3.5 Afghanistan Telecommunications


Communications in Afghanistan is under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). It has rapidly expanded in late 2001 and has embarked on wireless companies, internet, radio stations, and television channels. The Afghan Government signed a $64.5 agreement in 2006 with China's ZTE to establish a countrywide optical fibre cable network. The project began to improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services throughout Afghanistan. As of 2016, about 92% of the country's population has access to communication services.

There are about 18 million mobile phone users in the country. Etisalat, Roshan, Afghan Wireless, MTN, Wasel are private companies, and Salaam Telecom, a semi-government company part of Afghan Telecom, are the leading telecom companies. Afghanistan Wireless Communication Company became the first company to launch 4G services in 2017. It is predicted that over 50% of the population will have access to the internet, with over 114,192 fixed-telephone-lines mobile communications have improved because of the introduction of wireless carriers into this developing country.  All GSM companies covered almost 95%. There are major cities such as Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazari Sharif, Faizabad and Jalalabad connected through fiberoptic lines, including many more cities.

There are no restrictions regarding the competition, but the general rate is controlled by a special government authority by the name of ATRA (Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority), recently as per newly enforced law by ATRA, the 10% tax charged on all telecommunication users while adding top-up, due to security concern the SIM card registration is compulsory through the authorized document (Tazkira, Passport and Driving License).

For more information on telecoms contacts, please see the following link: 4.11 Additional Services Contact List.

Telephone Services

Is there an existing landline telephone network?

Yes, with limited coverage at major cities (Kabul, Mazar, Herat, Kunduz, Jalalabad and Kandahar).

Does it allow international calls?


Number and Length of Downtime Periods (on average)

 Very limited

Mobile Phone Providers

AWCC, Roshan, Etisalat, MTN, Salaam and Wasel only in Mazar.

Approximate Percentage of National Coverage


Ministry of Communication and Information Technology

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was established in 1955, when the country had a one-to-one wired telephone network only, as part of communications facilities, which was later developed to a small telephone facility. The Ministry then pushed to the next development of the time through providing telegraph services. However, it was used for military purposes only. Afghanistan became a member of the International Telegraph Union (ITU) in 1928. In the 1960s, Afghanistan has been connected to the world through an international radio transceiver that was installed in Kabul.

After the formation of the Interim Government in 2001, followed by the elected Government, new legislations were introduced to encourage private sectors to invest in different fields, including telecommunications. Many private companies emerged in the communications and information technology sector, providing many communication services. 

Telecommunications Regulations

Afghanistan Telecommunications Regularity Authority (ATRA) is the main body governing the Telecoms rules and regulations. Both licensing and importation of Telecom equipment are possible but will take some time, and it is essential to involve the Government before ordering any of these items and get the license and importation approval well in advance. 

Regulations on Usage and Import

Regulations in Place?

Regulating Authority




HF Radio



UHF/VHF/HF Radio: Handheld, Base and Mobile



UHF/VHF Repeaters





Organization Legal Authorization




Individual Network Operator Licenses Required


Frequency Licenses Required

Yes, under the MCIT & ATRA rule and regulation, charges are also applied.

Existing Humanitarian Telecoms Systems

There are 2 to 3 standards or technologies currently used by the humanitarian agencies; there is an old analogue VHF system for a short distance and Codan HF for long-distance. There is already a setup and infrastructure in place in almost all locations where the UN operates. Simultaneously, the DPKO/UNAMA uses Tetra, the new digital radio system deployed in Kabul and in some field locations. UNHCR is using the ICOM digital radio system.

WFP implemented a DMR system, while UNAMA using Tetra more advanced and costly. WFP is leading the telecom working group for all UN agencies and INGOs across the country, therefore the obtained frequencies can be used for all humanitarian communication services.

Existing UN Telecommunication Systems



UHF Frequencies

The list will be provided separately.

HF Frequencies

The list will be provided separately.

Locations of Repeaters

 Across the country

 Across the country


All UN Using their specific VSAT/Satellite providers, WFP connected through Marlink Vsat Services.


