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. According to user experience the GPRS service was unreliable and download speeds pretty slow. As a general rule, 4G is available in big cities and 3G in mid-sized ones, while there's very basic coverage in rural places, if at all.
Up to 2018 using a local SIM card used to be quite easy in Iran. In 2018 a new National Mobile Registry Scheme took in effect. It requires that you import your device paying customs and register its IMEI number as long as you want to use a local Iranian SIM card for more than 30 days. Visitors with shorter stays or roaming with an foreign SIM card don't need to follow these rules. This new hurdle similar to Turkey's rules leads to the greylisting of Iran as some users may face additional problems
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.
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.
At the end of 2016 the Iranian Govenment replaced the local currency Rial by Toman. 1 Toman is equal to 10 Rials. Official prices are now advertised in Toman, but bank notes remain still in Rial. This article follows the new rates given by Irancell and MCI in Toman and RighTel in Rial, so multiply with 10 to get the Rial (IRR) rate or divide by 10 to get the Toman rate.
IMEI registration Edit
With the implementation of Iran’s National Mobile Registry Scheme back in 2017, all mobile phones must be registered to be eligible for using local Iranian SIM cards. This doesn't apply to foreign SIM cards roaming in Iran.
Since the actual implementation of the registry scheme in 2018, all new mobiles must be registered to receive service from Iranian mobile operators. Travellers including expats visiting Iran, foreign tourists and businesspeople visiting the country are exempt. They can use Iranian SIM cards on their phones for a maximum of 30 days (since the first day of using the SIM card) without registering.
If you’re among the travellers who plan to use an Iranian SIM card for more than 30 days, you must register your phone at the airport’s customs office after paying an import tax for the device which will be determined by customs’ officials. For more details check this site. If you intend to stay longer, you can pay a fee of 18% of the phone's value and get it registered. There is an app and a website (https://hamta.ntsw.ir) as well, but they are in Farsi only.
Other choices than to "import" your phone paying hefty costums are:
- buying a local WiFi hotspot router or phone from Irancell (see below)
- using a roaming SIM card (MTX.eu seems to be the cheapest, but it roams only on the weaker Rightel network, for details check our all countries section).
Users who stay for less than 30 days can ignore the messages about registration. But you can't use this SIM card, if you going to re-enter the country later as it will be blocked.
Iran has blocked some websites and social media like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Some apps like Telegram are not completely banned and WhatsApp has been unblocked and some VoIP calls and messaging are 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 to common sites like Facebook or Twitter.
From April 30, 2018 Iran's judiciary has banned indefinitely the popular Telegram messaging app to protect "national security". It was blamed for "propaganda against the establishment, terrorist activities, spreading lies to incite public opinion, anti-government protests and pornography". Telegram was thought to have up to 40 million users in Iran and refuses to give a backdoor to security agencies.
For your convenience Irancell is the recommended provider in Iran, as they have proven to be the least problematic for foreigners and offer the best rates. They have a handy office at the airport where they can deal with tourists. Hamrah Aval is generally more expensive and harder to get hold of and Rightel has lost its 3G monopoly with high 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
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.
By the end of 2016 10.4 million subscribers use 3G internet provided by Irancell and nearly 1.6 million subscribers use Irancell’s 4G internet.
Availability and start-up 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 regular starter pack for 10,000 Toman contains a SIM Card, registration form and a user guide. These prepaid SIM cards are offered:
You should do the registration at their store, 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.
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
Top-up your credit by recharge cards sold at vendors displaying yellow and blue MTN signs. Vendors will usually charge about 10% more than the card’s face value for their service.
You can top-up by *144*<voucher PIN># .
