By: Mir M.Hosseini
As a step towards privatization of Iran's ailing state owned economy, PTT was on top of the list and measures for a second GSM operator were taken in 2004. Although Turkcell won the bid in February, 2004 and was awarded an operating license owning %51 of Irancell, Turkcell failed in finalizing the deal with a $370 million payment which was necessary to put the mobile license in Irancell's hands.
Behind the scenes, with the new hardliner parliament, Turkcell was immediately accused of doing business with Israel and was called a security threat, then the parliament approved a law which demanded a veto over projects with foreign majority control.
In Oct, 2005, Turkcell went to court in an effort to save its stake in Iran. This move made the conflict between Turkcell and the Iranian government even more complicated by new government's apparent willingness to replace the Turkish company with MTN of South Africa. Meanwhile MTN announced that it had paid $358 million to an Iranian bank as its contribution towards the second Iranian mobile license fee and added that it was in negotiations with the ministry of Telecommunication to take a 49% stake in the Irancell joint venture with %51 Iranian interests. On Nov, 27, 2005, Turkcell was officially replaced with MTN who was awarded with the operating license.
Irancell was swift in creating the infrastructures necessary to distribute SIM cards in Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad simultaneously on Oct, 21, 2006. Irancell is currently offering high quality GSM services in Iran alongside innovative GPRS, MMS, SMS, E-Charge, and E-Care which has given the telecommunication market a remarkable acceleration and forced the first operator into some sort of competition over prices and quality of service. Owning a mobile phone number used to cost around $1000 before, compared with $280 currently offered by the same operator.