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Hamid Fattahi, born in 1979, is the Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Telecommunication Infrastructure Company of Iran (TIC). Fattahi has a master’s degree in Information Technology Management from Tarbiat Modarres University and a BSc in Telecommunications from Islamic Azad University, both in Tehran.
Fattahi was previously a member of the board of directors of the TIC, a member of the Technical Council of the Ministry of Communications, the Director-General of the Network Security of the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) of Iran, a member of the Special Regulatory Commission and member of the National Information Network Strategic Council. Fattahi was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Communications and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Telecommunication Infrastructure Company in July 2018 by the Communication Minister. From May this year, the Communications Minister promoted Fattahi as Managing Director of the TIC.
Telecommunication Infrastructure Company is responsible for telecommunication networks infrastructure in Iran. It works as the governmental body of the ICT Ministry with the aim of creating, developing, managing, organizing, supervising, maintaining and implementing the main communications of the country and continuing its infrastructure development activities.
Examples of the large-scale services provided by TIC include the provision and distribution of bandwidth (Internet, intranet, MPLS, and VPLS), point-to-point services (inter-city, inter-provincial and international), cloud TDM service, international transit service NIX and peering services. The company also provides internet services to mobile phone operators, ISPs, and scientific, cultural, economic and military centers. The main goals of the company are the comprehensive development of the telecommunication backbone networks based on modern technology to meet the present and future needs of national and international users, establishing an effective presence in regional and international telecommunication communities and markets, and converting Iran to a strong communication hub in the Middle East.
One of the duties of the TIC is the construction and development of Iran’s National Information Network. The network, known by other names, such as the National Internet, the National Intranet of Iran and the National Internet Network, is a project to develop a secure and sustainable national infrastructure network in Iran.
Some 14 years have passed since the initial talks about the launch of the National Information Network, but unfortunately the project is still incomplete. This project was to be developed in three layers: infrastructure, services, and content. The mission to carry out the construction of the infrastructure layer of the project was assigned to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. According to the chairman of the board of directors of the TIC, 80 percent of the project has been utilized and the Internet businesses are the result of the development of the infrastructure of the network. To become familiar with Iran’s National Information Network and its implementation, Iran Economy Magazine recently sat with Hamid Fattahi, the Managing Director of the TIC in his office in central Tehran, where he patiently answered questions on the National Information Network, the monopoly in the Infrastructure Communications and the Security of the Iranian network in the face of foreign threats.
The development path of the country’s communications infrastructure
Deputy Minister of Communications dismissed the criticism of the Ministry of Communications over delaying the implementation of the National Information Network and said, “Our goals in the national information network overlap with the infrastructure network in some sectors. The development of communication infrastructure is considered part of the national network of information and not beyond that.”
He emphasized that since the document on the clarification of the requirements of the National Information Network has been communicated to the Ministry of Communications, the path of development of the country’s communications infrastructure is also changed. “This route tells us how to design and develop the network,” he said. “Perhaps it was time when we did not pay enough attention to the issue of quality, network independence and sustainability, and security, but despite the document clarifying the requirements of the national information network, we need to move forward with that.”
The Deputy Minister for Communications assured that the framework of the National Information Network in this area are in line with that document, and actions taken are according to the plan. “The details of all these actions are based on the document approved by the High Cyberspace Council, and then it is handed over to the National Cyberspace Center for reviews. After thorough examination, the center will announce the results,” he noted.
Fattahi described the job assignments in the National Information Network: “Projects such as the Internet gateway and the localization of network equipment have also been defined. All this has happened on the basis of the National Information Network project, and today all the actions of the Ministry of Communications are aligned with the National Information Network. In fact, it’s an art to join the two together and put the main framework on the national network of information.
80 percent achieved in the National Information Network
“When the national information network is fully and properly implemented in the country, we will be taking advantage of our own cyberspace opportunities,” said Hamid Fattahi, regarding the delay in setting up the National Information Network. “At that time, a company like Google won’t be able to decide one morning to remove apps from Iranian mobile phones.”
