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)

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.

By John Lee.

Asiacell Iraq has announced 4 percent growth in revenues from QAR 2.1 billion ($570 million) in H1 2016 to almost QAR 2.2 billion ($600 million) in H1 2017.

The customer base increased 13 percent to reach more than 12 million customers in H1 2017.

EBITDA decreased by 3 percent and stood at QAR 972 million due to network investments to accommodate high data demand as well as reconnection cost in the liberated areas.

According to a statement from the company’s Qatar-based owner Ooredoo, growth was stimulated by improvements in the political situation. “With further areas in Mosul being liberated during the first half of the year, network reconnection helped to drive the increase in customer numbers,” it said.

(Source: Ooredoo)

By John Lee.

At a time when the government is strapped for cash and looking to the private sector to create jobs, Iraq’s young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are finding business opportunities in mobile apps.

So says a report from Associated Press, which list examples including:

  • Wajbety (“My Meal”): a popular food ordering and delivery app based in Baghdad. It was co-founded by Ahmed Subhi, who has previously set up the Baghdad-based IT Training House Company;
  • Ujra (“Fare”): a ride-hailing app similar to Uber, set up by Ali al-Khateeb.

More details here.

(Source: Associated Press)

By John Lee.

Zain Group Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi (pictured), has said that he anticipates improved performances in Iraq, “where several tax and litigation issues have been resolved and the new leadership there can now focus on driving the business.

In its results announcement for Q1, the company added:

Despite the initiation of intense price competition in the market during Q1, 2017, coupled with continuing social unrest, Zain Iraq managed to achieve USD 253 million revenues due to impressive growth in data usage and numerous customer acquisition initiatives in the northern regions of the country.

“The operation’s efficiency drive saw EBITDA reach USD 86 million, reflecting a 34% margin. Zain Iraq leads the market serving 12.3 million customers.

(Source: Zain)

Today, Wikimedia community members in Iraq, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Asiacell, one of Iraq’s largest mobile operators, announced a new partnership to provide access to Wikipedia free of mobile data charges to Asiacell’s nearly 12 million subscribers in Iraq. The partnership was announced today at a press event hosted by Ooredoo during Mobile World Congress 2017.

The partnership, developed in large part by Iraqi volunteer editor and Asiacell employee, Sarmad Saeed Yaseen, marks the first Wikipedia Zero program in Iraq. The program, overseen by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, addresses one of the greatest barriers to internet access globally: affordability.

In a recent phone survey in Iraq led by the Wikimedia Foundation, roughly 80% of surveyed participants reported that mobile data costs limited their use of the internet. About 33% of participants also reported rarely or never being able to find online content in their preferred language.

Through the Wikipedia Zero program, mobile data fees are waived for subscribers of participating mobile operators so that they may read and edit Wikipedia without using any of their mobile data.

Sarmad, who is part of a community of local volunteer Wikipedia editors in Iraq, started the partnership to extend access to knowledge in his home country of Iraq. Together, he and his wife, Ravan Jaafar Altaie, have been active editors (or Wikipedians) since 2008.

“I’ve always believed that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness, so I decided to volunteer in Wikipedia to provide knowledge for free to my people in their own language,” said Sarmad Saeed Yaseen.

“When I was first introduced to Wikipedia Zero, I felt right away that this could be the best thing ever to share free knowledge in my country and encourage the people of Iraq to contribute knowledge and share this with the world on Wikipedia.”

By John Lee.

Qatar-based Ooredoo has announced that its Iraqi unit Asiacell has maintained its No.1 revenue market share position, but its revenues have fallen 14 percent:

In its FY 2016 Earnings Statement the company said:

Despite economic and political challenges in Iraq, Asiacell maintained its revenue and data market leadership. Asiacell successfully reactivated service and rolled out its 3G network to stabilised areas of Iraq. Customer numbers increased by 11% to reach 12 million.

Impacted by the overall challenging business environment and the introduction of a sales tax in August 2015, Asiacell’s FY 2016 Revenue decreased 14% to QAR 4.2 billion, down from QAR 4.9 billion.  

“Due to cost optimisation initiatives EBITDA was less impacted, registering QAR 1.9 billion at 2016, down 10% over 2015.

Earlier this week, rival mobile telco Zain announced an 11-percent decline in revenues.

(Source: Ooredoo)

Global Telecom Holding (GTH), an Egyptian joint stock company, today announces that, as previously disclosed, on 19 November 2012 Atheer Telecom Iraq Limited initiated English High Court proceedings against Orascom Telecom Iraq Ltd. (OTIL) and GTH in relation to a dispute arising from 2007 sale of Iraqna, OTIL’s Iraqi mobile subsidiary, to Atheer.

Pursuant to the underlying share purchase agreement, Atheer was seeking declarations that OTIL and GTH are liable to indemnify it for certain tax liabilities. Atheer’s initial claim was for USD 280 million, but later reduced to USD 60 million.

On 17 February 2017, the Court found OTI and GTH liable to indemnify Atheer in the amount of USD 60 million. The precise terms of the order, costs and interest will be determined at a hearing on 1 March 2017.

GTH intends to seek leave to appeal the judgment, however, leave to appeal is discretionary and may not be granted.

(Source: GTH)