Defense Dept. puts Iraq mobile telecom up for bids

Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority will award three 24-month contracts for regional mobile phone licenses by early September, a Defense Department official said today.

Bidders must have experience in the global telecommunications market and in operating mobile digital networks in multiple countries, said Linton Wells II, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration.

Wells recently came back from Iraq where, he said, the U.S. military is still using mostly tactical communications. He said the authority's internal communications are insufficient, and regional connectivity has suffered because more than 3,000 kilometers of fiber lines were cut or damaged by war.

The Defense Department wants to return Iraq's telecommunications infrastructure back "to a prewar situation," he said, and to take it a step further by introducing advanced technologies. "Currently, there's limited wireless in most cities," he said.

The mobile license bidders must give their proposed buildout and service levels at two months, six months, 12 months and 24 months in the region where they bid. Telecom vendors are being told their mobile systems must interconnect with the state-owned Iraqi Telephone and Post Co. so that calls can be routed seamlessly.

Bidders also "have to put together a technical proposal of how they would interoperate with other nations," Wells said. "We have asked the bidders what the costs would be for a couple of plans."

The bidding process is expected to lead to three competing national mobile networks, Wells said. The Defense Information Systems Agency is the technical management support for the project.

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