Afghanistan building new fibre route to China

08 January 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Afghan Telecom is building a fibre route to China that will also connect Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Ajmal Ayan (pictured), head of state-owned Afghan Telecom, said the new link will run through the Wakhan corridor, a 350km-long narrow strip of territory in north-eastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan.

Nearly 480km of fibre cable will connect Afghanistan to China’s own fibre network, he said.

Ayan, a former official in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, said the company is also working on projects to connect networks in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan through Silk Route fibre network.

At the same time Afghanistan is undertaking a nationwide programme of building fibre routes to improve connectivity and reduce prices.

The project began in March 2018 with meetings with the Chinese and European Union ambassadors to Afghanistan. In September 2018 Ayan also revealed that Afghan Telecom is working with Etisalat to build up its operations. “We are looking forward to cementing more collaborations with Etisalat in the coming months. The platform is already built and both telcos just need to capitalise on it,” he told Abu Dhabi’s The Nation newspaper at the time.

Etisalat is one of the biggest customers for Afghan Telecom’s fibre network, he added.

A December 2018 report from Research and Markets says that Afghanistan’s telecoms networks still only reach 90% of the population after many years of war and civil strife.

A World Bank report says that only 16% of households in Kabul, the capital, are connected to the internet – and only 2% of rural households.

“Our current market share is less than 5%. That is very low but we target to reach the top spot. We have planned to work very closely with Etisalat to build our capabilities while spreading our network,” Ayan told The Nation last year.