Iraqi mobile operator Korek Telecom has bemoaned the slow progress of national telecoms regulator the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) in distributing spectrum suitable for 3G services. Korek – which is co-owned by France Telecom-Orange and Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility – hopes to launch a third-generation network this year, but is still waiting for the government to release the necessary spectrum, the cellco’s chief executive said this week. Ghada Gebara commented: ‘The promise of the regulator and the ministry is that we should have 3G soon, so we are waiting for them to figure it out. They are serious about it, so it is just a question of time. We already have the right to use any technology we want in our licence, the idea is to get the right frequency’. According to Gebara, the government has yet to decide whether it will charge a fee for the 3G spectrum, but warned that a substantial outlay will result in raised tariffs and a slow-down in investment elsewhere. ‘The more money you pay, it’s the customer that will pay’, she warned.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Mobitel – which is based in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq – holds the country’s sole 3G cellular licence; Kurdistan boasts its own independent Ministry of Communications (MoC KRG), which takes responsibility for all licensing issues affecting the semi-autonomous zone. Elsewhere in Iraq the jamming of mobile phone frequencies by the military to prevent insurgents from detonating bombs remotely remains a serious licensing stumbling block. However, the absence of 3G licences is not the only example of slow progress within the Iraqi telecoms sector: the country has been waiting for official telecoms legislation to be implemented since 2004, whilst long-running attempts to introduce a fourth national mobile concession have also amounted to nothing thus far.