The Iraqi government’s decision to renew the licences of Asiacell, Korek and Zain Iraq has been overturned by a court in Baghdad following a political legal challenge.
The three licences will all expire in 2022, but in July this year the Iraqi Cabinet cleared them to be extended for five years following a recommendation from the sector, as well as granting an additional three years to account for the losses suffered by the telcos between 2014-2017, when large sections of the country were under the control of the Daesh militant group.
However, as reported by The National, the politician Mohammed Shia Al Sudani has claimed that the operators are not competitive, and that their licences were renewed as a political favour – effectively amounting to corruption.
TeleGeography notes that Al Sudani went on the record in a TV interview to describe the operators as “monopolistic”, arguing that they offered “the worst services ever” but received no punishment as a result. He further added that the operators would not clearly declare how much they paid in taxes, saying “whenever we ask, we get no clear answer. I challenge anyone who can offer a number for the taxes they paid.”
Al Sudani noted that the court ruling could result in greater competition via an influx of international companies or through the nationalisation of the telecoms sector.