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Iraq goes GSM

Wins for Kuwaiti, Egyptian bids

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The US Coalition Provisional Authority has finally awarded cellular licenses for Iraq. Shunning the powerful CDMA lobby, all the networks will be GSM and use Middle East-based know how and capital.

The awards divide Iraq into three regions. In the north, the award goes to Asia Cell Telecommunications, a new consortium which includes Kuwait's second GSM operator Wataniya Telecom. The central region and Baghdad goes to Egypt's Orascom Telecom, and the south to Atheer Telecom, in which Kuwaiti operator MTC-Vodafone provides the know-how.

But it's a snub for enterprising Baharaini operator Batelco, which in a few weeks had build and activated a small GSM network without any of the occupying forces noticing.

The licenses run for two years. The CPA had twice delayed the announcement of the winners, the Saudi Gazette reported last week, originally due to be announced on September 5. A rescheduled date of September 12 came and went without the awards being announced. The Gazette cited sources who attributed to the delays to disagreements between the US-run CPA and ministers. ®

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