High Costs Hamper Iraqi Telecoms

Telecommunications should be one of the hottest growth industries in Iraq, but according to a report from Reuters, providers have yet to introduce 3G technology into a market where the military jams mobile phone networks to stop insurgents detonating bombs.

Poor infrastructure, high operating costs, conflicts between communications regulators and security problems are stunting development in a country slowly rebuilding eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Iraq holds a pivotal geographical position in the region and could be an important communications bridge joining the Middle East with Europe and Asia.

But security remains one of the country’s biggest concerns as Iraq’s army and police battle a weakened yet stubborn insurgency while U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by December 31.

Jamming of mobile phone frequencies and poor data services are frequent complaints of Iraqis since the 2003 invasion that toppled its autocratic government and paved the way for a cellular phone market and unrestricted access to the Internet.

Mobile phone firms say military jamming costs them millions of dollars in maintaining and upgrading spectrum. Infrastructure damaged by bombs often takes time to repair due to curfews imposed by authorities because of fears of more attacks.

Sometimes companies are forced to wait until security officials have investigated the attack.

Iraq’s mobile phone and internet providers also fret over the high cost of fiber optic cables, electricity and security. They say that feuding between Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) and the Iraqi Telecommunications and Posts Company (ITPC) is hindering progress.

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