Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a spiritual guide for many Shia Muslims, has lashed out at mobile operator Rightel (Tamin Telecom), which holds an exclusive 3G concession for use in the Iranian wireless sector. The Tehran Chronicle reports that the Ayatollah has urged the country’s judiciary to ban 3G services, issuing the following statement: ‘At the current time, I believe these services have more negative sides than their positive features. Also the country and people are not in urgent need of such features, so it is better if the Iranian government suspends 3G services in country’. The development follows a similar move from some legislators, who announced their formal objections to Rightel’s services by saying: ‘Cultural issues are very important for us and there should be an efficient filter to censure anti-Islamic calls and communications’.
According to local press reports, after a lengthy delay 3G operator Rightel finally commenced the sale of SIM cards in February 2012, but has yet to gain a genuine foothold in a marketplace dominated by state-owned Mobile Communication Company of Iran (MCI) and MTN Irancell, despite inaugurating a network based on Dual Carrier (DC)-HSPA+ technology. Although the company is ostensibly owned by Iran’s Social Security Investment Organisation (SSO), rumours abound that the cellco is also backed by a unnamed French telecoms operator. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the cellco’s 3G exclusivity is expected to expire in October 2013.