Qatar’s Ooredoo Hits Out at Iraq 3G Delays, Pricing
|March 5, 2014||Filled under Iraq Business News|
Ooredoo News -
The head of Qatari telecommunications operator Ooredoo has hit out at prices quoted by the Iraqi government for a long-delayed auction for 3G spectrum licences.
The hold-up in awarding licences for 3G, which would allow operators to deliver faster mobile data services, has gone on for several years, with recent reports suggesting that the process may be again postponed until 2015.
It has also been reported that bidding for the licences will start at a minimum of more than $300m.
Operators in the country, which include Ooredoo through subsidiary Asiacell, and Zain Iraq, are believed to have previously shelled out around $1.25bn each to acquire licences to provide 2G services seven years ago.
“The country needs it, the people need it. We are ready to deploy [it], but it has to be done at the right price. What they’ve put(the price) is not reasonable at all in our view,” Dr Nasser Marafih, CEO of Ooredoo, told Arabian Business. “That’s something that we’re discussing with the government.”
Iraq has been one of the most lucrative markets for Gulf operators following the ouster of Saddam Hussein more than ten years ago, with mobile phone penetration currently at more than 80 percent.
Zain Iraq, the biggest foreign operator, has grown to account for almost a third of Kuwait-based Zain Group’s total subscribers and around 40 percent of its overall revenue. Domestically, Zain Iraq has close to 50 percent share of the mobile market and in the first half of 2012 generated $855m in revenue. Zain Iraq is expected to raise more than $1bn in an initial public offering on the Baghdad bourse later this year.
Asiacell, majority-owned by Ooredoo, has enjoyed similar fortunes. In February last year, the company raised $1.27bn in a public float, while it holds more than a third of market share in the country.
Despite this, there are signs that revenue growth for mobile operators in the country is beginning to slow, partly due to delays in rolling out next generation data services.
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