‘At the moment it is unclear whether Baghdad will issue a fourth licence or retender the three existing mobile licences,’ says one GSM operator. ‘As for the WLL tender, we replied to the RFI [request for information] when it was issued in February, so we hope the RFQ will come soon.’

In addition to the two small Kurdish networks, operated by Sanaand Korek, Iraq’s mobile network is currently operated by three companies – Kuwait’s MTC Atheer, Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, and Asiacell, in which Kuwait’s Wataniya Telecomis the main shareholder. The three were awarded the original two-year licences for the northern, central and southern regions by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003. However, the licences are due to expire in December and it is unclear whether they will be extended (MEED 10:10:03).

The tenders for the WLL network are aimed at attracting private investment in increasing fixed-line penetration to 25 per cent from 4.5 per cent in 10 years. A tender was expected in March following the February issue of the RFI, but a lack of preparation is understood to have delayed progress (MEED 11:2:05).

Both the fixed-line and mobile sectors are expected to attract considerable interest from international telcos. With low penetration rates, oil-rich Iraq is considered to have excellent market potential.