EghtesadOnline: The key railroad connecting Mashhad to Tehran and Qom is to be equipped with 4G coverage, as per an agreement signed between mobile operator Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR).
Based on the weekend agreement, MCI will provide commuters between Tehran, Mashhad, and Qom with 4G services by March 2020, CITNA reported. The railroad currently has 2G and 3G coverage.
With a track length of 811km, the railroad which connects the three cities is the most traveled route in Iran. An estimated 3.2 million people used the Khorasan Razavi railroad in the first quarter of the current fiscal that started in March, up 22% year-on-year.
Last year 24.5 million people travelled by train across the country with half the number using railroads to and from Khorasan Razavi Province, Financial Tribune reported.
There are 12,500 kilometers of railroads in Iran, 1,500km (or 12%) of which are in Khorasan Razavi Province. Mashhad, the provincial capital, is home to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PUBH), the eighth Imam of Shias and the second most populous city in Iran. The metropolis annually hosts close to 25 million Iranian and foreign pilgrims and tourists.
MCI chief Hamid Farhang says, “The next move is extending 4G coverage to the 290km railroad that links Tehran to Zanjan, the center of Zanjan Province.” No specific timetable was provided for this phase.
As per an agreement, MCI in return will be the exclusive provider of Internet services along the track and at the stations. This will not limit the access of subscribers to other operators and communications will be channeled through the MCI infrastructure. MCI will charge operators for its services.
Farhang said according to ICT Ministry data, 60% of domestic railroads have 2G coverage and 38% are connected to the 3G network.
“At a time when the Internet is so closely intertwined with the people’s lives, [outdated] 2G and 3G technology is no longer acceptable. These services are awfully slow. We want to provide passengers with high-speed Internet, keeping them connected throughout the journey. Enhanced connectivity in trains can motivate people to choose rail transport as a preferred mode of travel,” he added.
Head of IRIR Saeed Mohammadzadeh says the project can be extended to the entire national railroad network.
Infrastructure for developing high-speed Internet already exits in the railroad network, "as IRIR has been developing the routes simultaneously with communications infrastructure and fiber optic facilities," he said.
Experts say enhanced 4G coverage will help pave the way for the emergence of innovative startups providing passengers with a gamut of online services.