Qtel to bid for Iraq mobile licence

A Qtel-led consortium plans to submit a bid in the upcoming Iraqi mobile licence auction.

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By  Michele Howe Published  August 7, 2007

Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel) has said it plans to bid as a part of a group for one of the new mobile phone licences on offer in Iraq.

A consortium led by Qtel affiliate Asiacell Telecommunications Iraq said today in a statement on the Abu Dhabi bourse website that it planned to submit a bid for the mobile licence auction scheduled to take place later this month.

No further details were provided.

Asiacell Iraq is 40% owned by Qtel through Kuwait-based National Mobile Telecommunications Company (Wataniya), which Qtel took over in March.

Around 10 companies in total are rumoured to be competing for the three new 15-year mobile network-operating licences, with a source at the Iraqi Ministry of Communications saying Japanese and US firms are likely to be among the bidders, according to reports.

A fourth licence is expected to go to the Iraqi ministry of communications.

The launch of the new licences in Iraq has been repeatedly delayed. The licensing process was scheduled to get underway in December 2005, but was put back to June 2006 before being subject to further setbacks.

Existing mobile licence operators - AsiaCell, MTC Atheer and Orascom-owned Iraqna - meanwhile currently hold temporary licences, which have been extended several times.

A senior official with one of the current mobile operators told Dow Jones Newswires last week that an auction to grant the new licences was expected to take place August 16-17 with the results to be announced August 18.

Iraq currently has approximately nine million mobile users, representing a mobile penetration rate of approximately 33%.

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