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Zain Iraq Says To Launch 3G Mobile Services By Jan 2015

Zain Iraq Says To Launch 3G Mobile Services By Jan 2015

Zain and its rival Asiacell had baulked at government demands to pay $307 million for 3G spectrum for seven to eight years remaining on their $1.25 billion mobile licences awarded in 2007.

Zain Iraq, the country’s No.1 mobile operator by subscribers, will launch long-awaited high-speed 3G services in January after formally signing a deal with the government on Monday to receive the necessary spectrum.

Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Zain, plus rival operators Asiacell – a subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo – and Orange affiliate Korek have been waiting for several years to begin 3G services.

The companies had baulked at government demands to pay $307 million for 3G spectrum for seven to eight years remaining on their $1.25 billion mobile licences awarded in 2007.

But they eventually agreed to the government’s terms and formally signed the contracts at a ceremony in Baghdad on Monday attended by prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

“Zain views the launch of 3G services in Iraq as a complete game-changer for the country,” Zain group chief executive Scott Gegenheimer said in a company statement. “We have already invested heavily in making the network 3G ready and our target is to be commercially operational by January 2015.”

Zain hired Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Networks to expand and improve its networks for 3G.

Iraq is one of the few Middle East countries still reliant on 2G networks, which mostly carry voice calls and SMS texts and only the most basic online services, while fixed line internet connections are expensive and unreliable.

Such restrictions mean mobile data is little developed in the country. Zain Iraq, which has so far paid $76.75 million or a quarter of the $307 million spectrum fee, derives only 4 percent of its earnings from data.

In comparison, some Gulf telecom operators get at least 30 percent of mobile revenue from data.

Zain Iraq will focus on attracting more corporate and individual subscribers in the wealthier north of the country, chairman Mohammed Charchafchi said in the statement.

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