Iran ‘to privatise’ telecoms infrastructure, says Tehran news agency

11 March 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Reports from Tehran suggest that Iran is looking to privatise its telecoms infrastructure company and introduce competition.

The Mehr news agency – in a report picked up by the Tehran Times – says that the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TIC) is preparing a strategy document within the next two months that will look at monopoly and privatisation.

TIC aims to increase the share that information and communications technology has of the Iranian economy from the current 2%, says the agency, citing Sajad Bonabi, a TIC official who is listed on LinkedIn as a board member and a former assistant to the Iranian IT ministry.

The report says that “legal challenges” have halted development in the sector in recent years – taken to be a reference to the US-imposed blockade which has also impacted Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.

The agency says Bonabi wants TIC “to pave the way for content production and marketing in cyberspace”.

TIC “is working as the IT ministry with the aim of “creating, developing, managing, organising, supervising, maintaining and implementing the main communication backbone of the country”, and developing infrastructure, says the report.

The position of the Iranian telecoms industry eased in 2015 when sanctions were relaxed and then toughened when US president Donald Trump reimposed them.

In July 2017 the then telecoms minister, Mahmoud Vaezi, announced plans to build Iran’s own fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network and to increase 3G and 4G coverage.

The South African company MTN is a shareholder in local operator Irancell, which in late 2017 was reported to be testing 5G with Ericsson. Last year MTN called off expansion plans because of US sanctions.

In August 2018 Deutsche Telekom’s consultancy arm, Detecon, ended its business in Iran in order to remove a barrier to the planned merger of its T-Mobile US unit with rival US carrier Sprint.