"Companies, individuals or consortia that may wish to apply for a mobile communications licence are invited to notify their interest to the CPA," a Coalition Provisional Authority statement said.

It said it would issue a request for proposals in the week of July 28 that would be available to the firms that express interest. Proposals would be due 14 days later.

The CPA said it would award one licence each for northern, central and southern regions of Iraq. Applicants are required to bid for at least two regional licences.

"The CPA has chosen a regional licensing approach in order to enable the rapid rollout of services to the main population centres," the statement said. Each licence will be for 24 months.

The CPA said the 24-month period would provide operators with sufficient opportunity to recover their investment while enabling a future Iraqi authority to take responsibility for key decisions in relation to the long-term development of the sector.

"This is considerably shorter than is normal for a mobile telecommunications licence but reflects the special circumstances in Iraq," it added.

Devastated infrastructure

Most of Iraq's telecom backbone
was bombed and then looted

Iraq's infrastructure was devastated by the US-led war this spring, leaving most of the country without water and power. Looters have further damaged the country's infrastructure. 

The coalition was working with Bechtel, under a 45 million dollar aid package, to restore landlines around Iraq.

San Francisco-based Bechtel, which the US administration awarded the main Iraqi reconstruction project, valued at up to $680 million over 18 months, will be working with Iraq's Telephone, Post and Communications Company on the project, he said.