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 0.06 Toman per KB. For 4G/LTE you need a 4G SIM card and a device with LTE on 1800 MHz. Irancell mobile internet packages are provided without any speed limit and based on your location and coverage. They offer this myriad of packages:
|unlimited||valid at night||1 hour||Toman 900||*555*6*1#|
|unlimited||valid at night||2 hours||Toman 1500||*555*6*2#|
|unlimited||valid at night||3 hours||Toman 2000||*555*6*3#|
|25 MB||1 day||Toman 600||*555*5*1*1#|
|50 MB||1 day||Toman 900||*555*5*1*9#|
|50 MB||150 MB at night||1 day||Toman 1200||*555*5*1*6#|
|100 MB||150 MB at night||1 day||Toman 1500||*555*5*1*10#|
|150 MB||150 MB at night||1 day||Toman 2000||*555*5*1*2#|
|200 MB||400 MB at night||1 day||Toman 3000||*555*5*1*5#|
|500 MB||1 day||Toman 3000||*555*5*1*4#|
|750 MB||valid 12am-12pm||1 day||Toman 2500||*555*5*1*11#|
|1 GB||1 day||Toman 4000||*555*5*1*7#|
|2 GB||1 day||Toman 6000||*555*5*1*8#|
|100 MB||3 days||Toman 2000||*555*5*12*1#|
|200 MB||3 days||Toman 3000||*555*5*12*2#|
|500 MB||3 days||Toman 4000||*555*5*12*3#|
|1 GB||3 days||Toman 5000||*555*5*12*4#|
|1.5 GB||valid 12am-12pm||3 days||Toman 5000||*555*5*12*6#|
|2 GB||3 days||Toman 7000||*555*5*12*5#|
|40 MB||7 days||Toman 1500||*555*5*2*8#|
|60 MB||7 days||Toman 2000||*555*5*2*10#|
|100 MB||100 MB at night||7 days||Toman 2500||*555*5*2*2#|
|200 MB||200 MB at night||7 days||Toman 4000||*555*5*2*3#|
|400 MB||500 MB at night||7 days||Toman 5000||*555*5*2*1#|
|1 GB||1 GB at night||7 days||Toman 8000||*555*5*2*4#|
|2 GB||7 days||Toman 10,000||*555*5*2*11#|
|4 GB||valid 12am-12pm||7 days||Toman 12,000||*555*5*2*14#|
|4 GB||7 days||Toman 14,000||*555*5*2*12#|
|6 GB||7 days||Toman 18,000||*555*5*2*13#|
|200 MB||15 days||Toman 4000||*555*5*13*1#|
|500 MB||15 days||Toman 7000||*555*5*13*2#|
|1 GB||15 days||Toman 9000||*555*5*13*3#|
|2 GB||15 days||Toman 11,000||*555*5*13*4#|
|4 GB||15 days||Toman 15,000||*555*5*13*5#|
|6 GB||15 days||Toman 19,000||*555*5*13*6#|
|200 MB||30 days||Toman 5000||*555*5*3*1#|
|1.5 GB||1 GB at night||30 days||Toman 10,000||*555*5*3*2#|
|1.5 GB||1.5 GB at night||30 days||Toman 11,000||*555*5*3*6#|
|2.5 GB||2.5 GB at night||30 days||Toman 14,000||*555*5*3*7#|
|3 GB||30 days||Toman 13,000||*555*5*3*5#|
|3 GB||6 GB at night||30 days||Toman 22,000||*555*5*3*13#|
|4 GB||30 days||Toman 16,500||*555*5*3*15#|
|5 GB||30 days||Toman 20,000||*555*5*3*3#|
|5 GB||5 GB at night||30 days||Toman 25,000||*555*5*3*10#|
|7 GB||30 days||Toman 24,000||*555*5*3*16#|
|8 GB||8 GB at night||30 days||Toman 32,000||*555*5*3*12#|
|10 GB||30 days||Toman 32,500||*555*5*3*17#|
|12 GB||12 GB at night||30 days||Toman 50,000||*555*5*3*8#|
|18 GB||18 GB at night||30 days||Toman 70,000||*555*5*3*14#|
For their 2, 3, 6, and 12-months packages check here. Night use is 2am to 8am.
The weekly or monthly packages purchased through MyIrancell application or *555*5# USSD will auto-renew by default. You can deactivate this feature through MyIrancell app or *555*5*9#. Only packages equal to or above 1 GB volume will be renewed when the package finishes or when the package expires, whichever occurs first. Packages less than 1 GB are renewable only when they expire. Note that if a package has been purchased more than once, the renewal occurs on the last package.
Tourist SIM Edit
Sold at a booth upstairs in Teheran's Imam Khomeini International Airport Irancell sells a Tourist SIM with one month validity. It is slightly more expensive than a local SIM and it can't be extended it time, but topped up with volume. To use this SIM card you need to register first there by passport ID number. The Visitor SIM is sold in three sizes:
- 20,000 Toman: 1.5 GB and 2,000 Toman in airtime for 1 month
- 35,000 Toman: 3 GB and 14,000 Toman in airtime for 1 month
- 50,000 Toman: 5 GB and 22,000 Toman in airtime for 1 month
Furthermore, tourists can also purchase SIM cards and modems from airport taxi drivers. Irancell SIM cards are offered for 600,000 Tonan with unspecifed data. Both modems and SIMs enable customers to use Irancell’s 4G internet services.
