The Iraqi Telecommunications & Post Company (ITPC) has awarded China’s Huawei to bring fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) to five major cities. The tender was worth more than $20m and will provide voice and broadband connectivity to 50,000 thousand households. The contract is part of Iraq’s FTTH initiative to connect as many households to high-speed internet as possible.

The tender was worth more than $20m and will provide voice and broadband connectivity to 50,000 thousand households

The cities include Basra, Mosul, Najaf and Karbala. Huawei will provide about 10,000 lines of fibre-optic cables a city. Work will begin on laying down the cables in early 2011 and is expected to finish in nine months, although it may take up to a year, according to ITPC director general, Kassim al-Hassani.

“Huawei will supply the cables to these five cities, but the private sector will have to develop FTTH for Baghdad,” says Al-Hassani.

The next stage in the initiative will be to award internet protocol television (IPTV) licences, for which ITPC will seek satellite and media partners. Baghdad expects to issue these triple-play licences in due course.

FTTH has become a significant aspect of the telecommunications industry in the Middle East and presents a great growth potential. The FTTH Council Europe launched an adhoc Middle East council on 1 December 2010 in Beirut. According to the Council there are more than one million households with FTTH capability with over 255,000 FTTH subscribers in the region. The UAE makes up most of these figures with 246,000 subscribers.

To classify as FTTH, the communications architecture at the final stage must use optical fibres, these presently provide the highest possible speeds of broadband without bottlenecks in the connection line.

Iraq has awarded more than 50 tenders over the past year and invested about $352m in developing the telecommunications sector. According to the ministry, about 8,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables are now in place. Copper cables ordered before 2003 are due to arrive in Iraq next month to sustain Baghdad’s current fibre-optic network. The cables, supplied by Turkish company Ozdil are worth $11m-$12m.

“The war delayed the contract and arrival of the copper cables. We will use them to improve the existing networks and provide better landline communications,” says Al-Hassani.