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Iraq looking to sell fourth national mobile licence

Iraq’s government is aiming to raise around US$2 billion by auctioning off the country’s fourth national mobile licence by the end of 2011...

 

Iraq’s government is aiming to raise around US$2 billion by auctioning off the country’s fourth national mobile licence by the end of 2011.Reports indicate that the government has imposed certain criteria for owning the licence, with communications minister Mohammed Allawi saying: “What we have decided about the fourth licence is to divide it into three main shares.”

Allawi went on to suggest that the shares should be divided in a ratio of 40:35:25 between a private operator, the public and the ministry of communications. Iraq’s government has floated the idea of a fourth mobile licence several times, with speculation surrounding the subject since 2009. Rumours in particular regarding potential bidders for the licence have implicated such major names as Etisalat, Vodafone, France Telecom, Verizon, Turkcell and MTN.

Iraq’s current three operators hold 15-year licences worth US$1.25 billion each, and their relatively high penetration rates mean that a hypothetical fourth operator would have a significant task ahead of them. The top two operators, Zain and Asiacell, had over 12 million and 8.13 million subscribers respectively at the end of 2010, while the third – Korek Telecom – is far smaller and largely confined to northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.

There is in fact a fourth operator, Sanatel, which operates at regional level with low subscriber numbers. The country’s mobile penetration rate was around 70% at the end of 2010.

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