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Asiacell hopeful following US withdrawal

Doubts remain about use of mobile jamming devices following withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities

Iraqi GSM operator Asiacell is hopeful that network services could improve following the withdrawal of the US military from major Iraqi cities if the use of mobile “jamming” devices decreases.

Both Asiacell and Zain Iraq recently blamed jamming devices, which the US military is believed to use to prevent the detonation of roadside bombs, for degrading the quality of their network services.

Dr Diar Ahmed, CEO, Asiacell said he hoped that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq’s cities would help alleviate the problem, although he added that fixed jamming devices, which are thought to protect military bases, could remain in use.

“We have no clue if these devices will be removed from their [US military] bases, as we are not only talking about mobile devices, but also about fixed devices as well,” Dr Ahmed told CommsMEA.

“We hope that the mobile devices will be much less in the street. But we don’t know if the fixed devices are removed or not."

He added that other organisations apart from the US military could also be using the devices, leading to doubts about whether use of the devices would fall even in built up areas. “We’re not sure if these devices are only used by the US or multinational forces. Some Iraqi forces or the Iraq ministry of interior might use them. We cannot say. We have no clue if these interferences are to be reduced,” he said.

The use of jamming devices came under the spotlight after the Iraqi government imposed fines worth just over US$20 million on Asiacell, Zain and Korek Telecom for providing “bad service” in May. Zain and Asiacell both contended that jamming devices used by security services were to blame for outages and poor network quality.