Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) is set to hold fresh talks with the country’s Council of Ministers over the coming weeks, to discuss long-gestating plans to award 3G licences via an open, public auction. According to TMT Finance, quoting sources familiar with the matter, the CMC favours a two-step process, which would see a quick, closed 3G auction, followed by the introduction of a new mobile player further down the line. Meanwhile, the government is determined to combine the two processes, potentially delaying the country’s introduction of 3G technology even further.
Last month, TeleGeography reported that the Council refused a request from the CMC to automatically grant the 3G licences to the three existing mobile operators – Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Zain Group, Ooredoo subsidiary Asiacell and Orange affiliate Korek – because to do so would be contrary to the regulator’s statutes. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, plans for the auction of a fourth mobile licence in Iraq 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 (STC) reportedly pulled out of the running for the concession, citing the severe delay in awarding the licence, which had been valued at as much as USD2 billion by the Iraqi government.