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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 19:05 GMT
Iran to open telecoms market
Mobile telephone
Demand for mobile communications is soaring
Iran is planning to open its telecommunications sector to foreign operators in order to meet soaring public demand for telephone lines and internet access.

The government is preparing legal changes to pave the way for foreign firms to enter the market, telecommunications minister Ahmad Motamedi told the Reuters news agency.

"We are now taking our first steps towards privatisation and establishing regulatory policy which would allow the entry of the private sector," he said.

Foreign operators will be invited to provide mobile and fixed-line communications as well as internet access to Iran's 62 million consumers, he added.

Infrastructure upgrade

The Iranian government is currently laying 18,500 kilometres of fibre-optic cable in a bid to upgrade the country's telecommunications infrastructure.

The government aims to double the number of fixed line users in Iran to 20 million, and to boost the number of mobile subscribers to 10 million, from around 1.5 million now.

"We are trying rapidly to conclude this process, in its legal aspects and necessary infrastructure. We wish to do this as soon as possible," said Mr Motamedi, who was speaking at the International Telecommunication Union's Telecom Africa show in Johannesburg.

However, Mr Motamedi ruled out a sale or part-privatisation of the Telecommunications Company of Iran, the current state monopoly.

According to reports, Iran has already started negotiations with potential partners.

Strong telecoms demand

Demand for telecommunications has soared in Iran since President Mohammad Khatami's moderate government defeated its conservative clerical opponents in the 1997 general election.

But telephone subscribers face long waiting lists due to the country's patchy telecommunications infrastructure.

President Khatami has relaxed most official censorship of the media since coming to power, encouraging strong interest in the internet.

There are currently seven commercial internet service providers in Iran, serving around 100,000 subscribers.

See also:

13 Mar 01 | Middle East
Iranian leader sees Russian space centre
03 Oct 00 | Middle East
Parliament blow for Iran president
29 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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