Lifting of sanctions expected to assist telecoms sector in Iran
Iran has become one of the most interesting telecoms markets in the Middle East to watch with the lifting of economic sanctions in 2016. This development paves the way for increased foreign investment in Iran and in turn for Iran to participate in international commerce.
With Iran also gaining access to billions in frozen assets it will be able to improve its overall economic position, along with the lifestyle of Iranian citizens. This in turn may lead to more spending on mobile data and telecoms services along with overall telecoms infrastructure improvements.
Iran offers a relatively young population, where the majority are aged below thirty years old and enthusiastic adopters of mobile technologies and ICT tools. Mobile phone penetration stands at around 90% and this has grown quickly in recent years due to increased competition and the introduction of 3G and 4G services.
It is hoped that the flourishing start-up sector in Iran will receive a boost due to increased foreign interest and investment. Iran has already demonstrated its commitment towards a start-up sector with many locally established digital media initiatives in operation many of which have emerged due to Iran's desire to develop its own social media and digital services. These include Iran's own search engine, Yooz, as just one example. E-commerce can also expect growth with the lifting of sanctions freeing up electronic trade and Iranians begin to gain access to international financial institutions and corresponding credit cards. Bitcoin is also showing a keen interest in the potential of Iran's e-commerce market with the crypto-currency service establishing its first Currency Exchange in Iran during 2015.
Other changes are afoot for Iran's telecom sector with the announcement that TCI would be selling a 50% (plus one share) stake in the company, currently owned by Etemad Mobin. This development, combined with the lifting of sanctions and a tech savvy youthful and very large population - has firmly placed Iran in the spotlight as one of the key markets to watch for growth and opportunity.
Key telecom parameters 2013; 2016 Sector | 2013 | 2016 Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e) Fixed Broadband | 4.3 | 6.1 Fixed-line telephony | 29.7 | 30.3 Mobile phone | 65.2 | 73.5 (Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
There is ongoing Fixed-Mobile Conversion (FMC) taking place in Iran. Fixed line growth has been slowing in recent years while mobile subscriptions are on the increase. In order to improve mobile competition and services the progress towards Mobile Number Portability took a step further in August 2015 with the signing of a MoU regarding the principles of MNP between the Iranian Government and the three mobile operators. In order to meet IPTV demand, TCI subsidiary Information Technology Company (ITC) announced it had signed a MoU with TI Sparkle (a subsidiary of Telecom Italia) which would see Iran granted access to TI Sparkle's Seabone Global Tier-1 IP transit backbone. In 2016 a new IPTV service was underway with the announcement that Perception TV had been chosen by Baran Telecom to provide its IPTV platform In October 2015 Iran announced it would be introducing a new tender for fixed wireless broadband spectrum which would allow for Time Division Duplexing (TDD), including TDD-LTE technology. TV is still the most popular and effective advertising platform in Iran, followed by print. It is expected that digital advertising is poised for growth however as the lifting of sanctions leads to improved ICT capabilities and an international influence on the current landscape.
Companies covered in this report include:
Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), Mobile Communications Iran (MCI), MTN Irancell, Tamin Telecom (Rightel), Rafsanjan Industrial Complex (Taliya), Mobile Telecommunications Company of Isfahan (MTCE), Telecommunication Kish Company (TKC), Baran Telecom.