It is not only in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka that there are moves to consolidate mobile markets. Afghanistan has joined the conversation. But the reasons are different and saddening. It seems that high-value customers are leaving the country. And the part about people not being able to charge their smartphones because the Taliban blew up a pylon . . .
With a number of people also “joining a bandwagon of refugees” moving to Europe, there is also a lot of money leaving the country, said Khoja, meaning an economic return on investment becomes even harder.
“Across Europe, you have seen telecoms consolidation because it makes economic sense,” he said. “You can’t keep putting money into the ground unless you are getting an economic return.”
Khoja likened the demand for disruptive technologies in Afghanistan to emerging markets across Africa and Asia, but the lack of infrastructure in the country meant progress was a challenge.
“Because we have been so isolated in many ways, we have been able to leapfrog technology, but we still don’t have a robust fibre optic network. That needs a foreign investor, particular if we are to go to that next level, be it 5G or even 6G.”
Khoja also opened up on some of the day-to-day challenges in operating in the country.
“Last year, the Taliban blew up a pylon which provided electricity to Kabul. So for two months, our ARPU significantly reduced because people couldn’t charge their smartphones.”