Fattahi continued, “People who claim that the Ministry of Communications has fallen short on carrying out duties regarding the development of the National Information Network may not have understood the concept of the National Information Network. The network should be developed in three parts: infrastructure, content and services. The uneven growth of these three layers did not even have much to do with the Ministry of Communications.”
Fattahi said that in a document titled Determining the National Information Network Requirements, approved by the High Cyberspace Council, infrastructure issues, such as routers, switches, fiber optics, security layer and access models are defined as the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Communications.
He added that the second layer of the network is the services and applications that have been built on the network. Services such as Internet transportation services, messengers and search engines all are the result of the country’s National Information Network.
On the third layer of the National Information Network, the Deputy Minister of Communications explained that content is something that flows into two other parts: services and infrastructure. Therefore, even if the infrastructure is ready, with no proper content, there is no output.
According to Fattahi, launching a National Information Network with specific goals and a greater focus on promoting the IT, and consequently the country’s economy is vital. “Today, much of the Internet is consumed in the area of content, the vast majority of which is imported. This content can be produced domestically,” Fattahi said.
Fattahi reminded that there are now infrastructure requirements for downloading video content from domestic servers, while video content sites previously had to host their servers outside the country.
He then pointed out that the three layers should be moving parallel with each other and said, “Over the past two years, more than 50 major projects and actions have been taken in the field of National Information Network infrastructure, which shows that now more than 80 percent of the requirements that were assigned as the duties of the ICT Ministry of Communications was put in place and the remaining 20 percent will be finalized by the end of this year.”
Domestic Internet Growth
Domestic Internal bandwidth consumption has increased by 400 percent, Fattahi said. On the growth of the Internet in Iran, he noted that that domestic bandwidth consumption in the National Information Network has reached 1,000 gigabytes and has grown by 400 percent over the past two years.
“In 2017, the domestic Internet bandwidth consumption of the country was 200 gigabytes, but now we have reached more than 1,000 gigabytes. At the same time, in the same year , the external Internet bandwidth consumption of the country was around 1,000 gigabytes and now has come to about 1,400 gigabytes. That means we have grown 400 percent in terms of domestic Internet bandwidth consumption. The growth in external Internet consumption has been less than 50 percent.”
In terms of technical equipment and the independence in the field of foreign equipment, the Deputy Minister of Communications praised the high technology standards of the Iranian data transfer equipment and said the technology is now produced domestically and used in the TIC’s projects.
He added that the increase in the core capacity of the national information network has risen from 8.6 to 20 terabytes per second. “Now the network has grown enough and the evidence of that is the growth in the Internet businesses,” he said, adding that “Who could have thought of an online taxi services six years? Today, this is reality and there are very large businesses in the areas of tourism, transportation, and retail.
Not seeking monopoly
One of the goals pursued by the TIC is the implementation of Article 44 of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) on the privatization of some of the company’s assets. International telephone, VOIP, is among the services with no impact on the governance sovereignty, and therefore it can be privatized. “The privatization of international calls will expand the market, and the private sector performs the task better. It will also promote competition in the international phone market, and thus increase quality and reduce prices for end-users. Most importantly, this will reduce the fraud and smuggling of traffic in this area.”
80 times better quality of access
The Deputy of Communications Minister said that the good quality of the internal servers over external servers proves that the goals are met. “Nowadays, the quality of access to internal content has increased over the external content,” he said. He explained that the quality of the National Information Network has several indicators. One is the duration of access to the site. The review of these items indicates that access to internal sites has better quality than access to the external sites.
100 maneuvers to test the stability of the Network
We have taken important steps in the field of cybersecurity using the National Information Network,” said the Managing Director of the TIC. “Our systems in the field of cyber defense are working well, and maintaining the sustainability of businesses in this area is the proof.” Fattahi also confirmed the stability of the National Information Network during Internet interruptions. “The National Passive Defense Organization of Iran carried out around 100 different tests in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications to measure the stability of the national network,” he said. “The result was that every sector was able to carry out services when the Internet got interrupted. If for any reason, countries which have imposed economic terrorism or sanctions on Iran, cut off the Internet, our services will continue without any problems, and it will be business as usual.” According to the Deputy Minister of Communications, the success rate of these preventive measures are high, and wherever there was a problem, it was tracked and fixed.