Telephone and Mobile Network Operators in Afghanistan

There are about 32 million GSM mobile phone subscribers in Afghanistan as of 2016, with over 114,192 fixed-telephone lines and over 264,000 CDMA subscribers. Mobile communications have improved because of the introduction of wireless carriers into this developing country. There are also a number of VSAT stations in major cities such as Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazari Sharif, and Jalalabad, providing international and domestic voice/data connectivity. The international calling code for Afghanistan is +93. The following is a partial list of mobile phone companies in the country:

  • Afghan Telecom
  • Afghan Wireless
  • Etisalat provides
  • MTN Group
  • Roshan
  • Salaam Network

Afghan Telecom

Afghan Telecom 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. In 2008, investors were being sought for an 80% stake in the company. The Government will retain 20%, and the investment payment will go to the general budget of the Government of Afghanistan.

AfTel has roughly 20,000 employees in 34 provincial capitals and 254 district centres and villages. It offers traditional wire-line telephones and internet access in the major cities, a third-generation GSM-based wireless local loop telephony, WiMAX and Fibre-based internet services based on switching, wireless access and satellite equipment. 


In January 2003, Roshan was awarded the second GSM license in Afghanistan. Roshan's GSM network reaches 240 cities and towns across all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The network covers over 60% of the population, including the most remote rural areas. Roshan is one of the largest investors, private companies and taxpayers in Afghanistan. Roshan employs over 1,100 people, of whom 20% are women. Indirectly, the company has added over 30,000 jobs to the Afghan economy through its top-up stations, retail stores and public call offices.

Roshan introduced 3G in April 2013. The third company in the market was granted a 3G license after Etisalat (UAE-based telecom), and MTN (South Africa-based telecom). It has 3G service in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar, Herat, and Kunduz.

MTN Afghanistan

MTN Group Limited, formerly M-Cell, is a South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company operating in many African, European and Asian countries. In Afghanistan, the MTN services provided are GSM (900/1800 MHz), GPRS/EDGE, UMTS (2100 MHZ), HSDPA. There are 4.5 million subscribers in 2012. MTN owns the company.

Etisalat Afghanistan

Etisalat Afghanistan is a 100% owned subsidiary of Etisalat UAE. Etisalat is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world and the leading operator in the Middle East and Africa, headquartered in the UAE. Etisalat Afghanistan started its operations in August 2007. Etisalat provides voice and data services in 34 provinces and more than 200 districts supported by more than 12,000 retail outlets. In addition, Etisalat has 3G coverage in the 21 provinces of Afghanistan. Etisalat Afghanistan has roaming agreements with 231 operators in 116 countries. 

AWCC (Afghan Wireless Communication Company)

Afghan Wireless Communication Company, also known as Afghan Wireless and AWCC, is Afghanistan's first wireless communications company. Founded in 1998, it is based in Kabul, Afghanistan, with various regional offices.  Headquartered in Kabul, Afghan Wireless provides 4G LTE and other services, such as internet and mobile payments, to about five million subscribers across Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The company has partnerships with 425 carrier networks in 125 countries. Founded in 2002 by Ehsan Bayat, Afghan Wireless is a joint venture of Telephone Systems International and the Afghan Ministry of Communications.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Afghanistan was given legal control of the .af domain in 2003, and the Afghanistan Network Information Center (AFGNIC) was established to administer domain names. As of 2016, there are at least 55 internet service providers (ISPs) in the country. Currently, in Afghanistan, more than 66 ISP operating and providing VSAT, WiMAX, microwave and other services.

Internet Service Providers

Are there ISPs available?


If yes, are they privately or Government-owned?


Dial-up only?


Approximate Rates (local currency and USD - $)


 256kbp/ 800AFN = 12USD


 Average 1MB/ 100USD

Max Leasable 'Dedicated' Bandwidth

 As much as required

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)

The MNO Services initially started by Roshan in 2008, followed by AWCC in 2011. Etisalat started these services across the country, and all MNO services and money transfer processes are managed by the Afghan Central Bank (DAB). The service coverage is almost the entire country with different cost. WFP recently started the process of money transfer for their several projects under CBT. Currently, ABMMC (Afghan Besim Mobile Money Company), managing by AWCC, and Etisalat under the mHawala have a valid agreement with WFP in implementing the SCOPE platform in Afghanistan.

For information on MNOs please visit the GSM Association website.


Number of Agent Outlets by Area

Network Strength by Area

Contracted for Humanitarian or Government Cash Transfer Programmes?

Services Offered

(i.e. Merchant Payment, Bulk Disbursement, Receive & Make Payment)


10 – 20



Cash Transfer

M-Paisa (ROSHAN)

10 - 20



Cash Transfer

mHawala (Etisalat)

10 - 20



Cash Transfer

MoMo (MTN)

10 -20



Cash Transfer

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