The telecoms infrastructure in Iraq is representative of an embattled country that has endured decades of conflict.
At times there have been attempts to rebuild the infrastructure but with the unrest in Iraq intensifying again – overall it is the fixed Iraqi networks that have suffered the most as a result of all the upheaval. In contrast, according to the telecoms industry website budde.com, mobile technology has thrived and nearly all citizens have cellular devices – although ownership of smartphones is low. Iraq has been reliant on 2G technology, which has led to a stagnated growth in mobile data services.
However, with the mobile operators gaining approval to begin offering 3G services in Iraq, this is one bright spot for future progress in this war-ravaged country.
In addition, states the budde.com report, the three major mobile operators all expanded their network coverage and product and service offerings last year. Mobile data services are becoming increasingly important as a source of new revenue as growth opportunities from new subscriber additions disappear in the maturing mobile voice market.
As with other parts of the Middle East, the internet is tightly controlled and Iraq’s government is trying to control or block internet access in some areas to stop social media services being used to rally public protests. With internet penetration estimated at only about 11 per cent in 2014, this is one sector earmarked for large growth when the country stabilizes, the report says.
While attempts have been made to deploy fiber-optic infrastructure across Iraq, its penetration is still very low and expensive. This may create opportunities for satellite broadband providers. While the potential of Iraq as a key growth area for telecoms is well recognized, unlocking this potential is mostly on hold at the moment while the continuing civil unrest remains unresolved.