Thursday, August 16, 2007


Five companies bid for Iraq's mobile phone market

(AFP) - Five companies began bidding in Amman Thursday for a share of Iraq's lucrative mobile telephone market, one of the few sectors of the war-ravaged economy still producing revenues, officials said. The five include the three existing licence holders -- Orascom, MTC and Asiacell, Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh told reporters before the bidding process got underway in the Jordanian capital.
The chief of the National Communications and Media Commission, Siyamend Othman, said the other two companies in the running are Turkcell and Korek, but Solagh would not confirm that. Turkcell is Turkey's largest mobile phone operator and Korek is a regional operator headquartered in northern Iraq's relatively stable Kurdish area.
"There were initially fourteen companies, but five pulled out because of security concerns," Solagh said. "We excluded another four after carefully studying their backgrounds," he added, without elaborating. Solagh said bids would start at 300 million dollars and that the top three tenders would be awarded the contracts.
Egypt's telecom giant Orascom controls Iraq's central region. The south is covered by Atheer, a branch of the Kuwaiti firm MTC, and the north is in the hands of Asiacell, a consortium of Iraqi and Gulf firms. They boast a total of around nine million subscribers. The licences expire at the end of August, and they have been pushing for a speedy issuing of new ones.
The results are expected to be announced on Friday or Saturday. Iraq has limited fixed-line infrastructure, and cellular phones are the main means of communication in the war-torn country. Mobile telephony is one of the few sectors besides oil attracting foreign investment as attacks on telecoms infrastructure are rare.
The cell phone network companies licensed by the Iraqi government should seek a permit from the region's government to work within the borders of Kurdistan region, Omid Mohammed Saleh, from Iraq's Kurdistan Telecommunication Ministry said on Wednesday. The media spokesman for Kurdistan Telecommunications Ministry also told VOI that his ministry imposes a tax reaching up to $1.75 per subscriber a year.

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