Iran Launches First Private Mobile Network

A0235352.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran has launched a new mobile phone network with SIM cards provided by the country’s first private operator.

“Distribution of 300,000 SIM cards by Irancell, the first private operator, has started in the cities of Tehran, Mashhad (northeast) and Tabriz (northwest) under the first phase,” , the Communication and IT Ministry official Masoud Fateh said Saturday.

Irancell leads a joint venture with South African Mobile Telephones Network (MTN), providing a second mobile network at a lower price of 1,500,000 rials (163 dollars) per SIM card.

The first operator, which is state-owned, charges more than twice as much.

The project was initially scheduled to be launched in September 2005.

The postponement was due to “slow progress by contractors, a delay in operations to supply the required frequency as well as delays in issuing necessary permits” from the ministry, according to the Irancell managing director, Ali Reza Ghalambor Dezfouli.

“Irancell will distribute 2.3 mln of these post-paid SIM cards by March 2007 and it will also offer pre-paid SIM cards in the near future,” Fateh said, adding that distribution will spread to other big cities gradually.

Fateh said the number of mobile phone subscribers in Iran numbers 10.6 mln out of a nearly 70-mln population.

The Irancell joint venture was finalized in February 2004, initially with Turkish telecommunications giant Turkcell which was replaced by MTN in October 2005.

The agreement suffered a setback when Iran’s parliament objected to giving a foreign firm a majority stake in the venture.

The MTN has deposited a 290-mln-euro (366-mln-dollar) license fee for the 49-% stake originally awarded to Turkcell. The deal at the time of conclusion aimed to provide a total number of 16 mln users with SIM cards.

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