Neda Rayaneh: Slowly catching up with the rest
of the world on the information superhighway
Points of Contact in Iran
By Payman Arabshahi
Updated June 9, 1997
- IPM upgrades link to 128Kbyte/s via Archway, Italy.
- More Iranian universities (Shiraz Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Sharif, ...) and government agencies/ministries go on the web. Go to Academic links.
- Another Internet service provider - Apadana - enters the picture.
- Both top presidential candidates in Iran develop their own web sites.
Iran's entrance into the world wide data communication network known as the Internet was spearheaded some five years ago by the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics (IPM), under the direction of Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani, who was also a parliament deputy at the time. The link was at first through the BITNET network and Iran's membership in the Trans-European Research and Educational Networking Association (TERENA - formerly EARN). It later developed into a full-fledged Internet link with the assignment of 500 IP addresses to the country and acceptance of Iran as a Class C node. Primary users of the connection at first were academics and research institutions, all being served through their own connections to IPM.
Over the past few years, domestic Internet connections have grown very rapidly, at times placing Iran among the top countries in terms of rate of growth of Internet access. The present Iranian Internet scene, more than five years after the original connection, is still a very dynamic one, with tens of thousands of academic users being served via a single 128 kbyte/s link, and with networks and bulletin boards expanding everywhere. Recently however additional outside links have been put into operation by the Iranian PTT, serving mostly commercial entities and government agencies. Ambitious plans for expanding Internet access and availability nationwide have also been announced.
As an indication of the rapid growth of the Internet in Iran, for the first time, the two leading presidential candidates in the May 1997 elections used the World Wide Web to get their message across (the winner of the elections Mohammad Khatami http://www.khatami.com and the runner-up Majlis Speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nuri: http://nategh.co.ir). Results of the elections were announced "live" on the web site of the Iranian government as well. Campaign news was reported daily by Iran's largest circulation newspaper, Hamshahri, and other online dailies such as Ettela'at as well as the official news agency IRNA. See list of online Iranian media here.
The technical know-how for putting very fast links into operation in Iran is certainly there. A variety of protocols for satellite channels at T1 speeds of 1.544 Mb/s were tested by the Data Communication Company of Iran (DCI) in the late 1980's . A major reason for lack of progress on fast connections to Iranian universities and research centers appears to have been friction between DCI and both IPM and the High Council of Informatics (HCI) - the governmental body charged with strategic planning of information technology expansion in Iran. At the same time one cannot discount the effect of the U.S. embargo on Iran, which has made the acquisition and maintenance of powerful servers, workstations, and satellite communication equipment difficult, if not impossible in certain cases.
Political tension between Iran and the US has unfortunately made an impact on the free flow of information between the two countries as well (despite this last item being specifically excluded from the text of the US embargo on Iran). For a year or so after Iran's Internet debut, U.S. academic sites (on NSFNET) were not even recognizing Iranian IP addresses for telnet/ftp access. This problem resurfaced recently in August of 1996 only to be put swiftly to rest through the efforts of many people and organizations in the US, Europe, and Iran (including IPM, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation), who brought pressure on NSF to correct the situation.
It is true however that there are other technical and societal issues to be solved than just providing a high-speed link, and filling up rooms with high power servers. Ideally, priority in Iran should be placed on developing an internal "network of networks" first by investing in campus-wide networks at universities, and other local and wide area networks in government and industry, and then by linking them together, and eventually to the Internet. By way of an analogy, for a long time, the transatlantic connection from North America to Europe consisted of no more than a few 64 kbyte/s links, while both continents had very well developed internal internets.
What seems to be lacking is an overall vision for the direction of the Internet in Iran. For instance, for some time now, DCI, under contract with France Minitel has been working on a similar network in Iran (to say that Minitel is obsolete is an understatement - in the age of the World Wide Web and NetPCs Minitel is irrelevant and outdated). In some respects this is similar to DCI's X.25 network plan some years ago at a time when everybody was switching from X.25 and similar protocols to TCP/IP (the protocol suite Internet uses).
