How does HiWEB differentiate itself in the ICT market?
We try to make a difference in two fields. The first one is our contribution to the Universal Service Obligation (USO), a project financed by the government to promote internet services in remote and rural areas. As other operators do not work in these areas because they do not generate enough revenues, the government selected us to provide data access to 25,000 villages. Our second advantage is our fixed-wireless broadband services. There are around 8 million subscribers of ADSL services in Iran, and the government will provide 13 new licenses for operators. We expect to receive this new license in one year and establish a consortium with five other companies. The infrastructure and towers have been installed before; therefore, it means that within three or four months after receiving the license, we will be able to launch our network. Currently, there are three mobile operators in Iran. This consortium will be the fourth wireless access provider in the country and will enable customers to reach speeds of 20MB/s or higher.
How will your position in the ICT market develop in the coming years amidst greater competition?
There are many licenses and players in the Iranian market but most of them do not in fact have enough customers and are not able to gain more. There are only five or six operators with enough experience to succeed in this market. In fixed-broadband services, there are around 3-4 million subscribers in total; therefore, some players will come together as one company to increase their market share. I am pleased to say that after nine months of negotiations, we signed a contract with Vodafone to be its exclusive partner in Iran. Foreign operators trying to join the market must purchase or cooperate with an Iranian operator. Having different types of licenses, either low-band or high-band frequencies, is actually our core competency in comparison to other Iranian companies. A variety of frequencies is important for the implementation of 5G technology.
How does HiWEB adapt to the challenging mission of providing Internet services in Iran?
The reason why internet speed is slow in Iran is due to three problems: access, transmission, and cost. The Iranian government is not interested in increasing speed; therefore, the solution is to house content in-country. The government prefers to have content generated locally, which is why new internet service providers are based on this policy. In this regard, we will have a partnership with international content providers. For transmission, we plan to launch our fiber network in our consortium and aim to provide reliable and cheaper internet services for our subscribers. Our prediction is that by the end of the next Iranian year, people will be able to have access to high-speed internet. Statistics show that internet consumption has grown eight-fold compared to the previous year, and the main reason was the increase in speed. Right now, the average consumption is 12GB per month, while in western countries it reaches 60GB. This shows a direct relation between consumption and speed, so offering 20MB/s next year will be a good start.
What is your outlook for the year ahead?
Multinationals have shown interest in the Iranian market because of its young population and large number of users. Being the exclusive partner of one of prominent international operators in Iran will definitely be an advantage on our side. We would be able to provide its services to foreign users and international companies coming to Iran. Our growth increased four-fold this year, and we predict it will continue this way. In 2016, we have mobile broadband and are considering getting voice services and offering MBNO services to offer a complete solution for our customers. Moreover, my forecast for the market is that in the near future one big company will purchase all the small companies and will work in a form of consortium leading the Iranian ICT market.