Infrastructure in Afghanistan is a Big Deal, mostly because there’s just not that much of it. It’s hard, at first, to even imagine how bad the roads are, how precious electricity and mostly-clean water are, and how primitive much of the housing is. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how far the Afghan comm infrastructure has come.
Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a TREMENDOUS ways yet to go. But the Afghans have (relatively) robust microwave networks crisscrossing the country, fiber optic cable is being laid at a furious rate, and the country has gone from exactly zero cell phone coverage to over 10 million subscribers in less than 7 years. Pretty amazing.
It’s not easy to put the towers up, either. Afghanistan is one of the highest and most mountainous countries in the world, so there’s a VERY short construction season. Further, the contractors involved have to work through the same logistics challenges faced by the Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition security forces.
And once a site’s up, it’s hard to keep it running. Insurgent forces will of course sometimes target towers carrying police or military comms. But the Forces of Chaos are an even bigger threat. Heavy snow and winds will peal antennas from tower structures, screw up power lines and solar panels, and sometimes even topple the towers themselves. Useful items like solar panels, batteries, and cables will go walk-about. And even the most reliable electronic components fail…usually at the worst possible moment.
Bottom line: Towers, and the signals they bring to even the farthest reaches of Afghanistan, matter.
* Photo by Afghan Wireless Communications Company, from their photo gallery