By John Lee.

In preparation for the anticipated increase in data traffic and demand in Iraq, Zain Iraq has invested in the implementation of Ericsson’s award-winning virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) solution nationwide.

The deal is Ericsson’s first vEPC contract in Iraq, and one of the first in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

Ali Al Zahid, CEO, Zain Iraq says:

“Since we have introduced 3G on a large scale in Iraq, data traffic has surged, and demand continues to grow. This will present exciting opportunities as we move forward. This deal will bring greater connectivity and virtual capabilities to our subscribers.”

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

“The deployment of our vEPC will not only provide the scale and reach Zain requires, but it will also provide the demand management and advanced cloud infrastructure that will allow them to address new revenue streams in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Internet of Things (IoT).”

Ericsson vEPC provides verified solutions addressing a large number of vertical use cases, opening up new operator opportunities and improving deployment flexibility.

(Source: al Bawaba)

By John Lee.

Zain Iraq has reported a net profit of $29 million for 2017, up from a loss of $5 million the previous year.

In a statement, the company said:

Despite the challenging yet improving socio-economic circumstances facing the operation, Zain Iraq performed exceptionally well when compared to the previous year.

“Revenues grew consecutively on a quarter-on-quarter basis, with full-year revenues reaching USD 1.1 billion, a 2% increase Y-o-Y and EBITDA reached USD 382 million, down 3%.

“The operation reported a net profit of USD 29 million, up 657% Y-o-Y compared to a loss of USD 5 million in the previous year, with EBITDA margin standing at 35%. The expansion of 3.9G services across the country and restoration of sites in the West and North, combined with numerous customer acquisition and retention initiatives, especially in core regions, resulted in impressive addition of two million customers (16% increase) to reach 14.7 million.

“Also contributing to the operation’s financial revival was the significant growth of data revenues, strong growth in the corporate segment, increase in voice revenues through the launch of numerous segmented offers, and the improvement of customer experience and customer services.

“The strength of the Zeyara holy season was also a factor as Zain Iraq heavily promoted connections and exclusive deals with roaming its partners. Cost optimization was also a key focus in major items such as repair and maintenance.

(Source: Zain)

Over 300 participants, mostly youth, gathered in Baghdad on 12-14 October 2017 to participate in UNDP’s Innovation for Development workshop.

Design Thinking and Lean Start-up methodologies were introduced as innovative tools to identify local development challenges and find solutions linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Iraq has adopted in early 2016.

Design Thinking is a human centered approach to planning projects and businesses. It depends on empathizing with target groups or customers, as well as visualizing ideas and solutions. On the other hand, Lean Start-up methodology focuses on learning about the customers and building sustainable projects around solutions and ideas.

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to present their ideas to representatives of both the private and public sectors, such as the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministries of Youth and Sport, Industry, Labour and Social Affairs, Higher Education, and Planning, in addition to the Technology and Al-Nahrain Universities, Syndicate of Engineers, Chamber of Commerce and Ashur Bank. The participants were also informed about respective governmental and non-governmental opportunities and programmes.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized this workshop under its Innovation for Development Initiative, with funding from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and in partnership with Zain Iraq, GigaNet and Frame Production House companies.

Iraq Britain Business Council holds successful Autumn Conference in Dubai

Following on from the first Iraq Britain Business Council conference in Dubai in 2016, the IBBC was delighted to host its Autumn Conference in the UAE once again. The event was strongly supported by the UAE authorities.

Alongside Baroness Nicholson, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq and President of the IBBC, the conference was opened by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Ahmed Al Saleh, Under Secretary for Foreign Trade and Industry, UAE Ministry of Economy.

H.E. Mr. Abdulla reminded delegates that non-Oil & Gas related trade between the UAE and Iraq had already passed 11 Billion USD in 2016, with Dubai in particular being a hub for local and international companies in the region.

H.E. Mr. Abdulla firmly believes that the UAE’s role in the rebuilding of Iraq will continue to expand and expressed his wish to cooperate with organisations such as the IBBC to accomplish this crucial task.

Vikas Handa, IBBC UAE Representative and the Managing Partner of the Emirati Company DrillTech, warmly thanked the minister and stated that the IBBC stands ready to work even more closely with the UAE in Iraq.

The Government of Iraq sent a high calibre ministerial delegation led by H.E. Mr Qasim Al-Fahdawi, The Minister of Electricity, to the conference. The delegation included H.E. Mrs Ann Naufi Aussi Balbool, Minister of Construction Housing and Public Municipalities; H.E. Kadhim Fijan Al Hamami, Minister of Transport; H.E. Dr Sami Al Araji, Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC); and H.E. Mr Fayadh Hassan Nima, Deputy Minister of Oil for refining affairs.

The conference was structured around several sessions in which the Iraqi officials and international companies operating successfully in Iraq, most of which are members of the IBBC, exchanged their views and experiences.

These sessions focused on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the economy in Iraq, Reconstruction & Infrastructure, Transport, Power and Oil & Gas. In parallel, a series of high level round-table discussions between investors and Iraqi Government representatives took place.

The conference included for the first time a presentation on the rapidly developing Tech sector in Iraq , given by the CEO of Zain.

IBBC thanks the International Finance Corporation (World Bank) and the IMF for its participation. Thanks also go to the IBBC members who sponsored the conference: Gold Sponsor International Islamic Bank; Silver Sponsors Serco and Gulftainer; Lunch Sponsor Rolls-Royce; pre-reception Sponsor Wood; and Coffee Break Sponsors Eversheds Sutherland and KCA Deutag.

IBBC Managing Director, Christophe Michels, stated that the increasing involvement of the UAE and wider GCC with Iraq was a game changer for the country. The IBBC very much welcomes this development and is delighted to be part of it and support it. The organisation will increase its presence in the UAE and the Autumn Conference in Dubai will become a regular feature in its calendar of events.

(Source: IBBC)

Rebuilding Iraq is central to the agenda of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) autumn conference at The Address, Dubai Marina on 12th November.

The opportunity for businesses in the region to engage in Iraq is reflected by the attendance of a number of high profile Iraqi Ministers: from Electricity, Transport, Oil, Construction and Housing, to the Governor of Basrah and International financiers, including the IMF and World Bank.

Vikas Handa, the IBBC UAE representative agrees:

“Iraq is the second largest oil producer in OPEC and has one of the biggest programmes for new power generation projects in the region; Iraq presents massive opportunities for housing, Infrastructure and FMCG businesses. The event is designed to discover the opportunities and projects live and intended in Iraq, for business people to meet the decision makers, to obtain insights and to network”.

UAE is increasingly seen as the regional hub for corporate operations in Iraq and the place where business decisions are determined.

We can confirm this as a range of leading international companies are attending, including GE, Siemens, BP, Wood, Serco, Shell, Petronas, Gulftainer, Zain, KCA Deutag, the International Islamic Bank and more. There will also be plenty of networking and engagement on the sidelines beyond the main stage.

The IBBC Dubai conference is also the location for the Governor of Basrah to outline his vision for the future, and it is expected ministers will outline the latest thinking on the evolving situation in Iraq and the opportunities this brings.

To register, please follow the link:

(Source: IBBC)

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)

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)

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.