Iraq’s mobile market slightly recovers in 2017. Here’s why
The Iraqi telecommunications market continued to grow due to a relatively improving economic environment compared to the previous years. In the mobile segment, InfoCom noted that operators expanded and upgraded further their network coverage and launched new offerings which helped improve subscription take-up by nearly 11% YoY in 2017. For instance, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been partnering with Zain since 2011 to help reconstruct the country’s telecommunications operations and expand further its mobile networks. As of 2017, the operator’s 3G coverage is already at 85% of the total population (+12p.p. YoY). Meanwhile, Asiacell continued to upgrade its mobile networks to the northern and western parts of the country (i.e. Mosul, parts of Salaheldeen, Anbar, Diyala and Kirkuk). Alongside these network improvements is the launching of its new prepaid offer that features up to 4GB data volume, 800 SMS, and 1 600 minutes of calls within the Asiacell network for IQD 85 000 (EUR 61.3). This is the highest-tiered offer which also include up to 100 SMS and 200 minutes of calls to other mobile networks.
We also observed the increasing popularity of mobile broadband services as operators continued to expand and upgrade their mobile networks (e.g. 3.9G). This resulted in increased usage especially on data services which consequently helped operators recover slightly in 2017. As per InfoCom monitoring, total mobile revenues in Iraq marginally grew to USD 3.2b (EUR 2.8b) (+0.4% YoY) and we expect this to grow further until 2023 by an average growth of over 2% annually as we expect positive contributions mainly from the mobile data segment. However, the increasing mobile saturation and tight competition are expected to further curtail growth, and the government’s intention to auction off another mobile license could further put pressure in the segment.
In terms of fixed broadband, InfoCom noted the deployment completion of 150 000 fibre optic lines in some areas of Baghdad in 4Q17. The said development can propel fixed broadband growth further although only 30 000 of these lines are activated and available to the public as of May 2018.