5G services in Iraq are delayed
Iraq’s ongoing political and economic difficulties have spilled over to the telcoms sector, which to some degree has become a secondary political battleground.
The three MNOs Zain Iraq, Asiacell, and Korek Telecom secured their 15-year concessions in 2007. Since these concessions gave the operators relative autonomy in their respective regions, it is now considered among many parliamentarians in the country that renewing them would only hold back market competition in general. The government had in 2020 accepted the argument that the concessions should be extended for a further eight years, which would have included three years to compensate the operators for damage caused in areas of the country held by Islamic State. Various court determinations have since then only resulted in continuing uncertainty for the concession holders.
The mobile sector holds the greater promise for ordinary Iraqis to benefit from telecom services. Destruction to fixed-line infrastructure in recent years has meant that fixed broadband penetration is low, at about 12.4%. By contrast, mobile penatration stands at about 95%. While the network operators have struggled to develop LTE services, and there is little scope for 5G services to be launched in the short term, nevertheless this segment offers the best opportunity for revenue growth, and for attracting subscribers to mobile data services.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Iraqi Telephone and Postal Company (ITPC), Newroz Telecom, Asiacell, Zain Iraq, Korek Telecom, Regional Telecom, Communication and Media Commission (CMC), ScopeSky Communications.