The Republic of Afghanistan is still facing many challenges after many years of war, foreign intervention, and civil strife. A telecommunications sector has been created practically from scratch in recent years, but an effective infrastructure and services are still under development, as well as a state office to supervise and regulate competition.
The Internet penetration rate almost reached 20% in early 2019. There is less than 1 per 100 for fixed-line teledensity, but mobile-cellular reaches ; 63 per 100. With internet access initially relying heavily on dial-up services and an extremely low number of broadband subscribers, 3G services are being successfully offered by the various operators in the country. However, users are still around 12% of the total mobile subscriber base.
Telecommunications services in Afghanistan rely heavily on its mobile infrastructure. Afghanistan has a highly competitive mobile market that continues to flourish despite the background of the ongoing conflict throughout the country. Fixed-line broadband market penetration has not grown significantly over the last five years, so growth in the telecoms sector relies heavily on the mobile segment, with mobile penetration rising to 60% in 2019 and the total number of subscribers reaching almost 23 million. The Telecom Regulatory Authority is the agency dedicated to regulating, licensing, and supervising broadcasts, post, and telecommunications in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s economy is recovering from decades of conflict. Despite improvements in life expectancy, incomes, and literacy since 2001, Afghanistan is still extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid. Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Corruption, insecurity, weak governance, lack of infrastructure, and the Afghan Government’s difficulty in extending rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth.
In 2017 Afghanistan’s growth rate was only marginally above that of the 2014-2016 average. The drawdown of international security forces that started in 2012 has negatively affected economic growth, as a substantial portion of commerce, especially in the services sector, has catered to the ongoing international troop presence in the country. Planned reforms may still take time to be implemented and Afghanistan will remain dependent on international donor support over the next several years.
Afghan Telecom (aka “AfTel”) is a telecom company offering fixed line, wireless voice and data services under a 25-year license in Afghanistan. The company was previously government owned and operated until 2005 when the Afghan Ministry of Communications spun it off into a private entity. Afghan Telecom is the pioneer in implementing new telecommunication services in Afghanistan & a leader in the telecom market. Afghan Telecom has gone beyond its local borders to the international markets, and is now interconnected with neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan with its National Optical Fiber network, and it is working to connect Turkmenistan also in a near future.