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Opportunities for Iraq’s telecom sector once political unrest stabilises
The political unrest in Iraq has battered the telecommunications sector and created a very challenging environment for the telecoms operators. The three mobile network operators which hold national licences are Zain Iraq, Asiacell and Korek Telecom. The unstable economy combined with a decrease in consumer spending - along with the destruction of telecoms infrastructure; has resulted in declining mobile subscriber rates and revenues.
However, there is high international interest in the Iraqi market with its potential to recover economically pinned on its large oil and natural gas reserves. Iraq offers much potential for telecoms infrastructure development with many under-served areas requiring better coverage and/or reconstruction. There will also be opportunities in developing both 3G and 4G deployment, with early signs that mobile data revenues are already increasing on the back of existing 3G networks.
Prior to the current civil tension; 4G LTE had been deployed in some areas of Iraq and there was also a progressive fibre optic network underway across parts of the country. While it is unknown how widespread the damage to this infrastructure has been, the country is still moving forward with the Ministry of Communications (MoC) recently launching a Fibre-to-The-Home project. This will see an initial 90,000 lines deployed across selected governates.
Overall the current security situation is an impediment to telecommunications development in Iraq. However, there are positive signs for a future of improved stability and some reconstruction efforts beginning to emerge.
- The parts of Iraq seized by rebel forces reportedly have very little mobile infrastructure left intact, with residents relying on satellite technology for communications.
- The most popular mobile plans are pre-paid.
- The recently introduced 20% tax on mobile services has impacted upon mobile operator revenues.
- Operators face serious security concerns for both personnel, equipment and infrastructure due to the civil unrest.
- Mobile broadband services took a recent leap forward with a recent growth in mobile broadband subscriptions.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Iraqi Telephone and Postal Company (ITPC), Newroz Telecom, Asiacell, Zain Iraq, Korek Telecom, Regional Telecom, Communication and Media Commission (CMC), Ericsson, ScopeSky Communications.
Please note: Due to the civil unrest in Iraq, current and detailed information on the telecoms sector can at times be difficult to obtain.