Unwired Afghanistan

A nationwide mobile network is under development, and the country's first 'Net
cafe is online and operational:

[New Zealand telecom company Argent Networks] will develop a billing system
for the GSM mobile network set up in June by the Afghan Wireless Communications
Company, a joint venture between US company Telephone Systems International
and the Afghan Ministry of Communications.

Back from Kabul after closing the deal with AWCC, Argent chief executive
Chris Jones said demand for mobile phones had skyrocketed as Afghans adjusted
to a life free of oppressive Taleban rule.

"There's chaos at the Ministry of Communications, with people queuing
for phones and recharge cards. There's a concentration of expats, but Afghan
demand is big in comparison." he said.

Afghanistan's telecoms infrastructure has been shattered by years of war,
so communications are having to be built from the ground up. Wireless technology
is the cheapest and easiest means of connecting the country to the outside

Jones said mobile phones in Afghanistan connected to cell sites which in
turn linked to one of two satellites being used by AWCC. Under the deal, Argent
will extend its billing platform for wireless internet services which are
planned for Kabul and other main centres.

The first internet cafe has gone live at the Intercontinental Hotel. The
former Islamic administration run by the Taleban banned the internet, but
exiled Afghans have been active in maintaining online communities. Afghanistan
has no postal service to send monthly telephone bills, so the new wave of
mobile users buy pre-paid calling cards to get connected.