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The telecom sector in Iraq has witnessed enormous growth over the past few years, but with security still a problem and operators voicing concerns about an uncertain regulatory regime, maintaining growth could be a challenge.
A word that is often associated with the telecom sector in Iraq is “potential”, and although it is true that there is still room for plenty of further growth, such a description perhaps overlooks the considerable gains that have already been made. The Middle East’s telecom majors that lack a presence in the country are keen to expand into Iraq, and for those that already have a presence it is an important market and considerable source of revenue.
The market leader in the mobile sector in Iraq is Zain, with just over 10.1 million customers, according to the operator’s last set of results. That figure is up from 7.9 million during the first half of last year, an increase of 28%. Iraq is an important market for the Kuwait-based telco as it provides 16% of Zain’s total revenue.
Rival Asiacell is 30% owned by Qatar-based Qtel and it plays a similar role in the fortunes of the Qatar-based group; during the first half of the year Asiacell provided 15.8% of Qtel’s total revenue, behind only Qtel’s domestic operation in Qatar and recent-acquisition Indosat.
Like Asiacell, Korek began life in the north of the country. As the third largest operator by subscriber numbers, Korek says it is “committed to providing the best mobile telephony products and services to Iraqi Kurdistan and to the whole Iraq”. It describes its coverage north of Kirkuk and to the east of Mosul as “high”, and the service 100 miles south east of Kirkuk as “variable”. This is set to improve, the operator says, with plans to invest US$100 million to expand its mobile network across the country with the aim of increasing subscribers to four million over the next few years. Last year, it was announced that Asiacell would invest $1 billion in a network expansion drive, and Mai Barakat, analyst, Informa Telecoms and Media, says that Korek and Asiacell’s “aggressive network expansion strategies” have helped them to win more customers over the past few months.
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