Rewiring Iraq

A decision is due this week on which companies will win the three licenses to operate mobile phone networks in Iraq.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  September 13, 2003

A decision is due this week on which companies will win the three licenses to operate mobile phone networks in Iraq.

Regardless of the outcome, rebuilding Iraq’s communications and IT infrastructure provides a lot of possibilities for the industry. While there are still obviously huge problems to be overcome in the country, given the right guidance, Iraq could leap frog several generations of technology to become a leader in the Middle East market.

The investment is there, and with very little infrastructure to build on, the country could be seen as one big greenfield site for IT.

Of course, Iraq should not be viewed as a laboratory for untested technologies, nor should vested interests override the best interests of the nation, but there are plenty of technologies that could make a difference quite quickly, provided the basics such as power and water can be supplied. One such technology is Nokia’s new GSM Connect package.

GSM Connect is an end-to-end solution for mobile phone network operators encompassing everything from base stations to handsets. The whole network has been designed to minimise costs for operators in developing markets, allowing them to offer mobile voice and data services at a much lower cost than with a traditional network infrastructure. In a country hungry for communications, but where the population does not have a great deal of expendable income, GSM Connect could be an ideal solution to providing mobile communications.

IP telephony is also another area that is likely to have an impact. Combining voice and data on one network saves on infrastructure roll out and on maintenance costs.

Wirless optics could enable city wide networking without the need to run cable, avoiding problems with theft or sabotage of infrastructure. The systems to run government ministries and other bodies in Iraq could conceivably be run on Linux-as a solution it is already saving money for enterprises and governments worldwide, so why not also introduce it to Iraq?

At present IT deployment in Iraq has been growing in a very organic fashion, moving from the desktop upwards. PC’s and other end user devices have filtered into the country creating a small but steady groundswell in PC penetration.

Internet cafes using satellite modems for network access are a perfect example of the way that Iraqis are utilising the technology that they have available to meet their needs, but solutions are more ad hoc than anything else. There are ministries in-country that have received basic IT packages, but again they have no network. While Iraq needs to address its most basic requirements first, innovative solutions and co-ordinated planning for IT solutions could provide Iraq with a massive boost to help re-start its economy.

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