Iran’s telecom infrastructure has suffered from sanctions in past few years, which prevented the import of equipment and devices and encouraged widespread smuggling, with a consequent loss of tax revenue. To address this, the government introduced a device registration scheme, and bolstered the capacity for domestically manufactured mobile phones.
Operators have invested in broadening the reach of their LTE networks, which has increased network capacity and improved the quality of mobile broadband services. The country is also looking to 5G, with services having been launched by MCI and MTN Irancell in early 2021. The sector is still hamstrung by the paucity of spectrum, though the government is addressing this with plans to auction spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for 5G use.
It has to be noted that Iran is keen to grow its Iran’s digital economy and the National Internet Network (NIN) is pivotal to Iran’s fixed broadband infrastructure plans and overall Smart City progress. From a broad perspective, Iran offers significant opportunities for growth in the telecoms sector. The country has one of the largest populations in the Middle East, and there is a high proportion of youthful, tech savvy users having considerable demand for both fixed and mobile telecom services.
The outbreak of the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains all around the world. During this time, the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device and ICT equipment production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to source necessary equipment or manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may also be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services is likely to be impacted by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. It is largely unknown what the long-term impacts will be as the crisis develops.