Iraqi cell coverage; a farce in four parts


Tenders for Iraqi mobile phone services are “… potentially among the most lucrative contracts to be offered in post war Iraq.” A special clause is added to the tender banning bids from companies with govt. ownership in excess of 10%. How’s that for neoliberalism?

Cell service in Iraq is live but for US personnel only. It’s provider Worldcom (now MCI) is since banned from further US govt. contracts. Mr. Ebbers, Worldcom’s ex-CEO yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges related to the $11Bn. scandal.

Batelco spent $5M launching a public cell service in July. It worked, briefly. Plans to offer free phones to police, fire and emergency crews in Baghdad were shelved when the US instructed Batelco that a “license” was required. When Batelco applied for a license they were told to stop the service. Batelco’s shareholders include the Government of Bahrain.

The US has not ruled out offering non-GSM services. If competing Qualcomm CDMA technology were offered that would make Iraqi’s unable to call into neighboring countries!

Financial Times print edition Thursday September 4th.
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