Finland’s Nokia will modernize and expand Zain Iraq‘s radio networks with its most advanced technologies across Karbala, Najaf and Basra, with a special focus on the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, to support the expected increase in data and voice traffic during Zeyara as millions of people converge on the region.

Zeyara is an annual event in the holy city of Karbala, which culminates in the event of Al Arba’een. It attracts visitors from across the globe and is one of the world’s largest public gatherings.

Once completed, the upgrade will allow users to enjoy improved indoor and outdoor coverage in both urban and rural areas as well as increased data throughput, leading to an overall superior customer experience.

Nokia’s project management and proven services expertise will be used to expand and modernize Zain Iraq’s 2G and 3G network, providing ubiquitous coverage and faster mobile broadband.

Additionally, the Nokia Mass Event Handler will be deployed to address the surge in data and voice consumption expected during Zeyara. The network modernization will allow visitors to remain continuously connected with their loved ones through superior voice and data connectivity during Al Arba’een and beyond.

Ali Al-Zahid, Chief Executive Officer of Zain Iraq, said:

Our top priority is to provide superior services for our subscribers. This network modernization and expansion is only the beginning of providing the best possible service quality and coverage with the most advanced technologies across the overall Karbala and Najaf and rest of sourthern region.

“We selected Nokia, our longstanding technology partner, for this important project, as we are confident that its advanced technologies will enable our network to provide such superior services. The current project will also enable a best-in-class mobile experience for visitors to Zeyara when we expect a high turnout this year.

Bernard Najm, head of the Middle East Market Unit at Nokia, said:

“Nokia fully understands Zain Iraq’s requirements and is committed to providing leading technologies to enable pioneering services for its subscribers. Nokia’s solutions cater to the unique connectivity requirements of mass events, and will help Zain Iraq address the expected surge in data and voice consumption during Zeyara.”

Overview of the solutions:

  • The high capacity and energy-efficient Nokia Flexi Multiradio 10 Base Station will be used to add the third carrier of 5 MHz on the 900 MHz band, to enhance capacity and increase coverage in suburban and rural areas.
  • Nokia’s Mass Event Handler will ensure network performance is not adversely affected because of heavy traffic during Zeyara. Another feature of the software – HSUPA Interference Cancellation – handles data more efficiently, enabling end users to upload pictures without any network glitch.
  • Nokia FlexiZone will be deployed to enhance coverage and capacity of the existing 3G network in Karbala.
  • Nokia’s refarming service will refarm GSM 900 MHz frequency to expand the operator’s 3G network.
  • Nokia’s NetAct virtualized network management software will provide robust capabilities for troubleshooting, assurance, administration, software management and configuration.
  • Nokia’s Network Planning and Optimization (NPO), Network Implementation , and Care services will ensure smooth execution of the project and maximize the return on Zain’s technology investments.

(Source: Nokia)

By John Lee.

Mobile phone operators based in Iraqi Kurdistan have reportedly been told by the Iraqi government to move their headquarters to Baghdad, following the region’s recent vote for independence.

Asiacell is based in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, while Korek is based in Erbil; Zain, however, is based in Baghdad.

According to a report from Reuters on Tuesday, neither Asiacell nor Korek has received any formal demand to move.

(Source: Reuters)

UK-based Talia Limited has announced the acquisition of Northport, a licensed broadcast teleport operator in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The company said that, as it looks to continue expansion within the country and support of existing broadcast customers, the acquisition of Northport represents a commitment to its ongoing presence within the region.

With Talia’s strong technical team in Iraq and recent partnership with satellite operators, including the recent announcement with Arabsat to deliver both SD and HD channels to the region, Alan Afrasiab, CEO and President of Talia stated:

Continued growth and interest in the region for additional capacity within the broadcast sector means we have been looking for an opportunity to open a bespoke and dedicated facility for some time.

“The acquisition of Northport, will enable us to provide broadcast services to regional and international clients more efficiently and affordably by integrating into our global MPLS and satellite network.”

(Source: Talia)

By Mohammed Khudairi, for Bite.Tech. Re-published with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Through many visits to Iraq and exciting conversations with visionaries like Hal Miran, I began to learn about Iraq’s budding world of startups, incubators and entrepreneurs.

Communities and organizations such as FikraSpace in Baghdad, along with Re:Coded and 51Labs based at TechHub in Erbil, have all developed in recent years and are growing at an astonishing pace. In my quest to figure out how I could best contribute to this ecosystem, I learned that we don’t have to wait for more “traditional” investment conditions to get involved.

