Iranian companies look to launch Syrian mobile operator

A group of companies from Iran have begun making moves to enter the Syrian telecoms market, according to reports from the war-torn country.

Quoting sources close to the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, Al-Watan claims the Iranian companies want to build a mobile operator to compete directly with locally-owned SyriaTel and MTN, part of the MTN Group.

All fixed line communications in the country are provided by the state-owned operator Syrian Telecom Establishment (STE), which is set to take a stake worth around 20% in the proposed new mobile operation, according to the source. It will launch under a single brand name, although this has yet to be revealed.

Telecommunications in Syria had begun moving towards liberalisation prior to the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, with talk of setting up a third mobile provider rumoured since 2010.

In the mobile market, both SyriaTel and MTN own 20-year operating concessionswhich went live at the start of 2015.

Both networks operate in Syria under build, operate and transfer (BOT) arrangements, which stipulate that the operators must hand over the networks to the regulator at the end of the arrangement period.