Mount Asma-i, known by Afghans and Coalition members alike as TV Hill, is a high mountain in the middle of Kabul. For two reasons, it’s covered with a prickly blanket of antenna towers, supporting both commercial and governmental communications. First, TV Hill has a commanding view of the city, which allows a clear line-of-sight between an antenna on the mountain and a receiver almost anywhere in Kabul. Second, it has relatively easy ridge line access, which means the people and equipment needed to construct and maintain the towers, antennas, communications gear, and–most importantly–electrical equipment, can actually get there.
We’ve been working with the Ministry of the Interior for months now to bring a new UHF radio capability on line for Kabul, beating down one or two technical issues (e.g., transmission cable quality), and a horde of policy and process issues (e.g., power, frequency approval, siting, US export policies, encryption capability). In the process, we’ve had a few opportunities to travel to the transmission site on TV Hill. It’s an exciting drive…not because of the insurgent threat, but because of gravity. From the bottom, it’s hard to appreciate how narrow and winding the road is, how steep the drop-offs are, and how many pedestrians share the road. It’s DEFINITELY a slow and careful convoy.
Afghans live almost all the way to the top…anywhere it’s flat enough to build. And they live there without easy access to water. That’s not a problem for most of Kabul, where public hand-pumps are common. But hauling water from the city pumps at the bottom of the hill, all the way up? Now THAT’S an afternoon chore!
Bottom line: In a previous post, I pointed out that towers matter. Well, towers on the high ground REALLY matter.