Iraq to announce mobile tender

Iraq’s communications minister is set to announce today which companies will build the first mobile telephone networks in a country that has largely lacked even basic communications services since the war.

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By  Patrick Phelvin Published  October 6, 2003

Iraq’s communications minister is set to announce today which companies will build the first mobile telephone networks in a country that has largely lacked even basic communications services since the war.

Communications Minister Haidar Al Ebadi, in announcing the long-awaited and much-delayed tender results, should also reveal whether the wireless network will use US technology or the rival, more widespread European GSM system that is used throughout the rest of the Middle East.

“The minister of communications is expected to make an announcement on this,” Charles Heatly, spokesman for the US-led administration ruling Iraq said yesterday.

Officials in the administration later said the announcement would be made in Baghdad today (Monday).

The licences are seen as among the most lucrative contracts to be offered in postwar Iraq, especially since wireless service was not available in the country during Saddam Hussein's rule.

Much of the country's land-line system was destroyed in the war which ousted Saddam in April.

Under the licences granted, which will split Iraq into three areas, the winning bidder must have services up within two months and will have the licence for two years.

A decision to use the global system for mobile communications standard (GSM) would be a blow to US firms hoping to build a wireless network in Iraq based on the CDMA (code division multiple access) standard developed by California-based Qualcomm.

Mobile phones briefly sprang to life in Baghdad in July when Batelco launched a network in the capital.

However heavy US pressure forced Batelco to pull the plug on its $5 million network just days after starting services. A Kuwaiti service was also briefly available.

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