Zain Iraq, the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, has revealed that it plans to roll out a 3G network as soon as it receives the necessary spectrum from the Communications and Media Commission (CMC). Wael Ghanayem, the cellco’s chief financial and operating officer, told Middle Eastern business website The National that the regulator is in the final stages of granting the operator’s 3G spectrum, adding: ‘A big investment will be required for 3G infrastructure. We are working with Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Huawei. In Iraq, data penetration is less than 10% so there is huge potential for growth. In neighbouring countries, where they have 3G, data contributes 20% to 30% to total revenues’. With regards to funding the rollout, Ghanayem said: ‘Our revenue for 2012 was USD1.73 billion and we are targeting double-digit growth for the coming years. Last year, Zain Iraq invested more than USD200 million in expanding and modernising its network; this year we plan to invest 15% of our revenue in the infrastructure’.
Finally, regarding ongoing plans for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) Mr Ghanayem commented: ‘We are in the final stages of changing the company from a private one to a joint-stock company. Once we get the approval from the companies’ registrar there are other procedures we have to go through before listing on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX). The company is hoping to begin its share offering by the end of 1H13, he suggested. All three Iraqi mobile operators are required to float 25% of their shares on the ISX as part of their licence conditions, but to date only Asiacell has done so, raising USD1.24 billion last month.