Arab Times

Iraq to sell 4th mobile licence

Bidding deadline Nov 20


DUBAI/BAGHDAD, Nov 11, (RTRS): Iraq’s communicat­ions regulator plans to sell a fourth national mobile telecom licence, according to a posting on its website, in what would stiffen competitio­n in a market already suffering from tumbling revenues and war-related service interrupti­ons.

The Communicat­ions and Media Commission (CMC) has set a Nov. 20 deadline for bidders for the 15year licence to submit their interest, the document seen on Wednesday said.

The country’s three mobile operators — Ooredoo’s Asiacell, Zain Iraq and Korek — each paid $1.25 billion for their 15-year licences in 2007 and were then charged a further $307 million for the necessary radio spectrum to launch 3G services earlier this year.

Technology The fourth licence will be technology neutral, meaning the buyer should not have to pay additional fees as the three others did.

The trio will be required to share some of their infrastruc­ture and facilities with the new operator to help it roll out services quickly, said the document.

Iraq’s telecom market has strong potential, with its relatively low mobile penetratio­n rate of 95 percent compared with 180 percent in neighbouri­ng Saudi Arabia, the document said.

But the recent performanc­e of Asiacell, a subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo, and Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Zain, paints a far grimmer picture as tough domestic competitio­n, higher costs, and service interrupti­ons due to Islamic State’s territoria­l gains affected their operations.

Asiacell’s average revenue per user (ARPU), an important gauge of the industry, was 38.4 Qatar riyals ($10.55) in the third quarter of 2015, down by a fifth from the second quarter of 2014.

Similarly, Zain Iraq’s net income for the nine months to Sept. 30 was $102 million, down 54 percent from a year earlier.

Fourth licence holders have struggled in most markets, let alone a country ravaged by war, an Iraqi telecom source said, predicting a buyer would expect to pay much less than the other three mobile operators.

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