Sci & Tech

SIM Card Market Saturated

SIM Card Market SaturatedSIM Card Market Saturated

Official statistics released to local media indicate that SIM cards have a penetration rate of over 190% in Iran.

Despite this, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, a large proportion of the SIM cards are inactive, ISNA reported.

  MCI or Hamrah-e-Avval

Statistics show that by the end of the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2016), Iran's first mobile operator Mobile Telecommunications Company of Iran (MCI or Hamrah-e-Avval) sold more than 18,081,000 contract SIM cards that account for a 55.2% of that company's market share.

Reportedly, 14,636,500 of MCI's contract SIMs are actively used whereas the remaining Pay-as-You-Go SIMs are dormant.

As for prepaid SIMs, the company sold 45,434,000 prepaid SIMs while only 28,848,500 of them are active.

In all, MCI sold 63,486,000 SIMs, of which a little over 43,485,000 (68.49%) of all the SIMs are actively used while almost a third remain inactive.

Previously, in April 2015, MCI disconnected 20,000 SIM cards from its network, the company’s CEO announced at the time.

The company took the measure to sort out unidentifiable SIM cards in the network and eliminate chances of illegal SIM usage, Mehr News Agency quoted Vahid Sadouqi as saying at the time.

The company had initiated the move in December 2014 when customers first received a notice and were asked to complete their information on MCI’s database, including their official ID numbers via text message.

Communications Regulations Authority had warned that customers who failed to provide the information would be cut off from the network in a month. The deadline, however, was extended several times.

Many SIM card owners submitted their ID numbers and the information was corroborated by the network. On March 28, 2015, CRA and MCI eventually cut off remaining SIM cards that had not been identified.


By March 19, 2016, the second largest mobile phone network operator of Iran, MTN-Irancell, had sold 747,000 contract SIMs—a little over half of which (310,000) were actively used.

Irancell also sold over 79,136,000 prepaid SIMs, only 30,235,000 of which are actively used.

The second operator has sold a total of 79,884,000 SIMs with only 30,546,000 of the SIMs actively used.

This means that an estimated 38.23% of Irancell's SIMs are actively used while the remaining 61.77% are inactive.

Reportedly, Irancell has a penetration rate of 38.23% in the country.

Its prepaid SIM cards have become synonymous in recent years with their cheap throwaway like quality.  


During its relatively shorter period of operation, RighTel, the third largest mobile phone network operator of Iran, has been selling three different types of SIMs.

Founded in 2007, the company has been offering contract, prepaid and data SIM cards.

By March 19, the third operator sold 117,428 contract SIMs, a third of which (34,524) are active.

The operator also sold 6,288,000 contract SIMs while only 1,849,000 of the cards are in active use. In other words, over 70% of the prepaid SIMs are not actively used.

RighTel, the first operator to offer 3G services in Iran, also sold 573,000 data SIM cards during this period. Only 168,500 of the SIMs are reportedly actively used.

The company sold 6,978,500 SIMs and recorded a penetration rate of 2.6% in the country.  

Of all the RighTel SIMs sold, 2,052,000 (29.4%) are actively used while nearly 70.6% are not.        

In April 2015, a plan was put forth by CRA that that owners of more than 10 SIM cards will be identified, local technology website WebNA reported at the time.  

The plan called on owners of multiple SIMs to hand over their extra numbers.

The new legal limit on the number of SIM cards, which can be owned by one individual, was reportedly 10 and the measure was taken to redistribute idle numbers.