LONDON - The Swedish firm Ericsson is working with Iran's largest mobile telecom operator to expand its network and has promised to support another Iranian mobile carrier until 2021, according to interviews and an internal company document.
The involvement of Ericsson, the world's largest mobile network equipment maker, comes at a time when many Western companies have stopped doing business in Iran because of international sanctions or concerns about damage to their reputations. While Ericsson argues in the internal document that telecommunications are a "basic humanitarian service," Iranian human rights groups say Iran's regime has used the country's mobile-phone networks to track and monitor dissidents.
Though standard telecommunications equipment does not fall under sanctions, four major equipment makers, including Ericsson, have all said they plan to reduce their Iranian business. They have said they will not seek new contracts, though they will honor existing ones.
Fredrik Hallstan, a spokesman for Ericsson, confirmed the company is currently working on a new expansion project for Mobile Communication Co of Iran (MCCI), but said the venture, which the carrier calls Phase V, is covered under a contract Ericsson signed in 2008. "We have not extended any agreements ... with MCCI and we have no plans to do so either," he said.