Iran on Fast Track to Enhanced Connectivity
EghtesadOnline: ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi in a live TV program detailed the accomplishments of the ministry since he assumed office over a year ago, including the rise in the average Internet speed, enhanced villagers’ access to online connectivity, the development of infrastructure necessary for the adoption of e-governance agendas and the expansion of the startup ecosystem.
Stressing the need to publicize the performance of all government bodies, Azari-Jahromi said during his interview on Friday night that the government is starting to place its trust in the younger generations, which as evidenced by the record of the ministry has led to major changes in how the government operates. Later, a 33-page document was published on the ministry’s website providing further details to the minister’s televised report.
The minister described the expansion of the National Information Network as the most important project of the country in the ICT sector. The NIN is an independent domestic network which enables Iranians to communicate without reliance on international Internet hubs.
The national scheme comprises several projects including but not limited to the expansion of the local fiber-optic network, installation of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and giving a boost to Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), according to Financial Tribune.
According to Azari-Jahromi, the network contains three layers, the infrastructure whose expansion falls under the responsibility of the ICT Ministry, services which are offered by all state bodies including the ministry and the third layer, namely content production, which is not a part of the ministry’s duties.
When it comes to infrastructure, its development gives the public access to high-speed Internet. Azari-Jahromi said as of early 2018 all cities in Iran have access to 3G and 4G services.
“All the 1,242 cities around the country have access to 3G and 4G mobile Internet services.” 3G and 4G refer to two generations of mobile network technology, with 4G delivering connections up to 10 times faster than 3G.
Azari-Jahromi said the number of cell sites offering 3G coverage rose from 26,000 to 33,800 in the past year.
Moreover, cell towers providing 4G coverage have increased from 14,000 to a staggering 27,000.
Pointing to the 110.32% penetration rate of mobile phones in the country’s cities and villages, the young minister said the national bandwidth has doubled in the past year, and reached 22,191 gigabytes per second.
The country’s IP network has also grown considerably, from the previous 4,300 to 7,787 gigabytes per second.
The international bandwidth has grown 7 times from 558 gigabytes per second to the current 3,844 gigabytes per second.
According to the minister, the number of broadband subscribers has gone from 34 million to 67 million, surpassing Turkey in indexes related to accessibility to the information technology and communications market.
Furthermore, citing Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index from July, Azari-Jahromi said, “International reports state that Iran’s average mobile Internet speed is 23.79 megabytes per second. It is noteworthy to mention that the global average is 22.81 megabytes per second, putting Iran at the 58th spot in the ranking.”
This is while according to the same report the average landline broadband speed in Iran is 12.14 Mbps, with the global average standing at 46.41 Mbps, which places Iran in 107th place in the ranking.
Moreover, Azari-Jahromi said content production in Iran has doubled in the span of just one year, showing that with growing access to technology, consumption of local content has also risen.
As part of the government’s agenda, the ICT Ministry has initiated a scheme under which every village across the country with over 20 households will have access to modern communications networks in the coming years.
During the television interview, the minister gave an overview of the scheme’s development, saying that out of the total 39,465 villages with over 20 households, 31,886 rural areas have access to Internet connectivity and 54% can make use of LTE services.
LTE is a type of 4G mobile communications standard that delivers the fastest connection for a mobile Internet experience.
Furthermore, out of the 42,000 targeted villages, 1,250 have been provided with Post Bank electronic services. Post Bank operates under the ICT Ministry and provides citizens with a wide range of electronic services.
One of the biggest numbers touted by the minister was the public’s access to 3G and 4G Internet in the country’s roads.
While a year ago only 3,000 kilometers of the country’s roads were covered by mobile Internet connectivity, the minister says currently the public can access 3G and 4G Internet across 58,000 kilometers of Iran’s roads.
The progressive minister’s attention is not limited to underdeveloped areas; he is also preoccupied with ageism and gender justice in the country’s management which has impeded the younger generation and women from occupying executive jobs.
Azari-Jahromi proudly announced that during his time in office, the average age of directors in the ministry has declined by 7 years, and women’s employment in executive roles has hiked by 75%.
One of the most important themes of Azari-Jahromi’s tenure has been the adoption of e-governance, an aspect of which was experienced with the Registry Scheme which managed to sharply decrease mobile phone smuggling.
Aimed at curbing cellphone smuggling, the ICT Ministry, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, the Communication Regulatory Authority and the Industries Ministry created the Mobile Registry Scheme according to which local operators are barred from offering services to contraband phones.
According to the minister, before the implementation of the scheme, 95% of mobile phones sold in the country were contraband handsets.
Pointing to those who blame the recent hike in mobile phone prices on the Registry Scheme, Azari-Jahromi dismissed the accusations as unfounded and said the rise in the dollar exchange rate has inevitably increased mobile phone prices.
Another part of Azari-Jahromi’s endeavors in the past year was directed at the promotion of the country’s startup ecosystem.
The ministry is preparing to offer tax exemptions and incentives to startups and has been signing agreements with several other government bodies to familiarize authorities in other sectors with the ways they can apply electronic services and Internet of Things to their line of work.
Furthermore, with the ICT Ministry’s assistance, in a move aimed at fostering innovation, the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and the office of the General Staff of the Armed Forces are carrying out a trial run of a scheme that will enable skilled individuals working as key members of knowledge-based firms to spend their compulsory military service at their respective companies.