EghtesadOnline: It can and must be said that 2016 was indeed a transformative year for Iran's telecommunications, tech and startup industries as it embarks on the path to maturity with effectiveness.
Local developments too have been positive with mobile users seeing a raft of new apps and services on offer. The government during the past year has also made a concerted effort to shift many of its services online.
The first month of the year started quietly. However, several foreign firms began their slow but steady entry into post-sanctions Iran.
Local mobile phone importer and after-sales service company Yas announced it had become ZTE new cell phone representative in the country, Financial Tribune reported.
Iran and China were negotiating a deal to start cooperation on Iran's fiber optic and satellite projects.
On the back of ZTE's entry, fellow Chinese mobile maker Xiaomi said they were entering the Iranian market with full force as sanctions were being eased.
Two collaboration agreements were signed in Tehran during the official visit of Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. The agreements forge ties between the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne with two prominent universities, namely Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the Sharif University of Technology.
Telegram, a messaging app launched by Russian Pavel Durov passed 100 million monthly active users in February, more than 70 million of the users are believed to be in Iran.
Internet hotel booking service booking.com began listing Tehran's hotels on its website for the first time. The two locations include Ferdowsi Grand Hotel and Tehran Grand Hotel.
Tabriz Islamic Art University produced their first three-dimensional printer, being the first academic institution in Iran to do so.
Iran launched its first Turkmen language dictionary called Sozluk.ir according to researchers involved in the landmark project.
The United States’ Commerce Department placed export restrictions on Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE Corp. for allegedly violating US export controls on Iran dating back to 2012.
Iran's Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari and Kazakh Minister of Investment and Development Asset Issekeshev signed memorandums of understanding in the fields of science and technology.
South African President Jacob Zuma concluded a two-day visit aimed at bolstering trade relations with Iran. Following his comments, he said MTN, Irancell's part owner, would repatriate 15 billion South African rands ($1 billion) from Iran by June (it took until December).
Iran's first operator, Hamrah-e-Aval released its annual report on subscribers for the previous Iranian year. At the time the company had, 6,910 3G broadcasting towers while 307 antennas extend 4G services to 470 cities across the country.
The largest mobile provider Mobile Communications Company of Iran (MCI or Hamrah-e-Aval) announced it was offering free Wi-Fi to select sites around Jamkaran Mosque in the shrine city of Qom for the first time.
Pakistani-based online property group, zameen.com, purchased a local listings website, iHome.ir, it would be the first investment from a Pakistani company in Iran's tech sector.
Google added and then removed Analytics services for Iranian Internet web administrators in May, confusing many as to their actions. No explanation was provided by the company.
Official statistics indicated that SIM cards have a penetration rate of over 190%. More than 14,636,500 of MCI's contract SIMs were actively in use at the date of publication.
Iran purchased the rights to two geostationary orbit positions from the International Telecommunications Union, the deputy director of Iran's Space Agency announced.
Landline phone tariffs were announced to increase by 50%, the minister of communications and information technology said.
It was announced that up till June 70,000 mobile applications in the last year and a half inside of Iran.
July was a quiet month as many companies were on holiday. However, that did not stop developments in the sector.
Internet prices throughout Iran were announced as about to fall with telecom authorities saying a 30% reduction in costs could be expected.
With the global release of Pokemon Go, Iran did not miss out of the excitement, with several hundred youths being spotted using the game around Tehran's parks and boulevards.
Meanwhile, a newly launched website and a mobile application named Ashojash set out to help ease the process of restaurant hunting. It offers a comprehensive guide to all types of food and lists restaurants and cafes according to the rankings submitted by users.
Several telecoms related events were reported, including Iran’s Customs Administration launching a website and SMS service that enabled cell phone buyers to identify contraband handsets (all mobiles tested by Financial Tribune were contraband).
The mobile number portability plan was launched nationwide. MNP enables mobile phone users to retain their numbers while changing from one mobile network operator to another and its pilot phase was launched in mid-July. Most network operators were included in the new service minus Taliya.
The state broadcaster IRIB launched its first national High-Definition Channel called IRIB 3 HD. The channel is the most watched inside the country as it plays host to several local and international football matches.
As well in the month, MTN-Irancell launched their first wireless home and office broadband network with the use of their recently upgraded antennas around the country, the new services which would leapfrog existing ADSL Internet sees speeds of over 35 megabits per second, 35x more than regular TCI connections.
France’s Orange SA announced it was holding preliminary talks to buy a stake in Iran’s main telecoms network, Hamrah-e-Avval. It was the first time a major European company expressed interest in such a deal.
Iran’s Communications Regulatory Authority granted 24 permits for offering Mobile Virtual Network Operating (MVNO) service; the full list was never made public, but sources say it included several local and foreign firms.
TCI unveiled five new services at the Iran Telecoms Fair during the month, namely VDSL2, public Wi-Fi, and Voice Over Internet Protocol.
US-based AT&T Wireless reportedly signed a deal with Iran’s third operator RighTel to offer roaming services to Americans visiting Iran. It would be the first ever network to do so. Meanwhile, RighTel users visiting America would have access to similar services.
Britain's Vodafone telecoms Group and HiWeb, an Iranian ISP, announced a non-equity “Partner Market Agreement” that allows the former access to the lucrative Iranian market.
South Africa’s MTN Group successfully managed to repatriate profits worth over $1 billion from its 49% share in MTN-Irancell, Iran’s second-largest mobile network operator.
IRIB filed a lawsuit against the country's largest online video hosting website Aparat. The move was part of a wider crackdown by the state-owned radio and TV organization that seemingly is the sole arbiter of content delivery in the country.
The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi met with French Ambassador to Iran Francois Senemaud to discuss telecoms and technology cooperation between the two sides. The envoy said Eutelsat is eager to cooperate with the Iranian Space Agency to provide satellite coverage for local enterprises.
As Iran moves towards a web-based economy, another new app, Ba Peyk was launched which aims to help people wanting to send parcels across the country. The app is available to download on Café Bazaar.
Iran’s High Council of Cyberspace is eyeing Payam Special Economic Zone, an area south of Karaj and west of Tehran, as a possible candidate for the establishment of Iran’s first ‘Media City’. If given the clearance it would be the first such site in the country.
The last month of the year has not been without big developments either. The 22nd Elecomp Tech Festival was held on Dec. 19, with more than 400 local and foreign firms showcasing their gadgets and tech services. Iran's startups had a special booth at the event hoping to attract customers and investment.
Two new online booking web portals opened up and began the fight for supremacy in the local market; these included Travelstart.ir and WeGo.ir, both backed by foreign firms.
A startup event was held in the capital with the heads of several investor groups and businesses discussing current issues in the industry. One of the issues several CEOs mentioned was the undue pressure Internet companies have come under in recent months from particular groups and vested interests.