, currently count more than 730,000 subscribers between them. Afghanistan will now issue two additional dual-band GSM licences with commercial service set to commence in January 2006. The tender package will be available to interested parties commencing 15 May 2005 from the Telecom Regulatory Board (TRB). A non-refundable 500,000 Afghani (US$11,400) fee is required for the documentation and registration, with the deadline for the submission of bids set as 16 July 2005. It is expected that the final announcement and award of the licences will occur on 22 August 2005. Despite having launched later than AWCC, Roshan’s CEO Karim Khoja said that the operator was serving 330,000 of Afghanistan’s estimated 600,000 mobile users at the beginning of this year. He expects 1 million Afghans to have mobiles by the end of the year. Khoja has some ambitious plans to tap into any continuing growth in Afghanistan’s economy ahead of the entry of further competition. For one, he sees an opportunity to use mobile communications to help revitalise Afghanistan’s strategic role in trade in Central Asia. Roshan has concentrated its base stations in hubs where commercial activity has traditionally clustered. It has also bought additional licences in neighbouring countries, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and designed the network to provide coverage along major trading routes leading to their borders. Eventually, Khoja hopes traders and shopkeepers will start using their phones not just for plain calls, but to manage their supply chains and, through mobile payment technology, offer an alternative means for customers to purchase products when ATMs and banks are short on the ground.

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