Iraq’s finance minister Bayan Jabor has told three of the country’s wireless operators to improve services within two months or face fines of up to USD1 million a day, according to Reuters. The minister stated that coverage provided by Kuwaiti-owned Zain Iraq, Qatar-backed Asiacell and Korek Telekom (controlled by Dubai-based investors) has worsened over the last two months. Each company paid USD1.25 billion for a licence to operate wireless services and asked to spread the cost over three installments, of which the firms have already paid two. Due to the current economic crisis, the trio have asked for the third installment to be split into a further three payments spread over three years. ‘The companies requested the deferment of the last installment, and the cabinet approved that on the condition that service improves. It gave them three months, and two months are left,’ Jabor told Reuters. ‘The cabinet will take a decision firstly to not extend the payment period and demand immediate payment if the services do not improve. Secondly, there will be severe punishments…the fine could reach USD1 million a day,’ he added. Zain has already been fined USD9 million, which it has paid. The minister also said that the size of the fines would vary for each operator depending on the number of complaints received and the number of the cellco’s subscribers.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Zain Iraq was the country’s largest cellco by subscribers at the end of 2008 with a total of 9.68 million. Asiacell followed with a customer base of 6.11 million with Korek Telecom in third place with a total of 1.97 million subscribers at that date.