The Iranian government is facing criticism over its decision to award further licences for 3G mobile services. Conservative politicians and religious leaders are condemning the expansion plans, saying the technology will encourage political unrest and undermine Islamic beliefs via the wider availability of social media and mobile video platforms. The leading Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has condemned the Communication Ministry’s licensing plans and has reportedly issued a fatwa banning any attempts ‘to expand the speed and multimedia capability of mobile networks,’ which he says are against ‘religion, morality and humanity’. According to a report from English-language news portal Asharq Al-Awsat, President Hassan Rouhani is prepared to lock horns with his opponents as he is keen to promote the wider availability of communications networks and loosening of restrictions on internet use. The country’s third national cellular licensee, Rightel, has just seen its two-year exclusivity period on 3G services come to an end, and rival operators MTN Irancell and state-owned Mobile Communication Company of Iran (MCI) are eager to launch their own 3G systems.
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