The US-backed governing authority in Iraq awarded three mobile phone licences to companies based in the Middle East, all of with networks based on European standards.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), awarded licences to carriers that intend to use GSM in their respective geographic areas - northern, central (including Baghdad) and southern Iraq.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis were not allowed to use mobile phones, said Haidar Jawad al-Abadi, the Iraqi minister of Transport and Communications. Al-Abadi said awarding licences is a move into a new age of telecommunications for the country.
"It's time Iraq caught up with the rest of the world after it was isolated politically, economically and technically for very long," al-Abadi said. "Until now, we were denied mobile phones. Iraqis will welcome the chance to use mobile phones to talk to their family, friends and for business purposes," he added.
Craig Ehrlich, chairman of the GSM Association said, "GSM will help re-integrate Iraq internally, with its neighbours, the region and the rest of the world."
Ian Volans, an association spokesman, said using the GSM standard would make it easier to integrate the Iraqi mobile network with those of surrounding countries, since "every Arab country uses GSM".
Roger Entner, an analyst at the Yankee Group, estimated that the winning bidders would need to invest a total of $100m (£60m) to build networks that could provide "bare-bones" coverage of Iraq, while a more comprehensive network could cost $1bn.
The CPA will also require the licensees to post performance bonds of $30m (£18m) each.
Bob Brewin writes for Computerworld
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