Add to this blurred vision, the monopolistic views of DCI (which is an organ of the Post, Telephone and Telegraph Ministry) in trying to force out competition (literally by cutting their lines as it happened two years ago temporarily with Neda Rayaneh ), and its (now failed) attempts to block a link upgrade for IPM, the country's main academic Internet access provider, along with its exorbitant charging schemes ($30,000/year for an ISDN link - payable in US dollars only), and you arrive at a very complicated arena over which Iran's Internet services are operating. In a recent HCI editorial  the Iranian PTT was directly criticized for its internet expansion plans and views. DCI's intention to expand Internet access in Iran should be greatly appreciated. The constructive criticism of HCI was geared towards the means of achieving this, rather than the end outcome.
In that editorial, which is the closest one can come to an official Iranian government view on Internet's expansion in Iran, HCI stresses the great importance of setting up a national data infrastructure and its proliferation. It strongly recommends that DCI focus its efforts on providing high speed internal and global data access rather than content provision and Internet service access, and criticizes DCI for "ignoring [this] primary objective". HCI also states that:
DCI sees all others as competition and sees no interest in improving quality and availability of network access, rather restricting competition in this area, allowing only itself and related organizations to function ...
Presently for instance DCI is not permitting anybody to sign contracts with other Internet Service Providers abroad for a leased line. As a result, many have gone for the second best option of SMTP gateways in the UK (Industrial Management Institute), or the US (Neda Rayaneh). Thus a part of Iran's Internet is very much defying the meaning of Internet (i.e. local calls to reach other places).
The High Council furthermore effectively rejects the idea of censoring network access, and stresses that it attaches great importance to Internet's usefulness and role in global economic, social, legal, scientific, and political domains. It accuses DCI of creating and publicizing a view that looks at the Internet as allowing access to pornographic material, or creating security issues. In their words:
DCI is party responsible for this view, as it has attempted to create fear in order for Internet access to be controlled, and managed by themselves ...
Finally, HCI advocates taking preventive measures and public education to safely address any concerns one might have about Internet access by Iranians, without resorting to censorship. While ideals of the implementation and usage of the national information infrastructure were clearly outlined in this editorial, it remains to be seen to what extent HCI can exert real influence on the PTT Ministry to follow through with its recommendations and guidelines ...
Regardless of what happens however, it is clear is that the Internet is expanding very rapidly in the country, despite the various problems, and past and present strategic mistakes. The government is certainly supportive of the effort, and if only DCI can be brought to do what it does best - namely providing the underlying physical infrastructure, and leaving content and access provision to others - there is good hope for Internet's future path in Iran. In any case, it is hard to imagine an Iran in the future without reliable Internet access, at the very least for universities, research centers, and major industries.
Details of the various service providers and their contact information are outlined next below.
Academic Internet Access
Academic Internet access is available to almost all universities and research centers in the country. Inquiries should be made at the Iran Network Information Center (NIC) at IPM in Tehran (send email to firstname.lastname@example.org). Meet some of the center's main players.
A listing of numerous Internet points of contact in Iran is given in the Appendix. The national academic network is known as IRANET. IPM is also Iran's representative in the Trans-European Research and Educational Networking Association (TERENA).
Other universities have access to the internal Iranian internet, and to enjoy full Internet services, have to connect to IPM or their nearest Internet site. Examples are Tabriz University, Bu-Ali University (Hamedan), Kerman University, Allameh Tabatabaie University, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences (Zanjan). Some other research centers (Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology) have email access via AT&T mail or SprintNET, or have set up their own web/SMTP mailer sites outside Iran. Still more sites have email and offline Internet access; see below.
