Telecom services in Kabul shut down for security during Ashura: ATRA

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Telecommunication services have stopped in many areas of Kabul city, causing a public outcry as mobile phones are not working.

The Afghanistan Telecom Regulator Authority (ATRA) said that the decision was made in order to provide security in the city.

Telecommunication services were stopped in many parts of Kabul city for the past two days, according to the residents, who said they were struggling while trying to contact their family members and friends to know of their whereabouts.

“The sim cards are not working since an hour ago. I am facing a lot of problems. I am waiting here myself. It has been around one hour that the sim cards are not working and I can’t make contact to solve my problem,” a Kabul resident said.

“It has been two days that our sim cards are not working. We are facing problems with internet and Facebook contacts. Everyone is shocked with what happened and the reason for it,” a Kabul resident said.

The Afghanistan Telecom Regulator Authority (ATRA) said that the decision was made to provide proper security in the city.

“As in many other Islamic countries, today is celebrated by our Shia citizens via special ceremonies. To provide proper security, the ATRA and Ministry of Telecommunication ordered the telecommunication companies to halt telecommunication services,” said Ali Shuhab, head of ATRA.

The decision was made as Kabul has recently seen a series of blasts. On Friday a blast occurred in Sar-e-Kariz area of Kabul. On Saturday another blast happened in the Pul-e-Sokhta area of Kabul. Then there was a blast on Sunday evening in the Pul-e-Asmayi area of Kabul.

Meanwhile, the increasing insecurity in the country and the day-to-day destruction of telecommunication antennas in various provinces have raised concerns over the safety of telecom investments and the limitation of internet services in Afghanistan.

According to figures provided by Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA), 301 telecommunication antennas worth $1 million were destroyed in the country last year, and in the first three months of the current solar year 28 telecommunication antennas in insecure parts of the country have been destroyed and 23 other antennas were partly damaged.

Officials at ATRA, while confirming problems in the telecommunication sector, said they have plans to repair the damaged antennas very soon.

“The ATRA authority, in its tenth project, intends to install 400 telecommunication antennas in some remote and insecure areas in the country; these antennas would be handed over to the telecommunication companies,” said a spokesman for ATRA, Saeed Shinwari.

Officials in telecommunication companies told TOLOnews that the destruction of antennas and their slow repair will impact Afghan telecommunication companies with heavy losses and will limit telecommunication services in some parts of the country.

A number of MPs said that in the first three months of the current fiscal year (1400), the destruction of 51 telecommunication antennas has caused heavy losses in the telecom sector.

“It is not only the company that is affected but also the entire society due to the economic damage, which is very important,” said MP Atta Mohammad Dehqanpoor.

“If those officials who are working at the Ministry of Communications do not take serious measures in this regard, it will create a worse situation and more antennas will be destroyed,” said MP Farida Ahmadi.

Earlier, telecommunication companies issued a joint statement calling on the Afghan government to immediately address the issue.

The statement criticized the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority, saying its weak management has doubled the telecom companies’ challenges.

With $3 billion in investment, telecommunication is one of the most important sectors in the country. But the lack of security and the extortion of telecom companies by local strongmen have limited telecom and internet services in many provinces across the country.—Tolonews

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