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Iran

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Basics Edit

Operators Edit

The Islamic Republic of Iran has 3 major GSM operators:

  • Hamrah-e-Aval = 'the first operator' or MCI (2G, 3G, 4G)
  • Irancell (2G, 3G, 4G)
  • RighTel (3G, 4G)

Further operators are not mentioned, as they are not suitable for data users. Taliya is only on 2G for voice, text and data. MTCE has coverage only in Isfahan State on 2G only. TKC has coverage only in Kish Island on 2G only.

With all 3 featured operators 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started with Hamrah Aval, Irancell and RighTel on 1800 MHz.

History Edit

In August 2014 history was made. After a long dispute amongst the religious leaders, the two prime operators MCI and Irancell were each given permits for a 3G and 4G network. Yet 3G was not new to Iran. In 2011 Rightel, had been granted exclusive rights to provide a 3G network. Despite this, RighTel never reached the popularity of Irancell and Hamrah Aval. In the end, high speed mobile internet, while available, was not widely adopted in Iranian society. This changed in 2014. Beginning September 2014 Irancell started its 3G and in November 2014 its 4G network, MCI followed with their 3G network called Notrino in 2015 and later with 4G.

Regulations Edit

It's possible for foreigners and visitors to buy prepaid SIM cards just by showing your passport and visa in an office of the providers. There, they will make photocopies, may take fingerprints, ask a lot of questions and do the paperwork which can take quite a while.

Censorship Edit

Iran has blocked social media like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in the past. Some sites like Telegram are not totally banned and WhatsApp has been unblocked and some VoIP calls and messaging allowed again. But with this 'openess', a system of smart censorship has been introduced. Certain websites that are considered to be offensive are 'phased out'. In 2016 some thousand user accounts and websites have been blocked and closed in a state-run campaign against social media. Be aware that the internet and especially social media sites are under close surveillance of the state and be considerate of what you post online. Better use a VPN instead to protect your anonymity and get access.

Recommendation Edit

For your convenience Irancell is the recommended provider here, as they have proven to be the least problematic for foreigners and they offer the best rates. They have a handy office at the airport where they can deal perfectly with tourists. Hamrah Aval is generally more expensive and harder to get hold of and Rightel has lost its 3G monopoly with inflated rates in 2014, which gives hardly any reason anymore to use them. That's why MTN Irancell is featured in detail and the other providers are only quoted for their rates.

Irancell (by MTN) Edit

MTN irancell

Irancell, partly state-owned and owned by South African MTN group has been established as 2nd provider in the country. They started with 3G and 4G in late 2014 and already cover 1040 cities with 3G and 240 cities with 4G/LTE in 2016 (coverage map). Thus more than half of the population has access to fast internet now. In 2016 TD-LTE on 3500 MHz (band 42) was started to replace their WiMAX access and is operational in 49 cities so far.

Availability and startup Edit

MTN Irancell SIM cards are very easily available. They have an office at the interntl. airport and in many towns (list of service centers). Their Pay AS You Go Starter Pack contains a SIM Card, registration form and a user guide. These prepaid SIM cards are offered:

  • voice, text and data SIM card, 2G and 3G: 50,000 Rials with 20,000 Rials credit
  • voice, text and data SIM card, 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE: 100,000 Rials with 20,000 Rials credit
  • text and data SIM card, no voice, 2G and 3G: 40,000 Rials with 10,000 Rials credit

Registration Edit

At their office you should do the registration which is required by law to register the details of all its users. In order to register you need to complete the registration form, show your national ID card and a copy of it and take the following steps to submit the registration form together with a copy of your national ID card (on which you have written your MSISDN) to Irancell authorized dealer or Service Center Agent. When sending or submitting the copy of your proof of identity, make sure to have your finger print on them.

Activation Edit

Your mobile number will be activated as soon as the registration is complete. Before you can make or receive your first call, you will need to dial *141*1# to initialise your account.

Topping up and expiry Edit

Topping up can be done with recharge cards found all over the country. You can top up by *144*<voucher PIN># and get a 'WOW' bonus of about 10% of the voucher value.

Credit on these cards never expire. Your SIM card is "everlasting" as long as you make or receive at least one call or send or receive at least one SMS every 90 days for your SIM Card to remain active. You can check your account balance by dialling *141*1#.

Data feature packages Edit

Default rate outside of packages is 0.75 Rial per KB. They offer this myriad of packages:

Iran

Irancell mobile internet packages are provided without any speed limit and based on your location and coverage. For 4G/LTE you need a 4G SIM card and a device with LTE on 1800 MHz.