The Iranian academic Internet link is via a single 128 kbyte/s satellite link from IPM's Microvax 3100/20E to Archway/UUNET in Italy. IPM's installed satellite link can potentially operate at 2-8 Mb/s. The internal Iranian academic network consists of a series of mostly leased, (but some dialup or VSAT) 9600-19200 baud lines. There are presently only two 64 kbyte/s links in this star-patterned network, between two of IPM's Tehran buildings, and IPM and Gilan University. Universities only pay connection charges of some 1 Million Rials per month for their line to IPM - there are no additional usage charges. It is interesting to note that if one were to use DCI facilties and lines, this figure would be around 50-100 times more.
It is estimated that at least 60,000 people have in one way or another used Internet services provided through IPM or other providers in Iran . As of April 1996 there were over 1,100 usernames defined on IPM's main server alone, many of them representing "general" accounts at various institutions, open to more than one person.
As of January 1996 there were at least 500 registered Internet domains with valid IP addresses in Iran. A listing of 387 fully identified domains is available upon request.
Contact Information for academic Internet access:
Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics & Mathematics
P.O. Box 19395-1795
Tel: + 98 21 801-4869
Fax: + 98 21 801-4003
Area Served: Iran
Services: Full Access (ftp/gopher/telnet/news/WWW) Personal IP, Terminal, UUCP.
Commercial Internet Access
Commercial Internet access is available through seven Internet service providers: Neda Rayaneh Institute, Data Communication Company of Iran, Compuserve, IRNET, Apadana, Virayeshgar Corporation, and Pars Supala.
Neda Rayaneh Institute (NRI) is Iran's largest (and only non-profit) online service and Internet access provider. It is supported by the Tehran municipality. It began operating in Spring of 1994. It is headed by Nasser Ali Sa'adat. His right hand man is Internet expert Saeed Vahid and he is assisted by a dedicated group of computer engineers.
Neda's services include:
- Bilingual BBS (Persian/English), running under DOS: Includes bilingual Persian/English email, discussion groups, databases of various kinds (books in print, ...), Yellow Pages of Tehran, online newspapers, business and publisher information, and cultural information.
- Internet email and ftp/www/news via email for users inside Iran.
- WWW service: Homepage design and rental services for Iranian corporations that want to have Internet presence. There is also a local Web service for users inside Iran. The local Web service will be connected to the World Wide Web, as soon as a high bandwidth line is provided for the country.
NRI offers these services through two leased lines (SLIP) to IPM (for incoming Internet traffic), and a link to Canada (UUCP to www.cadvision.com) for both incoming and outgoing traffic. Internal services are via 30 dialup lines. Neda is planning on increasing the number of dial-up lines to 100.
Neda's BBS is free (and can be accessed from abroad also - contact Neda for the required terminal emulator and other information). The only charge is for using Internet email and offline Internet services, although Neda is considering charging for the BBS as well in the near future.
The charge for an individual account is 300,000 ($100) annually for the BBS service, and 50,000 Rials per 200 kbytes of email. Neda's domain-name assignment service for companies wishing to have independent presence on the Iranian internet has been suspended due to line bandwidth problems (it used to cost two million rials ($476) for having a domain name). These are flat yearly fees, i.e. there are no traffic fees involved.
Neda is looking to provide full, online connection for its users in the future.
Contact information for Neda Rayaneh:
Neda Rayaneh Institute
No. 528, North Ostad Hassan Bana (ex-Majidieh)
Tehran 16719, Iran
Tel: + 98 21 808-8869
+ 98 21 250-9702 through 4
Fax: +98 21 250 9707
Area Served: Iran
Services: Terminal (dial-up), Web presence, personal information services.
Data Communication Company of Iran
Established a few years ago as the data communications arm of the state Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), Data Communication Company of Iran (DCI) provides Internet access throughout the country via the nationwide IRANPAC X.25 Packet Switching network (DNIC number 4321), covering almost all major cities in Iran. It has some 11,200 outlets at 170 cities nationwide. The number of ports is expected to increase to 40,000 during the third expansion phase of IRANPAC.
