Iran to Announce 3rd GSM License Tender Within Days

Iran is expected to announce a tender for a third GSM license in the country within the next few days, but may be required to offer generous terms to encourage investors into the country. The political interference in the tender for the second mobile license is still causing legal problems at the International Court for Arbitration.

Turkey's Turkcell started international arbitration procedures over difficulties it experienced in launching a new network in Iran. Turkcell, though its 51% owned subsidiary - Irancell, originally signed an operator license with the Iranian government in 2004, but it fell foul of a clamp down on foreign investments by the conservative Parliament. The Parliament accused the company of having links with Israel - and after a year of battles, the license was reissued - this time to South Africa's MTN Group.

MTN took a minority 49% stake, while 51% was allocated to the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC).

Iran’s minister of communications and information technology, Mohammad Soleimani said, “The international tender for Iran’s third cell phone operator will be published in newspapers by the next two days,” He added that the project is estimated to attract US$3 billion in investment.

Russia's Megafon and VimpelCom say that they have already been approached over a bid for the license.

The country allegedly launched its first rocket capable of launching a satellite into space last week, which the country says will be used in the future to launch a communications satellite.

Iran has two main networks, the incumbent state operator, TCI - which the Mobile World estimates ended Q1 '08 with some 24.5 million customers, and 59% of the market. Irancell ended the month with an impressive 9 million customers after just over a year of operations. There are also a few small regional operators with negligible subscriber bases.