MTC Atheer forecasts 1.5 million subs by year-end

By the end of 2005, Al-Dahwi forecasts that MTC Atheer would have invested around US$430 million in the network.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  July 18, 2005

Iraqi cellco MTC Atheer, in which Kuwaiti operator MTC Group holds a 30% stake, has forecast it will more than double its mobile subscriber base from 700,000 in August to approximately 1.5 million at the end of the year, according to the company’s CEO Ali Al-Dahwi. The operator extended its coverage into the central region of Iraq, including Baghdad from its base in the south of the country at the end of March, and has been enjoying strong take-up of its services in the city. “We are a price leader and a trendsetter in Baghdad,” Al-Dahwi told CommsMEA. “We may not necessarily be the cheapest provider in the city, but we offer the best value,” he added. The operator has an ARPU of approximately US$15 and plans to offer nationwide GSM coverage to all the regions in Iraq by the end of 2006. The question remains whether MTC Atheer and the two other licensed GSM operators, Iraqna and Asiacell, will be in charge of their operations beyond the end of this year. All three operators, backed by MTC, Orascom Telecom and Arab investors respectively were granted two-year licences that expire at the end of the year. Neither Iraq’s ministry of communications nor the National Communication and Media Commission has formalised a process regarding the expiry of the current licences and the issuance of new ones. Some commentators have suggested that the current licences ought to be extended for another two years given the level of political and civil instability in Iraq at this point in time. By the end of 2005, Al-Dahwi forecasts that MTC Atheer would have invested around US$430 million in the network. Meanwhile, Orascom announced that it had inked an agreement to acquire the remaining 37% equity stakes in Iraqna — for a total consideration of US$60 million, making Orascom the indirect holder of 100% of Iraqna stock.

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