Telecommunications sources in Tehran say the deal now looks very likely to go ahead, precluding a retender of the project nearly two years after the original tender was held. Investment costs for MTN and its new Irancell partners are likely to be in the region of $2,500 million-3,000 million, providing a huge expansion of mobile phone lines.

MTN’s partner in the Irancell consortium is Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC), a consortium of Industrial Development & Renovation Organisation (IDRO), the Defence Ministry subsidiary Sa Iranand Bonyad Shahid. Irancell has already been registered and has secured a foreign investment licence. It is now waiting only for the result of the court case brought by Turkcell.

The Turkish company says it was illegal for ICT to enter negotiations with Irancell because it had changed its lead partner. However, the ministry has pointed to a June ruling by the Supreme Economic Council that allowed it to override normal tender regulations and open negotiations with the unsuccessful bidder or bring a new partner into the consortium. Turkcell was at that point uncertain whether to carry on with the project after Majlis (parliament) and Guardian Council rulings forced it to reduce its stake in Irancell to less than 50 per cent from 70 per cent.