Iraq’s Potential

In many ways, Iraq has been closed off from the rest of the world for many decades due to war and sanctions and now the people of Iraq are hungry for innovation and development. Iraq’s young, growing population of 37 million people, an increasing percentage of the population on the internet (17.2% in 2015), and mobile subscriptions on the rise (93.8 per 100 people had mobile subscriptions in 2015), make it a promising environment for tech. Source: World Bank.

Iraq still faces many issues including security, political and financial challenges, but the beauty of technology is that it can potentially allow developing nations like Iraq to “leapfrog” in the evolution of certain consumer processes, e-commerce, on-demand services, fintech and many more.

For those interested in diversifying their investments outside the more established tech communities and in gaining access to new (and potentially undervalued) opportunities, Iraq is fertile ground. While investors can’t turn a blind eye to the legal, financial, and operational challenges that exist, we all know that where there’s risk, there’s reward.

The Road Ahead

Good tech ecosystems require skilled human capital. The Iraqi government can support universities and other institutions by investing in science and technology programs and emphasizing these fields’ importance to Iraq’s future economy. Additionally, the government can work to improve the conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) into Iraq by strengthening the legal frameworks and recourse surrounding FDI. This is what is currently veering foreign investors away from Iraq and into other MENA countries who have established a more secure legal framework for FDI.

While there’s a number of measures the government can implement to make it easier on new businesses and FDI, it may take some time for the government to establish these reforms. Rather than waiting on the government, I encourage those interested in making Iraq a better place to take action now and provide support to this ecosystem where possible.

Aside from financial investment, many of the Iraqi diaspora have access to resources, institutions or technology that could be very useful to entrepreneurs and tech communities in Iraq. Those interested should follow Bite.Tech and other online sources to learn more about the tech ecosystem in Iraq and contact organizations directly.

Any support will go a long way to these individuals who are dealing with regular power outages, security challenges and limited local institutional resources. These brave men and women will be the entrepreneurs who forge a new economy and transform Iraq into a modern, inclusive and innovative society it can be.

Articles by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bite.Tech.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Deaths Of Journalists In Sulaymaniyah Undermine History Of Free Speech

In the mid-1990s, Kurdistan was split politically as Erbil and Sulaymaniyah during the civil war came under the control of two parties with differing approaches to press freedom, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) respectively.

Erbil province, administered by the KDP and known as the Yellow Zone because of the colour of the party’s flag, was always seen as more conservative.  Sulaymaniyah and the administrations of Karamian, the Green Zone, also a namesake of the party’s colour, encouraged freedom of expression to blossom.

But the number of activists and journalists who have disappeared or being killed in Sulaymaniyah province this year alone has raised alarm bells about freedom of expression in the traditionally more open of the two provinces.

Mullah beaten

On Friday, August 18, Mullah Saman Sankawi, the imam and preacher of the Chamchamal Mosque was attacked and wounded in front of his mosque.  The cleric had been very critical of authorities in the region and opposes the KDP’s planned referendum on Kurdish independence, due to take place on September 25th this year.

“We are living in a zone where we often take pride that we have freedom of expression and that it is to a certain extent better than the Yellow Zone,” Mullah Saman told Niqash. ”But this only holds true as long as personal interests are not threatened. When they realize that their personal and party interests are at stake, they are not only ready to attack you, but also to kill you. This isn’t freedom or democracy.”

The attack on Mullah Saman came just a few minutes before Friday prayers. The Asayesh, (the security forces) in the area confiscated the surveillance cameras at the front of the mosque. They reportedly later told Mullah Saman that they were not working.

“People’s lives are in danger and the PUK is responsible for this situation. I don’t have any personal problems with anyone and I was only beaten because I attack the ruling party, speak about corruption, injustice and the starvation of people,” added Sankawi.  “And I say no to the referendum.”

Neutrality at stake

Sulaymaniyah province has witnessed many demonstrations and major protests during the 26 years of rule by Kurdish parties. It is the cradle of dissent, as well as partisan and non-partisan media in Kurdistan.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The annual holiday of Eid is usually an occasion to take a break, visit family and exchange gifts. In the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, locals prepare by buying sweets and presents and new clothes – and that happened this year as usual.

But many locals also felt that one usual component of the Eid holiday was changing, and that was the customary visits to friends and family.

For example, Lukman Hassan, 33, has four brothers and five sisters. During Eid, he got around to visiting his father and two of his brothers. With the rest of his family he simply exchanged Eid greetings by mobile phone or by sending a message via Facebook.

“People are not in a particularly festive mood because of the various crises in the region,” Hassan, who lives in the Rizgari district in Kalar, told NIQASH. “So, technology makes it easy for them to send Eid greetings without having to leave their homes.”

