Mobile services are widely available in Iran, with services on offer from three major mobile network operators - MCI, MTN Irancell and Rightel - which are able to offer services on a national basis.
In March 2017 competition in the mobile sector was set to increase further with the country's largest ISP, Shatel Group, reportedly given permission to begin offering full MVNO services in Iran. It would operate under the brand name Shatel Mobile. HiWeb, which signed a partnership deal with Vodafone Group in October 2016, was also awarded a licence from the CRA to offer SIM cards under a local brand name.
Mobile data services are available but account for a small proportion of total revenue. This is expected to increase over time as mobile data services increasingly underpin future revenue growth, made possible by the launch of 3G/HSPA and 4G LTE services. Recently WiMAX services in Iran were replaced with TDD-LTE services by two operators, Irancell and ISP MobinNet.
Iran is currently implementing its 6th Development Plan which runs between 2016 and 2021, and contains a number of measures to transform the telecoms sector. For example, the development plan aims to increase Internet bandwidth; encourage foreign and private investment in the telecoms sector as well as make structural changes to the telecoms incumbent, Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI).
Internet usage is growing due to improved accessibility brought about by competition and government initiatives designed to improve ICT accessibility. Iran has been developing its own National intranet that will host only approved Islamic content. Known as the National Information Network (NIN); it went live e in August 2016 and will offer speeds of up to 10 Tb/s as part of an upgrade underway in 2017. The NIN is designed to complement the Internet and operates on Iran's fibre network.
The lifting of economic sanctions in early 2016 was expected to facilitate a big boost to Iran's economy. However, in 2017 it became apparent that the economic transformation of Iran is occurring at a slower pace than expected, with industry analysts commenting that Iran needs to reduce its reliance on oil and strengthen other industry sectors.