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$70m optical fibre project opened

Connecting Afghanistan with regional states, a multimillion fibre optic network that will bring down the price of one megabyte of data from $4,000

To $650 in the war-devastated country was inaugurated on Sunday. The minister for communications and information technology said the $70 million scheme -- launched in 2007 -- connected the impoverished country with neighbouring states including Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Eng. Amirzai Sangin told a news conference in Kabul Afghanistan had been linked for the first time with foreign countries through optic fibre via Pakistan. As a result of the project, Internet rates will be drastically slashed.

He added Pakistan would provide Afghanistan a 155-megabyte Internet facility, a speed level that could be further enhanced in case of need. Sangin informed reporters his ministry was trying to ink similar agreements with other nations in the near future. All firms would be encouraged to reach deals with the Afghan Telecom, regulator of the facility, on benefiting from the services, the minister continued.

Expected to earn the country millions of dollars in transit fees and subscriptions and boost regional connectivity, the project will transform Afghanistan into a regional hub for Internet, telephone, television and other services. From December 22, the minister explained, Afghan Telecom landline subscribers could access the Internet service through a dial-up system at a rate of 10 afghanis an hour -- down from 60 afghanis per hour.

In a country of nearly 29 million, only one million people have access to the Internet facility, according to ministry officials. Twenty service providers have so far been issued with operating licences. In early June, President Hamid Karzai tested the cable with Tajikistan in a video conference call with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmonov. The project will increase Internet access from the existing four percent to 20 percent in three years.

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