Key Points

  • Iran’s telecommunications sector has been marked by rapid growth in recent years, but the global telecoms industry’s inherent ties to the United States creates difficulties for Iranian consumers.
  • In spite of this, there are many established telecommunications businesses run by Iranian families, some of which were set up in the 1990s. An example of this is the Abrishamchi family, who remain influential in the telecom and mobile distribution sector today.
  • The sector is, however, blighted by heavy black-market trading in mobile phones. Not only does this undercut legitimate vendors – who have deals with international companies – but it bodes poorly in terms of following an audit trail and contributes to the persistence of informal trading.

The outrage sparked by Apple’s decision in late August 2017 to remove Iranian applications from the App Store is the latest dispute in Iran and the United States’ increasingly tense relationship (New York Times, 24.08.2017). It is disrupting a large business sector and affecting millions of customers as iPhones are to be found everywhere in Iran - hugely popular, they are often (predominantly) smuggled in from Dubai and China.