Three firms win Iraqi mobile licences

Baghdad has awarded rights to run mobile networks to three consortia that will begin operations in separate regions

Iraq has announced who it has chosen to rebuild part of its communications infrastructure, with mobile phone licences being awarded to three groups.

The licence winners are three consortia: one Egyptian group comprising Orascom Telecom, plus two Kuwaiti interests: Atheer Telecom, partially owned by MTC, and then Asia Cell Telecommunications Company, led by National Mobile Communications.

The licences will run for two years initially, and it's hoped that the Iraqi mobile network will be fully functioning around the end of the month. However, the contracts stipulate the network must be alive and kicking within two months.

The groups will fund a regulatory body between them and if their regional offerings are successful -- each licence covers a distinct geographical area of the country – the Iraqi telcos will be able to apply for a full national licence.

A significant proportion of Iraq's landlines are still out of action following the war and the years of sanctions that preceded it -- leading many to speculate that the country could be a major growth area for mobile telecoms.

The mobile network will use the GSM system -- the system of choice for the countries surrounding Iraq, with 40 million users in the region alone.