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Taking the Mobile Industry Review show to Kabul, Tehran and Pyongyang

I’ve had a few emails from people today — and there’s been one comment posted from reader Ant Carroll.

This gist of the feedback has been words to the effect of ‘Rome: Great’ (we’ve just published the preview video of our trip to Italy over the weekend) but what about somewhere REALLY interesting.

Ant commented thus:

As for next MIR city… hmm Kabul perhaps? There’s quite a few interesting mobile stories there to uncover!

I bet there is.

Well, I know there is.

There’s a mobile operator out there in Kabul that we’ve written about now and again. Indeed we even tried to send some flowers (and old feature we used to do every Monday) to John Hadl, founder & CEO of Afghanistan Mobile to say job-well-done.

The last we wrote about Afghanistan, we were telling the planet about the two major networks there hitting 4 million subscribers. This from a country widely assumed by most consumers in the West to have next to no infrastructure to mention.

I’d love to go to Kabul and see what’s going on with their mobile marketplace. Nowadays more than ever — in this uber-connected worldwide society — the ability to remain connected, whether for safety, commerce or family — is becoming more and more important. Witness, for example, the explosion of handsets and associated innovative services across Africa.

Kabul would need a lot of money. Not least to cover the daily fees of 6x Blackwater Worldwide former SAS paratroopers to help keep us — literally — in one piece in order to be able to bring you some coverage.

I suspect the Foreign Office here in Britain would think us off-our-heads. And I doubt the Afghanistan Tourist Board — if there is such an organisation — would be that impressed to hear from us. I think we’d be a little bit of a distraction.

The Foreign Office doesn’t specifically say it’s a crazy idea:

# We strongly advise against all travel to the Sarobi District of the Kabul province.
# We strongly advise against all but essential travel to Kabul.

Doable?

Perhaps Afghanistan is a little bit too far. It’s all too easy to live this cosseted life from the reasonably peaceful United Kingdom where the biggest threat today is slipping in the snow. Perhaps we should stick to what we sort-of know.

I am keen on a visit to Tehran, capital of Iran. Again, I don’t quite think their tourist board — or Foreign Office — would be that impressed either.

Likewise, the North Korean authorities.

You never know. I think there would be spectacular consumer mobile stories to capture in these countries. *Specatcular*.

What’s your opinion?

The biggest barrier to us is the actual cost of arranging, getting and staying. Right now we don’t have any companies supporting our MIR Show coverage — it’s me that’s paying for it all — and hiring a few SAS types on £2,500 a day would begin to put a real dent in the MIR finances.

Plus, you can’t exactly book a trip to Kabul on Expedia.

Or can you?

Let’s have a look.

No, you can’t:

Drop me an email if you’d like to help send us to Kabul 😉

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

13 replies on “Taking the Mobile Industry Review show to Kabul, Tehran and Pyongyang”

Oh that wouldn't work — taking our phones OFF us … I'd be happy to agree not to ShoZu anything without getting the minder's approval though.

That's if they even have a data network in North Korea? My knowledge of the place is strictly limited!

Interesting, some news reports depict Kabul as a warzone… others make it sound like an appealing tourist destination!

I'd prefer to avoid the middle-east though!

I’d imagine Tehran would be very do-able logistics-wise and the authorities fairly welcoming. Pyongyang is open to Western tourists but from what I remember reading (from those that have gone) you have to put your name down on a waiting list and once there you have a minder at all times and, um, phones are taken off you! 😀

We at MegaFon Moscow did actually bid for the GSM license in Iran, and some people from the team have travelled there – without any problems. Tehran is in fact extremely interesting and not that bad as portrayed in media. Before revolution it was called “asian Paris”, did you know that?

The real fun was to order some research papers covering Iran from one London-based agency. Imagine the scene: some Russian guy (me) calls the agency and asks for a report. Then he asks if the bank transfer is OK. The nice lady on the other end of the line says it is fine. Than he asks whether they will accept the money from the Tehran-based bank… Hearing that loooong pause was priceless.

It is so pity our shareholders decided to not to participate in the license auction.

In case you need to look at some country close to the edge of nowhere – what about Tajikistan? They had 6-years long civil war, share common border with Afganistan, and we, crazy Russians (and some crazy Finnish guys from Sonera) are building 3G networks there 🙂

I have been all round the middle east and you will be treated like royalty wherever you go.

@ Sanja, wasn't Beirut also called the Paris of the East

As an Iranian, I can tell you that Tehran is the most practical choice. You'll be actually really surprised to see the mobile arena there. Nokia S60 runs supreme there. GPRS has only been recently deployed there. The price is 14.8 Iranian Rials/KB (~10000 Rials = $1US) at peak times, and 4 IR Rials/KB during off peak times. Everybody complains about the quality of the network. Just one thing to keep in mind, you're not gonna be able to hold a MIR meetup and have “drinks” served, but besides that everything should be smooth.

Echoing the comments above – I think that a trip to Tehran could be quite entertaining – just as long as the US and Israeli Armed Forces manage to prevent themselves from unleashing waves of 'precision guided ordnance' around the place. I have personal experience of the mess that US Navy cruise missiles can make of GSM infrastructure!

Echoing the comments above – I think that a trip to Tehran could be quite entertaining – just as long as the US and Israeli Armed Forces manage to prevent themselves from unleashing waves of 'precision guided ordnance' around the place. I have personal experience of the mess that US Navy cruise missiles can make of GSM infrastructure!

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