Hassan says he also has other reasons for not visiting everyone in his family as one is meant to at Eid. He owns a small mini-market and although he closed it the first two days of the holiday, he reopened it for the last three. “I need to earn an income,” he says.

Most of the other locals that NIQASH spoke with told similar tales to Hassan’s, saying they had reduced the number of visits to relatives this Eid, and that they chose simply to send text messages via mobile phone or post general greetings on Facebook.

Danish-based DAMM Cellular Systems has provided voice and data communication systems to Erbil International Airport (EIA).

Local DAMM system partner Sabaaco, a specialist in secure communications, installed the solution in close collaboration with DAMM.

(Source: DAMM)

Speedcast International Limited has announced it has been awarded a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) license to operate in Iraq through its locally-licensed entity, prompting the completion of a new systems integration project providing managed network services for an international oilfield services group in the country.

The VSAT license is a strict new requirement as of January 2017 for service providers operating in Iraq, which was previously covered under the yearly telecommunications license required to operate communications networks in-country.

Speedcast’s local entity has renewed its general telecommunications license in addition to being awarded the VSAT-specific license, allowing the company to continue to support customers in the region for satellite connectivity as well as other telecommunications and technology services.

“Obtaining the VSAT license is a huge win for us, as it was essential for us to continue providing reliable communications to international customers doing business in Iraq,” said Keith Johnson, EVP, Energy, Speedcast.

“The customer we are supporting for this systems integration project is new to operating in the country and was looking for an experienced international service provider they could trust. Speedcast’s unique experience in providing ruggedized communications equipment and highly reliable services made us a great fit for the environment, which includes extreme temperatures and desert conditions. Being one of the few companies with the license to provide managed satellite communications in-country, Speedcast is able to exceed the customer’s needs with the dependability and professionalism that has made the company a leader in the industry.”

The project scope includes four sites at a major oilfield in southern Iraq, utilising Speedcast’s locally-licensed entity to deliver communications services and 24×7 support. The sites are equipped with terrestrial, microwave and satellite connectivity, CCTV, video conferencing, WAN optimization and a range of IT equipment.

Fiber and microwave serve as the primary connections with satellite providing backup. Terrestrial and VSAT networks were provided together to ensure business continuity for both operator and service contractors, so both drilling and critical business data could be transmitted 100 percent of the time. Under the terms of the agreement, Speedcast will also provide end-user VSAT licenses.

Speedcast’s system integration experience spans 30 years and includes engineering and design, procurement, testing, installation and maintenance for complete communications needs – from entertainment systems and security and monitoring services to navigation equipment, video streaming, internet of things (IoT) and more.

(Source: Speedcast)

Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) has announced that it will purchase 425.7 million of Zain‘s treasury shares in a cash transaction at an offer price of KWD 0.60 per share – subject to regulatory approval.

Once complete, Omantel will own a minority stake in Zain Group of approximately 9.84% in outstanding common shares.

The total consideration of the transaction is valued at USD 846.1 million (OMR 325.6 million).

Martial Caratti (pictured), Chief Financial Officer, Omantel, said:

“Acquiring a minority stake in Zain is a deliberate investment for Omantel as we position ourselves as a leading digital service provider.

“This is in line with our Corporate Strategy 3.0, launched in 2015. We have always emphasised that growth will come from continued diversification, and this acquisition positions Omantel for the future.”

(Source: Omantel)

Many vulnerable rural families in Iraq can now benefit from a safer, more secure means of receiving income thanks to mobile money transfer technology adopted for the first time by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as part of a cash-for-work programme aimed at rehabilitating agricultural infrastructure and land.

The programme, which is funded by the Belgium Government, will support 12,000 conflict-affected people in 30 villages in Kirkuk, Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninewa governorates. It will benefit local farmers, by enabling them to restart or expand farming activities with rehabilitated infrastructure, and provides agricultural livelihoods opportunities for displaced people returning home.

Participants, who are from households with no other income source, include women who often the sole breadwinners for their families, and people with a disability. The workers and their families are people who either remained in their villages during conflict or returned home after being displaced by the fighting.

Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq, said:

The use of mobile technology will streamline the safe delivery of cash transfers to participants, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

“Providing income opportunities is critical in rural areas affected by conflict, where competition for employment is high, jobs are scarce and people are struggling to support their families.

International partnership

To facilitate the payments, FAO has partnered with Zain a mobile and data services operator with a commercial footprint in eight Middle Eastern and African countries. Participant names and identity numbers are pre-registered with the company, and they receive a free SIM card.