Iran signs mobile network deal with state-owned Tamin

 TEHRAN, April 25 (Reuters) - The Iranian government granted a license for the country's third mobile telephone network to state-owned Tamin Telecom, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.

"The license was given on Saturday to (Tamin Telecom) along with its consortium, and we are hopeful its sim cards will reach the market in the course of the current year," communications minister Reza Taqipour was quoted as saying.

The report did not say which other companies were in the winning consortium. In January 2009 the licence was initially granted to a consortium of Tamin and Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) but was later withdrawn.

It was then given in May to Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) but that deal fell apart when Iran said Zain had not fulfilled its obligations, and launched a new tender.

The current telecom operators in Iran are the state-owned Iran Telecommunication Company (TCI) and Irancell, which is 49 percent owned by MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa's biggest mobile phone company.

U.S. sanctions bar American companies from operating in Iran and United Nations sanctions have made other firms wary of investing. However, analysts say the size of the market and its energy riches could still make it an attractive prospect.

Iran has a mobile penetration rate of less than 60 percent in a market where about half of its 70 million population is under 25 years of age. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Jerry Norton)