By Alex Ritman
The UAE operator is apparently eyeing both the Afghan mobile and fixed-line markets, with a deal expected soon.
Etisalat is close to securing Afghanistan’s third GSM licence, according to the UAE Minister of Communications Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri. The UAE national operator has apparently completed two rounds of negotiations with the Afghan government, and a deal is expected to be completed soon.
Acting corporate communications manager at Etisalat, Mohammed Naguib, speaking to the international press said that it was not just the mobile market the operator was eyeing. “Etisalat has shown interest in the Afghan market and we are discussing with them certain alternatives for provision of mobile as well as fixed-line network services.”
Afghanistan, with a population of 30 million and a low mobile penetration rate, already has two network operators. Roshan, which is owned by Cable & Wireless Group’s Monaco Telecom unit and MCT of the US, and Afghan Wireless Communications, owned by entrepreneur Ehsan Bayat's Telephone Systems International.
In September 2005 the Afghan government auctioned two further GSM licences. The first licence went to Lebanon-based pan Africa and Asia operator Investcom operating through a consortium with UAE company Alokozay Group. The second was awarded to Watan Mobile Afghanistan, a consortium consisting of Al Houbi Telecom from Saudi Arabia, and US companies Cellular One and GlobeCom Systems.
Investcom said it expected commercial services to be launched under its Areeba brand during the first half of 2006.