Iraq seems emerging from isolation as telecommunication hub as the country recently took a big step out and moves a step further into the world of digitalization when its telecommunications system was linked to a vast new undersea cable system serving the Gulf countries. The new cable will speed Internet and telephone traffic to India in the East and Sicily in the West. From there, traffic moves onto other networks to connect to the rest of the world.
It would be the gift for the world but not much for the Iraq owned as any kind of Internet access remains a rarity in Iraq, where fewer than 3 percent of households are online. The new capacity could help bring Internet connections to 50 percent within two years, said Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the Iraqi communications minister. The engineers who designed and installed the cable that made shore in Al-Faw, near Basra, had to deal with an unusual number of challenges mainly the 100 of oil and natural gas pipelines to cross.
“It was not easy,” said Ahmed Mekky, chief executive of Gulf Bridge International, the company that built the system. “But this could be a significant foundation stone for the country’s recovery.” This is going to make Iraq an important hub for connecting Asia to Europe, Mr. Mekky said. “It’s very strategic for the country.” “Every time more cable systems are built, use catches up more quickly than forecast,” Radwan Mousalli, head of Tata Communications’ Middle East and North Africa operations.
“If you want to go from Saudi Arabia to Europe, you either has to go through Iran, Iraq or Syria,” said Alan Mauldin, an analyst at TeleGeography. “Which is the most stable of those countries now? Iraq has emerged as the least bad of all the options.” Mr. Allawi said his government had reached agreements in principle with partners in neighbouring countries to develop a cable system connecting the Gulf to Europe via Turkey, though he said details could not be announced yet.