Megafon Reported to Have Been Granted Iran's 3rd Mobile License

The Iranian T­V channel, Press TV is reporting that Russia's Megafon has been granted a license to build a mobile phone network in the country. Iran has been trying to award the third license after it cancelled a prior tender. When the tender was originally offered last year, both Russia's Megafon and VimpelCom confirmed that they had been approached over a bid for the license.

In May, the government cancelled the license award to Etisalat and said it had awarded it to Zain instead. Etisalat originally won the license in consortium with Taameen Telecom, a company owned by the Iranian Social Security Organization (SSO) that serves more than 30 million Iranians through pension funds. Etisalat has a 49% stake in the joint venture.

Last month, the Iranian government then reportedly stripped Zain of its mobile license in the country, although there was some confusion about whether the company ever had the license in the first place. However, Zain said at the time that it had only been invited to renew its negotiations as the leader of the consortium that came second in the original bid process.

Iran has two main networks, the incumbent state operator, TCI - which the Mobile World estimates ended Q1 '09 with around 30 million customers, and 60% of the market. Irancell ended the month with 18.3 million customers. There are also a few small regional operators with negligible subscriber bases.

In related news, Indonesia's state-owned telco, PT Telekomunikasi recently decided not to pursue an option to buy a stake in Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) after deciding that the risks outweighed the potential rewards.