Mobile phone penetration in Iran is now 50 per cent, with the rate expected to hit 60 per cent once the two mobile phone operators have fulfilled their existing orders, according to Vafa Ghaffarian, deputy minister at the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology.

More than 32 million Iranians – some 46 per cent of a total population of 70 million – had mobile phones by the end of March, according to Wireless Intelligence, the data collection arm of trade body the GSM Association.

Mobile Company of Iran, the state-owned operator, was estimated to have signed up 23 million customers by the end of March.

Irancell, which is run by South African telco MTN, had nine million customers.