UK-based accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is reportedly advising the Iraqi government on its long-awaited auction for a fourth mobile licence, which is tipped to include concessions for both 3G and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. TMT Finance quotes an anonymous source familiar with the matter as saying: ‘There is a lot of noise surrounding Iraq at the moment. There is still probably not one clear route, and it is fair to say the government is assessing a number of different options. One possibility could be regional mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs)’. A second source agreed with this notion, adding: ‘The local operators have been pushing back against the decision to offer a fourth concession in the country, so I think it is more likely we will see the introduction of licences in the form of MVNOs out of regions such as Kurdistan’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the introduction of a fourth player was first mooted in July 2009, piquing the interest of a number of prominent overseas investors. Plans for the auction of the licence received final cabinet approval in May 2010, by which time 15 firms had reportedly expressed an interest in entering bids, including US-based Verizon Communications, South Africa’s MTN Group, Turkcell of Turkey and the UAE’s Etisalat. However, in January 2012 Saudi Telecom Company pulled out of the running, citing the severe delay in awarding the concession, which has been valued at as much as USD2 billion by Iraq. As per previous announcements, the winner will hold a 40% stake in a new mobile operator, which will also be 35%-owned by the public, with the remaining 25% held by the Ministry of Communications (MoC).