Baghdad invites mobile prequals

24 February 2006

The National Communications & Media Commission (NCMC), the independent telecoms and media regulator, has invited applications for prequalification for up to four new mobile licences. The launch came after the licences of the existing three foreign operators, consortiums led by Egypt's Orascom Telecom and MTC and Wataniya Telecom, both of Kuwait, were extended in December until 30 June (MEED 2:12:05). Under the proposed schedule, interested companies must register their interest and request applications from the NCMC's financial adviser PricewaterhouseCoopers, by 30 March. Proposals will be submitted by 10 April. The regulator will then issue a preferred shortlist and an official tender. An award is expected by the third quarter.

The licences will have a duration of 15 years and are likely to have an automatic extension of five years if the operator meets the terms of its licence. Potential bidders must be either a telecommunications operator or a consortium that includes an operator which either has an equity interest of at least 10 per cent in the consortium or which has been retained to provide operational and management services. The licences are likely to generate strong interest given the country's underdeveloped and dilapidated mobile network. According to NCMC, mobile penetration stands at about 15-20 per cent of the 27 million population. The regulator is also pressing ahead with national and provincial licences for local telecommunications services. It is expected to issue a full tender in late February to provide fixed wireless local loop (WLL) services, including voice telephony and internet services. It received proposals from 10 entities in mid-January (MEED 27:1:06).

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