Iraq hopes to raise around USD2 billion from the auction of the countryís fourth mobile phone operator licence, expected to take place by the end of the year, Gulf Daily News reports, citing Iraqís communications minister, Mohammed Allawi. Plans for the licence tender received final cabinet approval in May 2010, by which time 15 firms had expressed an interest in entering bids, including US-based Verizon Communications, South Africa's MTN, Turkcell of Turkey and the UAE's Etisalat. The minister has proposed that 40% of the shares in the licence be allocated to a privately-owned operator, while 35% will go to the public and 25% to the Ministry of Communications (MoC).
According to Allawi, Iraq has allocated USD500 million to spend on upgrading outdated and damaged infrastructure after decades of war and economic sanctions. The government also aims to boost fixed line phone penetration and internet reach to 25% within five years. The funds include 37% of last year's unspent budget allocation. Allawi said completing a fibre-optic network to connect Iraq to the rest of the world would be one of the MoCís main aims for this year.