Iran’s political turmoil is starting to affect the mobile space. With democratic-minded Iranians protesting the recent Presidential elections in Iran, it seems Nokia has been caught in the crossfire. As part of a wide-ranging economic boycott, Iranians are boycotting companies that have ties to the government – companies like Nokia. For its part in selling the Iranian government network infrastructure equipment that allows authorities to monitor communications, Nokia has seen demand for its mobile phones drop drastically.
Nokia’s network technology joint venture with Siemens, known as Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), was responsible for selling Iran a monitoring system that could be used to spy on political dissidents. The system is run-of-the-mill in many other countries, but Iranian protesters are apparently convinced that NSN could have deployed the network without the monitoring system in place. At the heart of the issue is the fact that Nokia Siemens Networks sold the monitoring equipment to a government that has a track record of “human rights violence and suppression of dissent,” according to an Iranian journalist recently released from detention. Nokia has been blamed for its involvement in the network infrastructure deal.
Anecdotal reports from wholesale mobile phone vendors in Iran indicate that demand for Nokia handsets has been halved. The boycott has prompted some cellphone shops in Iran to remove Nokia hardware from their window displays. Shop owners don’t want their customers to think that their store supports Nokia. There is also a boycott on SMS text messages in the wake of reports that TCI, Iran’s state-run telecom, can monitor such communications.
The question is, will demand for Nokia handsets ever return to normal in Iran? Or has Nokia’s involvement tainted Iranians’ perception of the world’s largest mobile phone maker?