Iran: Cellphone Penetration Rate at 33%

The number of cell phone users has exceeded those for fixed phones across the country for the first time, chairman of the Telecommunications Company of Iran's Board of Directors said.

Vafa Ghaffarian explained that cellphone penetration rate currently stands at above 33 percent.

At present, the first cellphone network operator has over 19.5 million subscribers, of whom three million use credit SIM cards, he pointed out, IRNA reported.

He underlined that if the 3.5 million subscribers of IranCell, one million customers of Taliya SIM cards and operators of Kish and Isfahan are also included, the number of cellphone users will be over 24 million.

The official said that the provinces of Tehran (5.5 million), Isfahan (1.4 million), Fars (1.2 million), Hamedan (1.18 million) and Khuzestan (1.12 million) rank first to fifth respectively in terms of the number of cellphone users.

Underlining that the cellphone network would witness the highest growth in the year to March 2008, he predicted that given the planning in the sector, new five million SIM cards would be offered to applicants, putting the total number of cellphone users at 28.5 million.

Turning to efforts to increase the quality of cellphone network, he said that about 30 highways in Tehran province have favorable conditions for good mobile network connection.

He elaborated that about 287 main roads of Tehran are covered by the cellphone network, adding the quality of the network is constantly controlled with the help of the private sector.

Meanwhile, Economic Council has mandated the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to launch third and fourth cellphone operators.

The council also agreed with investments of over 20.1 billion rials in Cellphone Communication Company from domestic financial sources, IRIB reported.

Allocation of the fund is conditional upon launching third and fourth cellphone operators by the ministry.

The ministry has been also obliged to expedite the implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution by transferring shares of Iran Telecommunication Company to private ownership.

The article seeks large-scale privatization in key economic areas.