Zain signals clear frequency

27 June 2011

Zain Iraq’s award of $900m services management contract to Sweden’s Ericsson aims to optimise network. Move highlights country’s poor mobile and online infrastructure

For all the opportunities in Iraq’s telecoms sector, the country still suffers from poor infrastructure and network service. Calls made from abroad are difficult to connect, distant at best and almost inaudible most of the time.

Mobile operator Zain Iraq’s decision to award Sweden’s Ericsson a $900m managed services contract is a step towards raising standards.

Unlike most of the telecoms markets in the region, Iraq still has room for growth and development. This presents opportunities, not just for the operators, but also for the service providers that can offer their global experience to what is still a young market. Mobile operators are best placed to offer online services to the country through mobile phones.

Outsourcing the networks to specialists enables Zain … to focus on offering better services to customers

Outsourcing the networks to specialists enables Zain to offer its customers an optimised network, while leaving the company to focus on offering better services to customers. But even with these efforts, a major improvement is unlikely if frequency jamming continues.

Blocking network signals has been common practice since the 2003 war. US military units would take down signals to prevent terrorist insurgents communicating with one another. Telecoms operators have been complaining of this practice for years, blaming it for cutting into revenue and profits, while providing customers with an unsatisfactory experience. Although Baghdad says the practice has subsided, network and service quality is still poor. One ministry employee accused operators of exaggerating the claims, saying frequency jamming has become the scapegoat of their own failures.

Whether it is individuals now blocking their networks with devices easily available in the country, or just a failure on the part of the operator to provide a good service, the country requires a better managed telecoms infrastructure if it is to aid the development of Iraq.

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