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Iraq's GSM rates: Regionally low minute rates but SMS rates are quite expensive.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

With the current GSM market penetration of just over zero percent, Iraq is set to be one of the fastest growing markets in the region for the coming years. The recent launch of GSM service in the country has kicked this growth in gear. Iraq’s rates are actually low by regional standards following the low rates of UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Iraqi SMS rates, however, are on the regional high side, lower than those in Lebanon and Syria only.

February 25,2004

On February 5, 2004, Baghdad witnessed the commercial launch of Iraqna, a fully operational GSM network rolled out speedily after the award of the license. Iraqna operates under a two-year license agreement signed with the Iraqi Ministry of Telecommunications on December 22, 2003. Two other licensees covering the north and south regions, Asia-Cell (led by Kuwait’s Wataniya) and Atheer Telecom (led by Kuwait’s MTC), respectively, signed identical agreements towards the end of 2003. Asia-Cell uses an existing network in the north (under the Kurdish autonomy areas), setup over five years ago with major expansion plans already underway. The south region’s Atheer Telecom will be the last to operate; it presently offers limited coverage utilizing neighboring Kuwait’s MTC-Vodafone network.

A new report, “The operational landscape of GSM service in Iraq: An analysis of the three operators.” was released to Arab Advisors Group (www.arabadvisors.com) Strategic Research Service subscribers on February 24, 2004. The 5-pages report, which has 3 detailed exhibits on the market, analyses the current cellular and wireless operator and vendor landscape in Iraq. This report can be purchased from Arab Advisors Group for only US$ 150. Any investment in this report will count towards a Strategic Research Service subscription should the service be acquired within three months from purchasing the report. Purchasing the report will also count towards attending the Arab Advisors Group’s Media and Telecommunications Convergence Conference in June 2004 in Amman. http://www.arabadvisors.com/Convergence2004/schedule.htm

“Services currently on offer are restricted to voice calls, SMS and a limited number of value added services such as free emergency numbers and voice mail on the Iraqna network. Iraqna offers International roaming in over 100 countries as well. MMS, Instant Messaging and TV voting are in the pipeline.” Faisal Hakki, Arab Advisors Group’s research analyst, wrote in the report. “Coverage is also still restricted, yet all operators are promising near blanket population coverage well before their two-year license agreements mature.” Mr. Hakki added.

All operators are relying on prepaid payment infrastructure. However, Iraqna charges a monthly subscription fee of US$ 9.9 automatically deducted from the scratch card credit. In a sense, the Iraqna network is setting a precedence of charging a monthly access fee over prepaid infrastructure.

“The Arab Advisors Group has also conducted an analysis to compare Central Iraq’s cellular rates to the rest of the Arab World. We have compared the prevailing rates of Iraqna to average postpaid rates of other Arab countries. The comparison was made with postpaid rates because Iarqna charges a monthly access fee for its service, similar to postpaid norms across the region. Iraq’s rates are actually low by regional standards following the low rates of UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Iraqi SMS rates, however, are on the regional high side, lower than those in Lebanon and Syria only.” Noted Mr. Hakki in the report.

The Arab Advisors Group’s team of analysts in the region has already produced close to 220 reports on the Arab World’s communications and media markets. The reports can be purchased individually or received through an annual subscription to Arab Advisors Group’s (www.arabadvisors.com) Strategic Research Services (Media and Telecom). To date, Arab Advisors Group has served more than 100 global and regional companies by providing reliable research analysis and forecasts of Arab communications markets to these clients.

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