The network was contracted to Alcatel in 1992 and uses 24 1100 PSX nodes, which enable X.75, X.25, X.8, X.28, X.29, BSC, SNA/SDLC, and Asynch frame relay capabilities . It has also recently been expanded to handle some 300,000 subscribers. Internal port speeds are at present 9600 baud and projected to increase to 64 kbytes during the second expansion phase.
This Public Data Network (PDN) is connected and will soon be further extended to other countries via 4 major PDNs: Transpac (France), SprintNET and Tymnet (U.S.), and HINET-P (South Korea). Dialup access is through +98 21 802-3333. Internet access at present is through 64 kbyte links to Ontario, Canada via a X.25-TCP/IP interface machine (a Sun Sparc - dci.iran.com), as well as a 64 kbyte VSAT link to GULFSAT in Kuwait (GULFSAT is the world's largest satellite data communications teleport. A VSAT hub, operated in association with GULFSAT, provides satellite-delivered international data, telephone and video communications services to local and international subscribers such as DCI ) . The Canadian service provider is Interlog. The link was established in April of 1995. DCI services include email and telnet/ftp/gopher/www.
DCI is planning to increase connection speed to 2Mb/s via a link to SprintNET in the near future. Other links to be put into operation include 64 kbyte links to France, another one to Canada, and one to Italy. DCI recently put out a public tender for supply of 850 VSAT stations, as well as a pager system for Tehran and 25 provinces for 1 million subscribers . Further expansion plans call for implementation of an X.400 (code named Iran 400), and TCP/IP International message handling system, and a fully IP based network throughout Iran (to cover 8 major cities). DCI also offers a Persian/English domestic only email service. Dialup access is through +98 21 802-2222.
Yet another DCI service is the Public Videtex system (IVTX). This system which is effectively the same as Minitel, supports ANSI standard in the first phase, and will support ANSI/ASCII, TELETEL, NAPLPS and BTX during the second phase. Various news services, electronic phone directories, forums, air, rail, and sea travel schedules, teleconferencing, email and online commercial transactions are offered. Dialup access is through +98 21 802-4444. DCI also offers access to various databases worldwide, such as DIALOG, STN, TIES, BTX, and Lexis-Nexis.
DCI provides both dial-up and leased lines to its users. Leased lines with a speed of 9600 bps cost 40,000 rials ($9.50) per month plus a deposit of two million rials ($476). In addition to this there are per minute charges of 20 rials ($0.005) for domestic calls and 35 rials ($0.008) for international calls. Each bit of data sent costs one rial ($0.0002) domestically and 25 rials ($0.006) internationally. Dial-up lines are cheaper: 5,000 rials ($1.19) per month and a 500,000-rial ($199) deposit, plus the usual connection time and volume charges .
It is estimated that there are about 1,000 users on DCI's network, though no official figures are available. According to a DCI study, more than 90% of government and industrial entities are in need of wide area networks to communicate with their various branches and affiliates throughout Iran. Various large governmental organizations (National Iranian Oil Company, Iran Air, Budget and Planning Organization of Iran, and the Ministry of Energy) have, with DCI's help, set up such networks with outside access to various databanks. The other 10% of governmental and/or industrial organizations are projected to additionally have the need for full Internet access .
An example of a DCI assisted outside link is the Iranian Central Bank which is now on the S.W.I.F.T. network (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) with access to some 3700 main branches of foreign banks.
Yet another large network is that of the Iranian Population Registry Organization which is implementing a network to link some 150 provincial offices comprising some 700 computer terminals.
The Budget and Planning Organization of Iran also operates a VSAT network connecting some 150 terminals in its 24 provincial offices and Tehran.