The weekly and monthly internet packages will be automatically renewed after the expiry dates. Dial *555*5*9# for a list of all packages with the auto-renewal feature. To deactivate this feature, you can simply dial the mentioned code and select the related item to cancel.

If you purchase two packages simultaneously, the auto-renewal will happen at the expiry of the second package.If you reorder another package before the expiry of the current one, the remaining credit (remaining kilobytes of traffic) of the previous period can be transferred to the new period. The long-term packs and the special packs of 2am to 2pm and 12am to 12pm, are excluded from this rule.

More information Edit

Hamrah-e-Aval = the first operator (by MCI) Edit

MCI

Hamrah-e-Aval, in Farsi: همراه اول‎, in English: the first operator, is still the market leader in Iran. It is owned by the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran, better known as MCI. In 2015 they began with their 3G network, that they call Notrino. Though being still number one in the country they lag behind Irancell in 3G and 4G coverage. In late 2015 they started with 4G too, being only available to 10% of MCI customers so far.

For availability, startup, activation, topping up and expiry see Irancell as this is very similar. To activate the Neutrino 3G/4G data service send a blank SMS to 8088 or dial *111*231#.

Data feature packages Edit

They offer two lines of internet packages called Alpha and Alpha+. While Alpha is limited to 196 kbps only, Alpha+ offers 8 Mbps download speed.

  • Alpha (max. 196 kbps)
    • 150 MB, 1 day: 1000 Rials, activation: *100*11#
    • 800 MB, 7 days: 5000 Rials, activation: *100*12#
    • 2.5 GB, 30 days: 10000 Rials, activation: *100*13#
    • 800 MB night traffic 23pm-8am, 7 nights, 1000 Rials, activation: #14*100*
  • Alpha+ (max. 8 Mbps)
    • 100 MB + 100 MB at night:
      • 1 day: 1500 Rials, activation: *100*21*1#
      • 7 days: 2500 Rials, activation: *100*22*1#
      • 30 days: 4000 Rials, activation: *100*23*1#
    • 300 MB + 300 MB at night
      • 1 day: 3500 Rials, activation: *100*21*2#
      • 7 days: 5000 Rials, activation: *100*22*2#
      • 30 days: 7000 Rials, activation: *100*23*2#
    • 1 GB + 1 GB at night
      • 1 day: 9000 Rials, activation: *100*21*3#
      • 7 days: 10,000 Rials, activation: *100*22*3#
      • 30 days: 13,000 Rials, activation: *100*23*3#
    • 3 GB + 3 GB at night
      • 1 day: 10,000 Rials, activation: *100*21*4#
      • 7 days: 13,500 Rials, activation: *100"22*4#
      • 30 days: 17,000 Rials, activation: *100*23*4#

Night time bonus on the Alpha+ packages is from 2am to 7am. All packages auto-renew. To stop, dial *100*#8.

More information Edit

RighTel Edit

RighTel

RighTel is the 3rd operator in Iran. It was granted a 3G license in 2011 and it had a monopoly on 3G 2011-2014 in the country. Rightel works great in certain parts of large cities, but has horrible (or non existent) coverage in smaller cities and many rural areas. Many people thought its prices were too high, and the speeds given were much slower than what was advertised. High speed internet also caused some cultural controversies, leading RighTel to restrict selling its SIM cards to those 18 and older.

Nowadays Irancell and MTC have surpassed their coverage. They are still on 3G only and do some roaming for voice and text on Irancell in 2G (coverage map in Farsi) charging very high prices.

Availability Edit

As a foreigner, you can only buy the RighTel SIM card at the office located at Sahid Navab-e Safavi Metro Station, Line 2 (Exit: Azarbayejan Street West, the office is right next to the exit), closes at 6pm.

You will have to show your original passport with a valid Iranian visa, a photocopy will not be accepted. They will also ask you lots of personal info, your name, your father’s name, your education, occupation, address in Teheran and postal code (a hotel address is accepted, better check out the postal code first). Fingerprint 5 times, signature 5 times. Done! Expect to spend around 90 minutes there.

A SIM card starter packs is sold for 200,000 Rials with 500 MB, 10,000 minutes to RighTel and 10,000 SMS to RighTel valid for 30 days. Top-ups are sold 10,000 - 1,000,000 Rials giving 30-720 days of validity.

Data feature packages Edit

Their prices seem to be totally inflated compared to their new competitors. Default rate is 0.5 Rial per KB on 3G and 0.35 Rial on 2G. These packages are offered for data.

  • on the voice and data SIM card:
    • 200 MB, 7 days, 30,000 Rials
    • 1.5 GB, 30 days, 125,000 Rials
    • 3 GB, 30 days, 199,000 Rials

More information

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