The Iraqi cabinet has given final approval for the Ministry of Communications (MoC) to tender a fourth licence to operate mobile services in a bid to improve telecom services and bolster investment in the country. Hiam Al Yasiri, an advisor to Iraq’s communications minister, told Reuters that up to 15 firms, including US-based Verizon Communications, South Africa’s MTN, Turkcell of Turkey and the UAE’s Etisalat, had expressed an interest since the cabinet initially approved a plan for a fourth operator in July 2009. The fourth mobile service provider, which would be selected through an open tender and operate throughout Iraq, would give 35% of its operating revenue to the government as part of the deal, Al Yasiri stated. ‘We believe that the service from the current operators will not improve, at least in the near future. Our main goal is to make the project successful in the Iraqi market. The current companies blame the bad service on the security situation and signal jamming. We want the next investor to not have a number of excuses for limited or bad services,’ she added.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Zain Iraq is currently the country’s largest cellco by subscribers, with over ten million customers at 31 March 2010, followed by Asiacell (7.74 million) and Korek Telecom (2.5 million). Kurdish operator SanaTel provides services in the north-eastern province of Sulaymaniyah and had an estimated 500,000 subscribers at the same date.