Telecom Lead Asia: After selecting Huawei, Roshan Telecom looks for ZTE to complement 3G network in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Roshan Telecom has over 6 million active mobile subscribers and its network covers over 230 cities and towns in 34 provinces. The company invested approximately $550 million in Afghanistan since inception in 2003
Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan Telecom, talks about mobile developments in Afghanistan.
What are the investment and expansion plans of Roshan Telecom?
Since Roshan began operations in 2003, it has been our vision to leverage technology and innovation to bridge critical needs gaps and improve the lives of Afghans. Fast forward nine years, and Roshan has invested over $550 million in building out our network infrastructure with application and solution platforms, has created over 35,000 jobs directly and indirectly, is Afghanistan’s largest taxpayer, largest private investor and largest private company.
Today, Roshan covers over 60 percent of the population with coverage in over 230 of the major cities and towns, and coverage in all of the country’s 34 provinces. The focus in the coming two to three years will be on constant expansion and upgrading our network by introducing next generation technologies, with a particular focus on 3G, to be able to provide customers with the best experience possible across all voice and mobile broadband services.
Who are your partners for 3G roll outs?
Roshan always has and will continue to focus on partnering with the best in class so that our customers continue to receive the quality customer service Roshan is renowned for. Our primary network supplier is Huawei and we are looking to introduce ZTE to complement parts of the network.
How 3G will be revolutionizing mobile broadband in Afghanistan?
Roshan already provides quality data and mobile broadband services. We see 3G followed by next generation technologies as an evolution in our service offering that will provide even faster access to data and services like video streaming, video calling and conferencing as well as easier access to internet content for mobile health, mobile education and other tools that enable social development.
Delivery of 3G will allow more Afghans access to the internet than before.
Furthermore, we expect usage of mobile data related applications to grow significantly over the coming years and Afghanistan will experience a broadband revolution. Given the fast growth of mobile usage, and such a young market, Afghans want to be connected to the world by accessing the internet and communicating with each other through social media.
Is Afghanistan getting enough cost effective 3G-enabled handsets?
As in any market, consumers are willing to spend on the best and latest handsets. However, as technology advances the costs of 3G enabled handsets is consistently coming down thereby allowing more and more people to access mobile broadband enabled terminals.
Who are the main handset players in the country?
All major handset manufacturers can be found in Afghanistan via the various handset distributors throughout the country.
What will be your 3G tariff strategy? Is it in line with your 2G mobile rates?
Roshan consistently brings to market best-in-class promotions and tariffs. Our tariffs will continue to remain competitive and allow flexibility based on our customers unique requirements. For example, with 3G we will be able to provide our customers with more flexible mobile broadband bundle offerings, including next generation terminals (smartphones, tablets and netbooks), attractive content and useful applications.
Is Afghanistan gearing up for 4G?
We need to put the Afghan telecommunications market into perspective. In 2003, the penetration rate was only 100,000. Today, the country is one of the fastest growing emerging markets with respect to mobile penetration rates. From this perspective we are not excluding any technological option allowing us to speed up market development and deliver the best customer experience. The only limitation we can be confronted with is availability of compatible end-user terminals. But this issue has global dimension and is not specifically related to the situation in Afghanistan.
What are your plans to innovate mobile services?
Roshan is an innovation leader and will continue delivering new and innovative products and services. For example, we were the first organization to provide BlackBerry services in Afghanistan. We were also the first to launch M-Paisa, Afghanistan’s first mobile “wallet” that brings basic financial services to the almost 97 percent of Afghans who do not have a bank account and, in turn, builds Afghanistan’s financial infrastructure by extending the reach of financial services to anyone with a mobile phone. M-Paisa has grown to a significant component of the country’s financial infrastructure that now provides more than one million Afghans with a safe, secure and transparent way to receive salary payments, pay bills and make purchases. Every month, over $2.4 million in salary payments are transferred through M-Paisa. This, I believe, is the kind of innovation that fuels the country’s development and growth. Fixed – mobile convergence or introduction of the first mobile content and application portal in Afghanistan (Kahkashaan) are other good examples of Roshan’s innovative approach.
How do you monetize data demands of customers?
Ultimately 3G will enhance the customer experience and add value added services.
Roshan, like majority of operators around the globe, must focus on deploying new, attractive services simultaneously looking for niche, virgin markets. All those activities are requiring from operators to deploy real-time unique services that help us to better retain customers and enhance end user experience to be able to monetize mobile data.
How do you avoid bill shocks in 3G?
We are aware that bill shock issues are a problem in the market. As such, the actions we have taken to satisfy our customers experience includes informing them of their data usage via SMS and when they are drawing near full utilization of their bundle allowance.
With 3G we will be also introducing self-care services, which will allow customers to track their usage, make changes to plans and view included bundled allowances. Essentially, it is about ensuring our customers have access to all necessary information about their usage and expected charging so that they are not surprised or shocked.