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Asiacell eyes new territory in Iraq

Asiacell claims to be close to achieving targets which would allow it to expand beyond its regional limits in Iraq.

Asiacell claims to be close to achieving targets which would allow it to expand beyond its regional limits in Iraq.

The Wataniya Telecom-led consortium, which operates a GSM network in the northern region of the country, says it will apply to extend its services into new territory in Iraq within three months.

This would allow it to compete with Orascom’s Iraqi division in Baghdad and the country’s central area or Atheer Telecommunications in the south.

Under their licensing agreements, the country’s three operators may expand outside their zones once they have completed 80% of their regional roll out obligations.

It was originally planned that the operators would be allowed to expand nationally in 2005.

“Our goal is to go national and we are working towards this,” Ahmad Haleem, CEO, Wataniya Telecom International, tells CommsMEA.

“We hope to finish our requirements for the full year within three months. As soon as we do that we’re going to ask to go into other areas,” he adds.

In March, Asiacell claimed to have signed up 125,000 subscribers to its network, and to be adding 1,000 new customers per day.

At that point, the operator said that its network was able to support 400,000 subscribers, out of an estimated population in the region of 4.4 million people.

The network currently provides GSM services in Sulaymania, Mosul and Kirkuk, with rollouts planned to the cities of Irbil, Dahuk and Tikrit by mid-year.

“We’re up and running with an ongoing network deployment plan and a strong and growing subscriber base, so we believe we’re in great shape for national expansion,” says Haleem.

He also suggests that the operator may start building infrastructure in new areas in advance of approval to go national.

“If you look at the licence, there’s nothing preventing you from building in other areas — you just can’t turn on the services. If you want to be progressive, you can start building in anticipation of [a national licence] being granted,” he adds.

Wataniya, meanwhile, is in the process of creating a stand-alone division to oversee its overseas investments.

“Now we’re a totally regional operator, the natural progression is to create a unit that focuses on all of the properties — the synergies, the vendors, the value added services — and to hunt new business opportunities,” says Haleem.

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