Friday, 12 September 2014

Which mobile operators are most affected by the Islamic State?

In Iraq the GSMA coverage maps show Zain as having the superior coverage in the area currently held by rebel forces. It had good coverage of the three transport corridors running westwards from Bagdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. 

It is the only operator to cover the north-south route from Al Nkheeb to the Rutba - Ramadi highway, and the road from Al Qa'im to Rutba, which runs parallel to the Syrian border.

Mobile Coverage map of Iran & Syria showing area of IS influence September 2014 
Source: GSMA coverage maps, industry sources c. Blycroft 2014

Asiacell has a similar coverage profile for the two northern-most east-west routes, but does not provide coverage south of the Bagdad - Rutba highway. Its coverage in the area controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is therefore roughly half of Zain's. Korek, as befits the third ranked operator by subscribers, covers just the three east-west highways, but with a lower density than either of its rivals.

All three networks cover the northeastern (Kurdistan) and eastern regions, although the GSMA maps suggest that Asiacell offers the better coverage in both areas. In the north-east, Zain and Korek both offer a lower level of service, although both offer roughly similar geograpical coverage. In the east Asiacell and Zain offer broadly similar, comprehensive coverage, whilst Korek has the smaller network.

In Syria it is MTN that is most affected, with the IS area of influence having strong network coverage, with the SyriaTel nertwork less affected, having only two areas affected. There have been no reports of IS targeting communications passing through its areas of control, and it must assumed that fibre continues to connect areas east and west of the notional corridor controlled by IS.

MTN Syria was reported to be close to concluding a deal with the Syrian government to gain a 20-year mobile phone licence, according to the Syria Report.