Cellular News
Friday 27th June 2003

Afghanistan's third GSM network starts trials

An international consortium lead by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development has begun testing its GSM network in Kabul, Afghanistan. This is the country's second commercial GSM network, although a third license award has been claimed by Ariana Telecom which has yet to start building an infrastructure. There is also a GSM network in Kabul operated by Ericsson for the UN forces in the city. Telecom Development Company Afghanistan (TDCA), is owned by a consortium in which the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development holds 51%, Monaco Telecom International 35% and MCT Corp. 9%. France's Alcatel holds 5% and is providing vendor loan financing of US$55 million for the network equipment.

The Afghan Communications Minister Masoom Stanekzai made the first call on the new network.

The new network is urgently required as the existing system set up by Afghan Wireless Communication has been unexpectedly successful and now regularly suffers from network congestion. The new wireless phone service will be called Roshan, which means "light" in Afghanistan's two main languages, Dari and Pashtu.

Initially targeted at six main cities, the "Aga Khan" network Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kunduz, the phased initiative, entailing an initial investment of US$55 million, is expected to expand its network to other cities over the next four to five years. Subsequent phases will raise investment in the GSM network to US$120 million over the coming decade.