Contact information for DCI:
Data Communication Company of Iran
Shahed Communication Complex
South Shiraz Street
Tehran 14358, Iran
Tel: + 98 21 802-9430
Fax: + 98 21 800-0199
Telex: 226252 DCIRIR
Tehran Main: email@example.com
Mr. Rashti, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile Division: email@example.com
Satellite Communications Department: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mazandaran, Mr. Ghafoorian email@example.com
Gilan, Mr. Babaii firstname.lastname@example.org
Ilam, Mr. Chaghervandi email@example.com
Fars, Mr. Valvi firstname.lastname@example.org
Sistan, Mr. Faiazi email@example.com
Kerman, Mr. Mohammadi Ghavam firstname.lastname@example.org
Ardabil, Mr. Tavana email@example.com
Esfahan, Mr. Nadipoor firstname.lastname@example.org
East Azarbaijan, Mr. Bakhsmandi email@example.com
West Azarbaijan, Mr. Hamedanloo firstname.lastname@example.org
Bushehr, Mr. Amidi email@example.com> Ghom, Mr. Jafari firstname.lastname@example.org
Kordestan, Mr. Zarini email@example.com
Khorassan, Mr. Yoosefpoor firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorestan, Mr. Sarvary email@example.com
Zanjan, Mr.Shakhaii firstname.lastname@example.org
Markazi, Mr. Sajadi email@example.com
Semnan, Mr. Azarkhish firstname.lastname@example.org
Hormozgan, Mr. Noroozinejad email@example.com
Kohgiluyeh va Booyer Ahmad, Mr.Bagheri firstname.lastname@example.org
Kermanshah, Mr. Nazarpoor email@example.com
Hamedan, Mr. Zohrevand firstname.lastname@example.org
Chahr Mahal Bakhtiari, Mr. Gholipoor email@example.com
Khoozestan, Mr. Zerangzadeh firstname.lastname@example.org
Yazd, Mr. Pahlavanian email@example.com
Information for the dci.iran.com domain:
International Reliable Access Network, Inc
49-6A Donway West, Suite 823 Don Mills
Ontario, M3c 2E8
Gray, Mike (MG354) firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: (905) 889-9455
Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
Harrop, Matt (HM39) email@example.com
Tel: (416) 975-2655
Area served: Iran
Services: Full Access (ftp/gopher/telnet/news/WWW) personal IP, terminal.
DCI is also offering Compuserve services in Iran. Once an account number and password are assigned (contact DCI at +98 21 803-7969), Compuserve can be reached via PDN number +98 21 802-3333. Charges are 1,000,000 Rial ($334) one time connection fee to DCI, 350 Rials per minute online and 25 Rials per each 64 characters downloaded plus the usual Compuserve charges for accessing its bulletin board and/or the web.
Contact information for Compuserve:
P.O. Box 20212
5000 Arlington Centre Blvd.
Columbus, Ohio 43220 USA
Sales USA/Canada Freephone:
Sales Direct: (+1)(614) 529-1349
Sales Fax: (+1)(614) 529-1610
Signup Outsource Freephone
Service USA/Canada Freephone:
Service Direct: (+1)(614) 529-1340
Service Fax: (+1)(614) 529-1611
Service Hours 8 a.m. - midnight
(U.S. EST) weekdays
noon - 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Area served: Iran
Services: Full Access (ftp/gopher/telnet/news/WWW) personal IP, terminal.
IRNET (or the Information and Communication Network of Iran) was founded in 1993 by Mr N. J. Rad as a subsidiary of a private Iranian company, Pilot Iran. It is essentially a large bulletin board system (+ 98 21 875-0000) which is now porting its contents on to the web and offering full Internet access to its subscribers. Various Iranian companies and newspapers/magazines are online at the IRNET web site (example is the Gol Agha Satirical weekly). Services include:
IRNET's current Internet link is the same as DCI's 64 kbyte link to Teleglobe, via Gulfsat, Kuwait.
|Contact information for IRNET:
Apadana is a private ISP with no affiliation to any governmental agency. The site itself is not in Iran, and is connected to the Internet via a T1 line. Web services offered include real-audio, and cgi-bin and java programming. Email services include auto mail forwarding and listserves. The internal site in Iran does not have direct Internet connection but mirrors the outside site, and in addition includes other local information. It does permit web, ftp, and email (SMTP and POP3) access via dial-up (PPP). The company also offers virtual domain name services and full Internet access in Iran or abroad. Subscription fees are 350,000 Rials ($117) per year plus 200 Rials/kbyte for email transfer.
|Contact information for Apadana:
Virayeshgar (Vira) is a Tehran based software engineering firm (major products are Persian DataEase and WordPerfect) that also has a local BBS providing Internet email service. The BBS is served by two 33600 baud modems and uses UUCP twice a day to receive and transmit emails via HOLONET in the U.S. Internet services began in June 1994.
