Extra six months for Iraq's three mobile operators

The three mobile providers in Iraq have been handed extensions to their temporary licences while the regulators finalise the permanent tender process.

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By  Alex Ritman Published  January 19, 2006

The three mobile providers operating in Iraq have had their licenses officially extended by six months. MTC and Wataniya of Kuwait, and Orascom of Egypt have all been given half-year extensions to their temporary licenses from December 22, 2005 to June 30 , 2006, while the Iraqi telecommunication authorities finalise the process by which they will invite tenders for permanent service providers. According to the terms of the licence renewal, a “revenue sharing” fee of 13% gross revenues is required. MTC, which operates under the MTC Atheer brand under a dual partnership in Iraq, boasted over one million subscribers by 3Q05. “We are going to try and attain our publicly stated goal of reaching 1.5 million subscribers by the end of the year (2005),” said CEO Ali Al Dahwi speaking to CommMEA. “But that depends on security. If we resolve the security issues, we will probably make 1.5 million, or we will be close to it.” In October 2005, Al Dahwi told CommsMEA that the operators had been told much earlier about the likelihood of extensions. “They informed us publicly that they are postponing the process of selection until June 21, 2006,” he said. Iraqna, wholly owned by Orascom, passed the 1.5 million mark in October 2005, with revenues hitting US$249 million in the first nine months of the year. “Although Iraqna was guaranteed only a six-month extension, Orascom intends to pursue its aggressive growth strategy of being the leader in the market, and looks forward to participate in the long term licence issuance process,” says Orascom chairman and CEO Naguib Sawiris. All three operators are expected to compete when the National Communication and Media Commission (NCMC) eventually decides how it will issue the long-term licences and the tendering process. Other major international players are thought to be interested as well, attracted by the massive growth rates in subscribers. According to Siyamend Othman, CEO of the NCMC, there are somewhere between 4-4.5 million mobile subscribers in Iraq, up from a negligible amount at the start of the US-led invasion almost three years ago.

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