Economy, Business And Markets

Gov’t Push Reduces Mobile Internet Prices

Gov’t Push Reduces Mobile Internet PricesGov’t Push Reduces Mobile Internet Prices

Soon after President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013, his minister of communication and information technology pledged major reforms to the ICT sector both in terms of the quality and the prices of services.

Despite the existence of some internal pressures, Mahmoud Vaezi has helped put an end to the monopoly in providing mobile broadband services, which used to be provided only by the youngest of the three main operators, RighTel. The company is owned by the Social Security Investment Company. After the end of the state-operated monopoly announced by the ICT ministry, other mobile network operators such as the Iranian-South African MTN-Irancell were permitted to offer 3G and 4G services to their subscribers.

Vaezi, a former diplomat who was also nominated by Rouhani’s advisors for the top foreign ministry post in 2013, has in numerous occasions slammed some mobile operators and internet service providers (ISPs) for the poor quality of services they have been providing. He accused them of charging the subscribers with unreasonably high fees for limited services and slow connections. Late in November, the minister publicly announced the new regulations introduced by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), which required the mobile operators to significantly reduce their prices for internet services.

Since the mobile phone operators, excluding RighTel, started offering 3G internet in summer, many people have been complaining about the fees the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI) charges its customers. Talking to many mobile subscribers, the Financial Tribune found out that the quality of services provided by the MCI is far from satisfactory, let alone the ‘ridiculous’ prices it charges.

“I activated my 3G internet on my Hamrah Aval (MCI) SIM card and bought a 100,000-rial ($2.8) data package,” Nima, a broker at Tehran Stock Exchange, told the Financial Tribune. “But after a month or so, I was taken aback after I received a bill from the MCI, saying I had to pay 1,250,000 rials ($35.1) for my mobile internet.”

On the other hand, other operators have long been providing satisfactory services at reasonable prices. Based on CRA’s new rules, MTN-Irancell has reduced its mobile internet prices from the previous 50 rials per kilobyte of data to just 0.5 rials. The same amount of data for free use of mobile data (without buying certain data packages) was up to 14.7 rials for MCI subscribers until recently. The company is now forced to give in to the new CRA regulations and reduce the prices.

The dramatic reduction in mobile data prices seems to be good news for most of 64.1 million subscribers of the MCI, regardless of the quality of the services the company offers. The MCI was originally a state company but was later listed on the stock market following the enforcement of the privatization law. But like many other previously state-owned companies, the top managers are still appointed by those close to government circles.

Earlier in August, the ICT minister affirmed that services provided by some mobile operators are not satisfactory in terms of quality and speed, according to MNA.

Iran’s 20-Year Vision Plan clarifies that Iran should improve its ranking to first in the region in 2025 regarding investment in telecommunication infrastructure as well as the quality and use of internet services.