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First Iranian MVNO Commercially Launched

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First Iranian MVNO Commercially LaunchedFirst Iranian MVNO Commercially Launched

Iran’s major Internet service provider Shatel Group (aka Arya Rasana Tadbir Co.) started offering Mobile Virtual Network Operator services on September 2.

The service was launched at a special ceremony held in Tehran at the National Library of Iran. Shatel is Iran’s first operational MVNO.

A MVNO is a wireless communications service provider that does not own the mobile network infrastructure over which it offers the services to customers, but pays a fee to the network operators.

Shatel CEO Arash Karimbeigi said, “The MVNO service, dubbed Shatel Mobile, is now available in 600 cities in the country.”

Shatel Mobile SIMs can be used for conducting phone calls, texting, and accessing Internet. Karimbeigi added, “Our costs are relatively lower than what our rivals offer.”

A glance at the communication tariff charts of the major Iranian mobile operators indicates that his claim is true to some extent. Shatel charges its subscribers relatively less compared to the two other main operators, Irancell and Mobile Communication Company of Iran. However, RighTel, the third mobile operator, offers the cheapest services among the major players.

Just like other operators, Shatel offers contract and pay-as-you-go SIM cards.

Furthermore, aiming to cater to the needs of foreign visitors the company is set to introduce a “Tourist SIM” in the coming months. The company did not say whether the SIMs will also be sold outside Iran.

During the ceremony, the company founder and chairman of the board Mohammad Hassan Shanehsazzadeh said Sahtel “has one million Internet service subscribers.”

The company is aiming “to tap the 1-million-strong community to attract mobile subscribers.” Special packages will be offered to current subscribers of Shatel. He did not provide any further details on the packages.

>Tailored Services

Globally, through the communication packages, value added services and cutting costs, MVNOs have been able to claim a share of the telecoms market.

In a talk with the press, Mahmoud Vaezi, the former telecoms minister said, “MVNOs presence will complement the work of local mobile operators.”

Before leaving office he had said that the MVNOs’ main purpose will be to offer value added services.

VAS is a popular telecommunications industry term for non-core services, or, in short, all services beyond standard voice calls and text messaging. In telecom jargon, VAS adds value to the standard service and lures subscribers to use their phones more and drive profits.

Some of the services offered under the category are news and entertainment, location-based services and advertisement.

Each MVNO caters to the needs of a specific market. For instance, one Iranian firm, Amin MVNO, is set to cater to the youth offering locally produced content tailored to specific age groups. So far Shatel has not said anything about its VAS services.

>Financial Struggle

In an earlier interview with Financial Tribune, independent telecoms expert David Whitefoot said, “The major operators have rendered the MVNO market economically unfeasible.”

Due to the operators’ refusal to lower the wholesale price the MVNOs are struggling to attract investors and the fact remains that “they can make profits only via VAS.”

Four other companies so far have been able to acquire permits from the  Communications Regulatory Authority of Iran for offering MVNO services. All four are backed by local banks and financial companies.

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