Iraq to allow fourth mobile operator

Iraq is to allow a fourth mobile service provider to operate in the country and has invited interested parties to apply for a licence.

The Iraq Communications and Media Commission (CMC) said the initial term of the licence would be for 15 years and the licences would be issued on a technology-neutral basis. A range of frequencies will be available in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900/2100 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands.

The deadline for the submission of documents is noon Baghdad time on Nov. 20, 2015. International companies have also been invited to take part.

Zain Iraq, Asiacell and Korek Telecom are currently the three main mobile service providers in the country. The CMC said it wants to enhance competition in the sector in order to "increase the overall tele-density of the country", increase broadband penetration, improve infrastructure and make telecoms services available to more people at more affordable prices.

Mobile penetration in Iraq stood at 95 subscribers per 100 inhabitants in 2014, while fixed-line penetration is extremely low at just 5.5 main telephone lines per 100 inhabitants.

CMC also noted there are 4 million Internet users but far fewer broadband connections, with most people relying on Internet connections at work, school or in Internet cafes. Internet penetration is low compared to other markets in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to the lack of fixed and mobile infrastructure, and is currently below 20 per cent.

Mobile broadband currently relies on the rollout of 3G technology. 3G licences were awarded to the three mobile operators in October 2014 and CMC said all operators have or are about to launch 3G services.

A research report from BuddeComm said the mobile market has grown rapidly in Iraq since services were first introduced there in 2004, with mobile subscriptions predominantly prepaid.

"Overall the current security situation is an impediment to telecommunications development in Iraq but there are positive signs for the future once stability has been reached," BuddeComm added.

For more:
- see the CMC announcement
- see the BuddeComm report

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