* Etisalat Afghanistan sees subscribers doubling in 2-3
* Sees market share between 30 to 35 pct from 24 pct
* To buy existing internet service provider within 2 months
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, March 13 The UAE's Etisalat
plans to invest $100 million in Afghanistan between 2011 and
2012 and seeks to launch third-generation telecoms services this
year, a top executive said on Sunday.
Etisalat Afghanistan's Chief Executive Saeed al Hamli said
the company expects subscribers in the troubled country to more
than double within two to three years and push market share to
between 30 to 35 percent.
"Our budget is $100 million dollars for 2011 to 2012," al
Hamli told reporters at the telco's Abu Dhabi headquarters. "We
expect our subscribers to reach 6 to 6.6 million in two to three
It currently has 3 million subscribers with a market share
of 24 percent.
Afghanistan's mobile carriers are market-leading Roshan,
South Africa's MTN Group Ltd , Etisalat and Afghan
Wireless Telecommunications Co.
Al Hamli said the company, which has invested $300 million
in Afghanistan since 2007, also plans to acquire an existing
internet service provider within the next two months.
"For us, it is a strategic deal on the enterprise side," he
Mobile phone use has mushroomed since the fall of the
Taliban in late 2001, when Afghanistan, one of the world's
poorest countries, had only a few thousand landlines and no
The sector now has 13.3 million mobile phone users and is
the biggest source of tax revenue for the government of
President Hamid Karzai, generating $129 million last year.
Cumulative revenue from the sector is expected to reach $800
million in five years. So far, investments in the Afghan telecom
sector is $1.2 billion.
Government minister Baryalai Hassam told Reuters in November
that the Telecommunications Ministry was in talks with the four
Afghan mobile carriers to upgrade to a 3G or 4G network to
provide faster Internet service to the Afghan market.
Al Hamli said the company plans to launch 3G services this
year as soon as it receives a licence.
"We are waiting for the 3G licence which we are hopeful to
get soon," he said. "We are ready. We have the technology."
(Writing by Shaheen Pasha; Editing by Ed Lane)