Vira's one-time registration fee is 200,000 rials ($48) and it charges 2,200 rials ($0.52) per each mail sent or received (about 1 kb in size). Vira (Noble Inc.) numbers in Iran are:
BBS: + 98 21 884-1316
+ 98 21 883-9620
+ 98 21 884-1317
+ 98 21 883-9619
Standard user emails at Vira are provided as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Various offline services such as ftp/archie/www/news via email are also part of the package. Vira also echos some of the more technical USENET newsgroups.
|Contact information for Vira:
Pars Supala offers a variety of online databases, records, and libraries through a link to the AT&T Network in The Netherlands. Its users are mostly government agencies. Monthly subscription fees are 200,000 rials ($48), plus 400,000 ($95) one-time fee for communication software and training.
These fees do not include fees for usage of various databases abroad - those are billed separately. Presently there are some 100 users on Supala's network.
Pars Supala's Internet email service has been suspended due to the low number of subscribers (due to competition and their high prices).
|Contact information for Pars Supala:
At least two Iranian research institutions have set up or are in the process of setting up their web sites and email routing/delivery systems outside Iran. The first is the Iranian Research Organization for Science & Technology (IROST) which already operates a bulletin board system in Iran (access at + 98 21 884-9030 or telnet://istn.irost.com, or ftp://istn.irost.com).
The second is Iran's Industrial Management Institute (IMI) which is in the process of negotiating for a dedicated 64 kbyte link, and for the time being maintains a web site in the US. Recently IMI has become an Internet Service Provider which transfers all the knowledge of how to become a service provider, or how to setup remote email, gateways, and web servers to any company that wants it. They are in the process of providing local-call email services and sell full Internet accounts via the U.K.
In the words of Dr. Siavash Shahshahani, IPM Deputy Director, and Professor of Mathematics at Sharif University of Technology, Iran's Internet link came into being through the efforts of a couple of hardworking 25 year old computer science graduates with $50,000 in hardware and software and little help from outsiders, who "went into that room down the hall with diskettes and manuals" and linked Iran to the world .
While most of Iran's neighbors followed suit with their own Internet links, in almost all cases they imported the expertise and the infrastructure, and to this day rely on outside assistance for routine maintenance and expansion. The fact that after Israel, Iran was the second country in the Middle East to link up to the Internet and do so relying solely on its own brainpower should not go unnoticed. It is true that there are still many problems to be addressed regarding Internet's expansion in Iran. It is also true that mistakes have been made. However by all accounts, the future of Internet access in Iran is bright, for, once again in the words of Dr. Shahshahani, "Knowledge is more important than capital in this revolution".
Presently the following academic, government and industry sites have direct Internet access: (note: IPM is not the provider for all of these sites - some are served by the Data Communication Company of Iran, see below). IPM serves various sites through leased lines, with one exception (VSAT link to University of Gilan). DCI uses the nationwide X.25 network.
Please note that while many of the sites listed below might have good to extensive computer facilities, in general only a subset of the machines in their Local Area Network (LAN) is connected to the Internet. When mention is made of a PC, reference is almost all of the time to a 486 or higher machine.
The following sites will soon be connected to IRANET:
Many other institutions have dial-up access to IPM and a select few are listed here as well. Some large research centers, such as various Nuclear Energy Research Centers (except the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran) and the Center for Research on Applications and Properties of Materials, are still not fully connected.