Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Afghan telecom industry slowly recovering

After over three decades of conflict, the telecommunication sector of war-torn Afghanistan is slowly getting back on its feet. Now that the country is free from the days of the Taliban governance, the industry has seen a remarkable and robust growth. Ten years ago, fixed and mobile subscribers numbered only at 57,000. According to the World Bank, the numbers have risen at an exponential rate with over 18 million subscribers to the five telecom operations in the country.
Mobile networks provide coverage to over 85% of the Afghan population, and many citizens are finally enjoying communications services once deemed impossible in the war-torn nation. The last three years have seen tremendous growth in the telecommunications sector with operators diversifying services beyond voice. Facebook and Skype are now available in the country, allowing families residing in Afghanistan to connect with relatives abroad - a scenario once impossible to think during the reign of the Taliban forces.
Still, Internet penetration rates are behind those of telecom services. There are only over a million internet users in the country, and the situation has only been made more difficult with the unreliable energy infrastructure and the lack of computer equipment in the country. The Afghan government, however, is looking to improving the Internet access across the country by issuing 3G license that will allow operators to provide phone subscribers Internet connection with their handheld devices.
At present, the telecom industry in Afghanistan has generated over 200,000 jobs. Foreign investments to the sector have also reached a staggering $1.8 billion. The Afghan government hopes to increase revenues with the implementation of 3G services, and find solutions to growing threats to the telecom sector, which includes Taliban groups destroying infrastructure, and militants compromising national security.
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