US authorities urge cancellation of Batelco’s GSM service in Iraq
The US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq has asked the Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) to discontinue the GSM roaming service it put into operation in the Baghdad area last week. Batelco’s unlicensed service jeopardizes US plans to win an upcoming tender for three mobile phone licenses in the country.
With the reconstruction work going on in full swing, Iraq's mobile phone industry is set to trigger heated competition among telecom infrastructure suppliers and service providers.
Telecom companies will soon submit bids for mobile licenses in Iraq at a conference in Amman, Jordan. Batelco is expected to participate in the tender, reported Reuters. Asked if Batelco would be banned from the tender or treated adversely, a CPA spokeswoman said: "It's an open competition".
Batelco’s network was meant to fill the void in communication in the country by installing a network at a cost approaching five million dollars. The system was to be expanded to a capacity of one billion phones from its current capacity of 10,000 phones.
Regional and global players are watching the situation keenly, as Iraq presents huge business prospects for telecom companies. Industry watches say that it could be the biggest testing ground for the two competing cellular data transmission technologies: the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access).
With the telecom network in shambles, the only mobile communication currently available in Iraq is via satellite through Thuraya handsets. There are estimated to be 20,000 Thuraya subscribers in Iraq. These phones are also used by relief agencies like the Red Cross to keep communications going.
In the next three years, Iraq's mobile phone subscribers are expected to increase to five million. A judicious selection of telecom infrastructure and cellular technology will therefore be crucial to the success of the project of putting Iraq back on the cellular map. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)