By Maddy Reddy
Atheer Telecommunications, appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as the GSM provider for the Southern region of Iraq, today launched its services for consumers.
Atheer Telecommunications, appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as the GSM provider for the Southern region of Iraq, today launched its mobile services for consumers and businesses.
“I am delighted that we are now able to provide the people of Iraq with access to the outside world. Through MTC’s regional presence we can offer the Iraqi people a full service that makes them totally accessible with other Arab nations and closer to home with their friends and families,” says Dr Saad Al Barrak, Director General of MTC, the managing operator of Atheer.
Atheer’s network coverage extends from Iraq’s southern borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia up to the border of the Central region and includes the cities of Al Basra, Az Zubyr, Umm Qasr, Safwan, Al Nassiriyah, Al Amarah, Al Qurnah, Majar Al Kabair and Samawah.
According to the company, a network of authorised distributors and retailers has been put together to support the distribution of eeZee, Atheer’s pre-paid service. The sale of handsets, eeZee scratch cards and accessories would be managed through outsourcing to qualified Iraqi distribution companies.
Atheer Telecommunications was selected to develop and operate the GSM network and service in the Southern region of Iraq by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) last year with the formal licence agreement being awarded on 22nd December 2003. Atheer is operated and managed by Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC).
MTC provided a GSM telecoms service, granted under the authority by the Joint Communications Authority Board Iraq and the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom (MoD), in southern Iraq since May 2003.
Atheer’s new GSM network has a capacity to scale up to 300,000 customers (target penetration of 5.7%) by 2005 from the current 40,000 customers who have signed up. The service provider reportedly paid US$120 million for it’s 24-month licence. Today, Atheer is employing some 55 Iraqi’s who are predominantly technical personnel from two exchanges at Al Ashaar and Al Andalus.
To improve service quality and technical competency of its Iraqi staff, Atheer is evaluating knowledge exchange through training in other parts of the MTC Group such as MTC-Vodafone in Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan, Fastlink.
All transactions will be undertaken in US dollars with competitive monthly rentals. Both peak and off peak tariff on-net have been kept lower than similar offerings in Kuwait and Jordan. The PSTN charges are very comparable with the on-net costs (2 cents or 20% difference). SMS will be charged at lower rates than similar services elsewhere in the Gulf.
Atheer’s post-paid offer is targeted at two segments: private individuals and corporate customers who require 50 lines or more. All of the MTC Iraq network Military and non-government organisation customers have been migrated on to the Atheer network.
The 21-year old MTC is the largest mobile operator in Kuwait with 700,000 customers.