Russia and Iran are discussing partnership in the field of IT and telecommunications

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Russia and Iran have begun substantively discussing partnerships in the field of IT and telecommunications. The Ministry of Digital Development of the Russian Federation offered Tehran technological support for the North-South transport corridor, which is currently being actively discussed, including strengthening data transmission channels, exporting domestic software and working together to improve postal communications between countries. The IT technology market in Iran is estimated at $3-5 billion a year and is growing rapidly. However, experts note that the sector is well developed, effectively supported by the state, and the question is whether Russian solutions will be in demand.

Kommersant got acquainted with the minutes of the meeting of the Russian-Iranian working group on cooperation in the field of IT and communications, which took place on June 26-27 in Tehran. Negotiations were held between the Ministry of Digital Development of the Russian Federation, key Russian IT companies, the Ministry of Communications and Technologies of Iran, as well as the Iranian Telecommunication Infrastructure Company (TIC). It follows from the document that the parties discussed the export of Russian IT solutions to Iran, cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and telecommunications.

From the Russian side, Rostelecom, Rostelecom-Solar, Positive Technologies, Center for Speech Technologies, STC Proteus, Russian Post, ANO Organization for the Development of the Video Game Industry and others took part in the negotiations. In terms of cybersecurity, the companies offered Tehran expertise in audio analysis using artificial intelligence, digitalization of business processes, deployment of cyber threat response centers (SOCs), and outsourcing of cybersecurity services.

The Ministry of Digital Development reported that “both sides are interested in the implementation of joint projects.” Iran has a well-built state system to support technology transfer and the development of internal innovations, Positive Technologies noted: “This reduces the time to make decisions on partnerships.” The Iranian embassy did not answer “Kommersant”.

Russian Post agreed with the Iranian side to assess the capabilities of Payam Airport (located in the city of Karaj, 40 km from Tehran) to expand international flights. The Kommersant company clarified that they are already working with Iran Post, the average delivery time for correspondence between countries is 14 days, and the most popular product categories are food, cosmetics and household items.

Considering the importance of data transmission along the maritime route and the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC), which runs between Russia and India, the protocol says, TIC announced during negotiations a series of meetings with Rostelecom to expand traffic transmission channels.

ITC “North-South” is a project of a through multimodal route connecting Russia with the Iranian ports of the Persian Gulf, through which cargo will be sent and delivered to the countries of the Middle East and South Asia. Cargo traffic along the corridor today is about 15 million tons, by 2030 it is planned to increase it to 41–45 million tons.

In 2010, Rostelecom and TIC already announced the creation of a transit telecommunications corridor “North-South”, which will run along the land route from Europe to the Caspian countries and the countries of the Persian Gulf. Separately, the implementation of this project was not reported, but in 2013 a consortium of operators with the participation of Rostelecom, British Vodafone, Iranian TIC and Omantel Omantel announced the launch of the Europe-Persia Express Gateway (EPEG) fiber-optic cable system, which connected the Western Europe and the Middle East. It traveled from Frankfurt through Eastern Europe, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and the Persian Gulf to Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman.

If Rostelecom is considering building a separate channel to pass traffic towards Iran, it is logical to do this with the help of a submarine fiber optic line, since the installation of a terrestrial cable will have to be coordinated with a large number of interested parties, Alexei Slukin, the author of the Telekommunalka profile Telegram channel, believes: build along the route Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan”. Rostelecom has two backbone junctions towards the Caspian with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the expert adds: “It is possible to expand the capacity towards Derbent, but it is not clear which cable layers will do this and where to get the cable from. There are currently no active SFOs in the Caspian Sea.” Rostelecom declined to comment.

In general, the Ministry of Digital Transformation is actively involved in the export of Russian IT solutions: at the end of June, a meeting was held at ANO Tsifrovaya ekonomika, at which strategies for promoting Russian system-wide and industrial software in the BRICS and EAEU markets were discussed (see “Kommersant” dated July 5). Iran has recently been recognized as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (India, Kazakhstan, China, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), which can strengthen the republic’s interaction with Asian countries.

At the same time, as Adlan Margoev, a researcher at the Center for Middle East and African Studies at the Institute of International Studies at MGIMO, noted in an interview with Kommersant, now China retains the role of Iran’s main trading partner, and it will take three to seven years to develop cooperation with Russia: more than 70% of the Russian-Iranian trade is agricultural products”.

Iran’s IT product market is smaller than Russia’s, but has been growing rapidly for ten years, now the sales of local software reaches $3-5 billion a year, primarily in the field of cybersecurity, business process management, the banking sector and transport, notes a member of the commission of the State Council of the Russian Federation on Economics and Finance Vladislav Onishchenko. As a result, according to Maxim Bashkatov, Director of the Center for Legal Development of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR), it is still difficult to assess the possibility of exporting Russian technologies: “In terms of a number of decisions, Iran itself has significant potential.”

Tatiana Isakova, Nikita Korolev, Yulia Tishina, Natalya Skorlygina

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