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)

Zain Iraq has selected Sweden’s Ericsson to upgrade its existing network using Ericsson’s virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) offering to meet the growing data demands of its customers in the region.

Under this collaboration, Ericsson will modernize the current infrastructure of Zain Iraq’s network by implementing a solution that will enable the operator to quickly introduce new services for customers, while maintaining high performance network requirements.

Ericsson will modernize Zain Iraq’s existing infrastructure into Ericsson NFV infrastructure (NFVi) solution, which provides a software-defined infrastructure with Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000. Also as part of the solution, Ericsson will provide system integration and support services.

Ali Al-Zahid, CEO, Zain Iraq, says:

We trust that Ericsson’s Network Functions Virtualization solution will be enable us to meet our strategic goals as well as our customers’ demands, and continue to provide superior performance while meeting growing data needs.

“This investment and ongoing modernization of our network is yet another example of our dedication to future-proofing our operations for the benefit of all stakeholders. It also reflects our commitment to providing the mobile community in Iraq with the highest quality of service available, delivered via cutting edge infrastructure and technology to ensure a superior mobile experience for our customers.

Rafiah Ibrahim (pictured), President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa says:

Today’s deal represents a significant milestone for Ericsson as it further strengthens our partnership with Zain Iraq and is another testament of our commitment to our customer’s success.  Iraq is an important market for mobile network development and innovation. 

“As Iraqi users are passionate adopters of new technology, network modernization and adoption of new technologies become critical to meet Iraqi users’ demand for capacity and coverage.

Ericsson vEPC supports high-capacity environments and provides verified solutions, addressing many vertical use cases to open up new opportunities for operators.

(Source: Ericsson)

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)

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)

By John Lee.

At its annual Ordinary General Assembly in Kuwait on Monday, Zain Group appointed a new Board of Directors for the coming three years.

Scott Gegenheimer, who has served as CEO for four-and-a-half years, has been moved to the new role of CEO of Operations, while Bader Al-Kharafi (pictured) becomes Vice-Chairman and CEO.

Mohannad Al Kharafi was named as Chairman.

(Source: Zain Group, Reuters)

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)