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Telecommunication Company of Iran Relents, Agrees to Share Infrastructure With ISPs

In response to pressure from communications ombudsman, Telecommunication Company of Iran signed two agreements with local Internet service providers Shatel and HiWeb, as per which the state-owned company will share its networks with the two firms
Telecommunication Company of Iran Relents, Agrees to Share Infrastructure With ISPs Telecommunication Company of Iran Relents, Agrees to Share Infrastructure With ISPs
CRA chief, Hussein Fallah, says the TCI fiber-optic network will be shared with FCP permit holders and the [state-owned] company’s monopoly over the key sector will come to a permanent end

Telecommunication Company of Iran has signed two agreements with local Internet service providers Shatel and HiWeb according to which the state-owned company will share its networks with the two private firms.

Last July the Communication Regulatory Authority issued a mandate it calls ‘Wholesale Bitstream Access’ obliging TCI to share its infrastructure with private companies.

“In order to comply with the ombudsman’s July directive, TCI has developed a system for sharing its network with private entities,” CITNA quoted the TCI chief Majid Sadri as saying.

Bitstream access refers to the situation where a telephony company installs a high-speed access link to customers’ premises and then makes this access link available to third parties, to enable them to provide high-speed services to customers.

“A deal has been signed with Shatel and Hiweb. TCI is open to collaboration with all fixed communication service providers (FCPs),” he added.

Other companies likely to sign similar agreements with TCI are AsiaTech, Pars Online, Saba Net, Psihgaman, Helma Gostar and Afra Net.

 Improving Quality

About the need and necessity of opening up the ISP market CRA director, Hussein Fallah, says, “The July regulation is aimed at boosting competitiveness in the market and enabling local firms to use the telecom infrastructure to the full extent.”

He said the TCI’s fiber-optic network will be shared with FCP permit holders and therefore, the state-owned company’s monopoly over the sector will come to an end. “This can and must increase the quality of services.”

The ombudsman vowed that the CRA will closely monitor the mandate.

The July mandate is part of a plan of action by CRA and the Telecoms Ministry to ease the TCI’s ironclad grip on the key sector whose role and significance in the economy and trade has been increasing in leaps and bounds across the world.

Earlier this year the CRA issued permits to the state-backed Iranian Net Communication and Electronic Services Co for installing fiber optic cables. Prior to this, the TCI was the only company that laid the cables.

 Real-life Impact

TCI is a state-owned company with a monopoly over the landline telecom network. In addition to telephony services it also sells broadband Internet services.

The company has laid fiber optic cables in several areas in Tehran and other major cities replacing copper cables that were the norm in the not too distant past. While public funds have been used for establishing and modernizing the networks, TCI did not allow the private ISPs to sell services through the newly-laid cables.

Whenever customers demanded Internet services in areas that TCI has laid fiber optic cables in, they received an official bland message saying: Only TCI can offer an Internet connection in your area.

One of the oft-mentioned criticisms by the people is that TCI services are of inferior quality and they rather subscribe to private ISPs.

Earlier in January, the CRA released the results of a survey on users’ opinion about major local Internet service providers through which users were questioned about the general quality of services, speed, costs and after-sales services. Based on this criteria and users’ input, ISPs received up to 20 scores from CRA.

Small wonder the TCI fared poorly in the survey and could make only 11.51 points out of 20 — the lowest among major landline ISPs.

The company has some 30 million landline telephone subscribers and 4.8 million Internet subscribers. By the end of 2016, some 10 million households (62.2% at the time) had access to landline Internet.

The agreements signed between TCI and private ISPs are yet to come to fruition but they have renewed hopes among the public and market observers that the telecom behemoth is finally coming out of the throes of state protection.

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