More information Edit
- APN: mtnirancell
- Website in English: https://irancell.ir/portal/home/?27092/Personal
Hamrah-e-Aval = the first operator (by MCI) Edit
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/4G coverage. In late 2015 they started with 4G too, being only available to 10% of MCI customers so far.
In 2017 some 13 million subscribers actively use internet provided by Hamrah-e-Avval or MCI, giving it the biggest share of the market. The number of MCI subscribers to 3G and 4G Internet has been reported as 12.8 million and 297,000 respectively, however many are unable to receive 4G as MCI only recently started giving out 4G SIMs. By the end of 2016 MCI covered 547 cities with 3G Internet while providing 33 cities with 4G Internet.
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 512 kbps only, Alpha+ offers 8 Mbps download speed. These Alpha+ packages are offered:
|30 MB||30 MB||1 day||Toman 900||*100*215#|
|100 MB||100 MB||1 day||Toman 1500||*100*211#|
|300 MB||300 MB||1 day||Toman 3500||*100*212#|
|1 GB||1 GB||1 day||Toman 9000||*100*213#|
|3 GB||3 GB||1 day||Toman 10,000||*100*214#|
|50 MB||50 MB||7 days||Toman 1800||*100*225#|
|100 MB||100 MB||7 days||Toman 2500||*100*221#|
|300 MB||300 MB||7 days||Toman 5000||*100*222#|
|1 GB||1 GB||7 days||Toman 10,000||*100*223#|
|3 GB||3 GB||7 days||Toman 13,500||*100*224#|
|100 MB||100 MB||30 days||Toman 4000||*100*231#|
|300 MB||300 MB||30 days||Toman 7000||*100*232#|
|1 GB||1 GB||30 days||Toman 10,000||*100*233#|
|2 GB||2 GB||30 days||Toman 12,000||*100*234#|
|4 GB||4 GB||30 days||Toman 17,000||*100*235#|
|5 GB||30 days||Toman 15,000||*100*2367#|
|6 GB||1 GB||30 days||Toman 19,900||*100*236*111#|
|7 GB||1 GB||30 days||Toman 21,900||*100*236*123#|
|10 GB||30 days||Toman 24,900||*100*2368#|
|15 GB||30 days||Toman 35,000||*100*236*112#|
|25 GB||30 days||Toman 54,000||*100*236*113#|
Night time bonus on the Alpha+ packages is valid from 2am to 7am. All packages auto-renew. To stop, dial *100*#8. There are more packages for 3, 6 or 12 months you can find here in Farsi.
More information Edit
- APN: mcinet
- Website in Farsi only: http://www.mci.ir
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 easily 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. The third operator RighTel reportedly has a total of some 2 million mobile internet users at the end of 2016. RighTel’s 3G Internet coverage expands through 520 cities across Iran. It has only recently started with 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz in the capital. They can't be recommended for travellers.
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 20,000 - 1,000,000 Rials giving 30-720 days of validity.
Data feature packages Edit
Default rate is 0.5 Rial per KB on 3G and 0.35 Rial on 2G. RightTel differs between Basic speed packages that remain on 2G and are pretty useless and Professional speed packs with 3G/4G:
|300 MB||1 day||Rial 30,000||*142*1*1*3*1#|
|400 MB||3 days||Rial 50,000||*142*1*1*3*2#|
|600 MB||500MB at night||7 days||Rial 55,000||*142*1*1*3*4#|
|2.5 GB||2GB at||7 days||Rial 120,000||*142*1*1*3*5#|
|3 GB||10GB at night||7 days||Rial 170,000||*142*1*1*3*3#|
|350 MB||10 days||Rial 60,000||*142*1*1*3*6#|
|3 GB||3GB at night||30 days||Rial 150,000||*142*1*1*3*7#|
|7 GB||30 days||Rial 270,000||*142*1*1*3*8#|
|10 GB||only valid at night||30 days||Rial 150,000||*142*1*1*3*10#|
Unlike MCI and Irancell the prices are given in Rial. Night hours are 2am-8am. More information
- APN: RighTel
- Website in English: https://www.rightel.ir/en/