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    1st Afghan satellite to be launched next year

    KABUL (PAN): The acting telecommunication and information technology minister on Tuesday said a satellite would be launched into space, computerised national identity cards distributed and 3G internet services introduced this year.

    Amirzai Sangin told a graduation ceremony at the Information and Communication Technology Institute (ICTI) that his ministry would soon sign an agreement with a foreign company to launch the satellite.

    He said the project would enable TV channels and radio stations to slash their transmission costs. "When the agreement is signed, further information will be released," he added.

    Sangin also announced the process of distributing computerised identity cards would start by March 21.  He said computerised cards would help improve security, collect exact statistics and prevent the misuse of cards.

    Over the next six months, the minister said, 3G Internet services would also be made available in the country.

    The 3rd generation is a generation of standards for mobile phones and mobile telecommunication services that fulfill the International Mobile Telecommunication-2000 (IMT-2000) specifications by the International Telecommunication Union.

    Application services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, mobile Internet access, video calls and mobile TV, all in a mobile environment.

    Sangin said about 17 million of the country's 26 million population used mobile phones and the number would increase further.

    Sixty-two students attended the graduation ceremony at the ICT Institute. In the past, a considerable number of foreigners would work in different positions at his ministry, but now 98 percent of staffers are Afghans, Sangin said.

    "Foreigners only work in Kabul, while in provinces, local people have been appointed to government jobs, he added.

    frm/ma/mud