OnGoing Iraq progress (archive)

PART SEVEN/ TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Executive Summary 
See also the details of the Distribution Plan

1- The telecommunication sector is considered as the infrastructure to Iraq infrastructure. It has a vital role to play in the improvement of food distribution, medicine, water and sanitation, electricity, and the rest of the humanitarian program sectors. Before 1991 the telephone density in the country was 5.6 telephones per 100 inhabitants. In 1999 this density has decreased to 3.3 due to damaged exchanges, shortage of spares and increase in the population. World telephone density average is 10%.

2- Since the implementation of the MOU, nothing has been provided to purchase any equipment or spare parts. This is the first time the issue of the telecommunication sector is being addressed. In fact since 1991 no new or additional equipment was received to support the deteriorating network, nor were parts received to make essential network repairs. The full set of measurement test equipment needed for maintenance is not available to keep the network operating to the required international standards.

3- The present state of telecommunication systems throughout Iraq is extremely poor. Apart from the wider social considerations, there are negative consequences for the efficient procurement and distribution of humanitarian supplies. The difficulties experienced by the Ministries involved in implementing the MOU when communicating with their suppliers have contributed to delays in ensuring timely submission of applications and subsequently in the delivery of supplies to Iraq. In the health sector, poor communications between warehouses and hospitals have contributed to delays in the collection of supplies by health facilities. The absence of adequate data links has also hindered the timely passing on of accurate information on requirements. With regard to the electricity sector, this has affected the coordination of operation between the source, the transmission stations and substations.

4- A recent UN mission (August 1998) to Iraq by experts delegated from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has concluded that the entire telecommunication infrastructure is deteriorating to such an extent that the quality of service is beyond comprehension. The rate of unsuccessful calls has risen dramatically in recent years and the quality of transmission channels is so bad that it constitutes a major problem for even the transmission of faxes. At present, the transfer of computer files (data transfer) is almost impossible via the public telephone network and affects directly UN observation activities and reporting. The mission, further, concluded that the rehabilitation and modernization of the telecommunication network is a huge development project. It would require an investment of US$ 1 billion or more and its implementation could take between 7 and 10 years. This of course falls outside the SCR 986 program. However, the ITU mission has identified the High Priority Telecommunications Requirements that have direct bearing on the Program and are the subject of this section. Further to these projects, the mission included several other potential telecommunication development projects, which could be considered in the future according to the availability of financial resources. The High Priority requirements included eight projects for various parts of Iraq at an approximate cost of US$123 million.

5- In order to ensure a more effective implementation of a distribution plan and enhance utilization of commodities imported, communication equipment is required. The requirements presented in the current distribution plan are those identified by ITU mission referred to in item 5 below and has the following objective:

Replacement of damaged or obsolete equipment and introduction of some new equipment that will improve communications in areas of activities of the humanitarian program in Baghdad and other few selected areas. This will directly have positive impact on the improvement of the procurement and distribution system of humanitarian supplies

6- The plan addresses few specific projects in Baghdad where most of the humanitarian program activities are taking place and where about 20% of the Iraqi population live. Further, it addresses the international communications, the microwave link between Baghdad and Basrah, mobile and data network. These are:

First, replacement of the analogue Baghdad Junction Network (BJN) with digital network Annex (A). The BJN is an inter-exchange transmission links (both cable & microwave) which was seriously damaged during the war. This damage resulted in the reduction of 68% of operational channels between exchanges, making those remaining connections insufficient to maintain the minimum proper performance. BJN connects the 22 switching centers in Baghdad through old transmission systems. These systems are the main causes of bad quality services in Baghdad. By replacing all analogue transmission lines by digital ones, one would guarantee an immediate improvement in the quality of services for all sectors benefiting from telecommunications. This would not be particularly expensive and would be in the range of $15 million. It is estimated that the replacement of the transmission lines could be made operational within six to eight months from opening the Letter of Credit. The direct beneficiaries of this project are all those involved in the humanitarian program, including 34 hospitals and 98 drug distribution points. Other beneficiaries are food distribution points including 6 ration centers, 124 ration branches, 9400 food agents and 5323 wheat flour agents, Annex (B) and Annex (C).

Second, replacement of the international communication facilities (Earth station, international exchange and the analogue microwave link between them) due to unreliable international communications which Iraq continues to experience difficulties in establishing and maintaining external contacts with potential producers and suppliers of humanitarian items under the MOU. Many foreign operators connecting to Iraq are also complaining of their frustrations over accessing and successfully concluding telephone calls from their countries to Iraq

Third, replacement of four old crossbar exchanges (Karbala, Diwaniya, Nasiriyah and Basrah) and of the obsolete analogue microwave link between Baghdad and Basrah with a digital link and extend it to the port of Um Qasr, the entry point of the main portion of humanitarian commodities under the MOU. This portion will be bigger soon because the Ministry of Health is requesting the supply of medical items through this entry. This microwave link will pass seven governorates whose total population is more than (7) million and considered as the most populated region in Iraq. Reliable and easy communications between Baghdad and the concerned governorates and Um Qasr is extremely important for efficient coordination and management in the process of the supply and distribution of food and medicine Some of the direct beneficiaries of this project are those involved in the humanitarian program in the area covered by it including (76) hospitals, food distribution points which includes (7) ration centers, (148) ration branches, (9895) food agents and (5213) wheat flour agents.

Fourth, replacement of three exchanges in Baghdad that were completely damaged during the war. One of these exchanges, Bab Al Muadham, is a key exchange for the implementation of the program because it is an exchange through which the Ministry of Health and Kimadia communicate with the rest of the country. Kimadia, the State run company plays a major role in the supply and distribution of medicines. Medical items are distributed from the main warehouses in Baghdad to warehouses in the governorates, and thereafter supplied to the 132 Hospitals, 1500 primary Health Care Centers, 52 Private Hospitals and all the pharmacies. Many warehouses and hospitals are equipped with computers which are not connected together to set up a data network

Fifth, Introduction of small mobile telecommunication network for (25000) subscribers in Baghdad. The aim for such network is to provide quick and reliable telecommunication services through out the city of Baghdad and nearby areas along the main roads. Such project will largely bypass the saturation encountered in the most exchanges and the lack or very poor network conditions in many areas of Baghdad. The project will solve the communication problem faced by every essential and important location related to humanitarian distribution services within the MOU framework in addition to more than (10) United Nation humanitarian agencies operating in Iraq

Sixth, Introduction of data network to allow connection of computers in all warehouses and Ministries and other parties involved in the oil for food program.

7- The installation of telecommunication projects requires high level of expertise. Before 1991, the staff of ITPC used to carry out all the installation of telecomm equipment with minor supervision from the suppliers. The same staff was able to put the majority of the remaining systems immediately after the war into operation. The plan envisages the utmost use of local resources for the installation and commissioning of the projects, to minimize expenditures.

8- Whilst the establishment of telecommunication projects requires a very high level of investment, this all risks to be lost unless those projects are adequately maintained. In order to maintain these projects properly, planned on-job training is required. It goes without saying that the new equipment to be purchased is of new technical generation. This will require training in the manufacturer premises.

9- The Plan allocates US$ 126 million to meet the necessary urgent needs and requirements Out of this total US$ 18.7 million is allocated for the three northern governorates.

10- In accordance with paragraph 41 of the MOU, the Government of Iraq shall provide the Program with detailed information about the delivery of supplies and equipment to their locations in order to facilitate the monitoring of their use and to make sure of this. The Program will conduct the tasks provided for in paragraph 8 of annex-l of the MOU.

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