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Iraq: Mobiles set to outpace fixed line network in 2004

Iraq: Tuesday, March 16 - 2004 @ 12:08

“We are seeing all sorts of forecasts on telecommunications in Iraq and I think many of these are speculative,” said Asiacell board member Ahmad Haleem. “However, based on Asiacell’s solid experience of operating the most advanced mobile network in Iraq, we believe that current growth will see more GSM subscribers this year than there are lines in the fixed line network.”

The prediction comes as the company formally launched a White Paper outlining the past, present and future of telecommunications in Iraq: ‘Building GSM Network Operations in Iraq’. The document outlines the history of telecommunications in Iraq, quantifying the country’s fixed line network and documenting the enormous challenges that have been faced, many of which remain, in operating a national telecommunications infrastructure that is intended to serve some 25 million people.

“There are currently something in the region of 1.1 million subscriber lines in Iraq, although some of these are not currently operable. Three licensed GSM networks are in existence now, each with something like a third of the country as its initial area of operations. If we take Asiacell as an example, with over 1,000 new subscribers coming on-net every day, then we’re looking at something like 400,000 subscribers by the end of 2004. If the other two operators do as well, then we’ve passed the fixed line network and effectively doubled the capacity of telecommunications in Iraq,” Haleem reasoned.

According to the White Paper, while work is underway to rebuild and modernise the ravaged fixed line network, the three mobile licenses have paved the way to building out services much more quickly than could possibly be achieved with a fixed line infrastructure.

“Asiacell’s teams are working around the clock, seven days a week to keep up with subscriber demand as we also expand the geographical coverage of the network and build more advanced services for our customers,” said Haleem. “We’re aiming to extend not only basic telephony to people and business customers, but also to open up Internet access over the GSM network, which meets another critical need in Iraq today, where the only way to access the Internet is expensive satellite solutions.”

In a country where basic telephony is still an uncertain luxury, GSM networks have the advantage of rapid deployment. Further, once such networks are established, they can easily support a number of advanced services, including the provision of mobile data access services: a crucial advantage in a country where there is no national data infrastructure and where even basic dialup Internet access is simply not available over much of the currently available fixed line network infrastructure.

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Tuesday, March 16- 2004 @ 12:08 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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