Since the 1970's Iran has considered establishing a GEO communications satellite network. After several abortive attempts, Iran reached a tentative agreement in 1993 to purchase a pair of western satellites for its Zohreh system. With spacecraft stationed at 26 degrees E and 34 degrees E, the Zohreh system was to provide both L-band (INMARSAT-compatible) and Ku-band (14 transponders) links. The 1,850-kg spacecraft were to be furnished by Alcatel Espace and Aerospatiale with design lifetimes of 10 years. In the meantime, Iran was leasing Ku-band capacity on INTELSAT spacecraft.
Minister of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Ahmad Motamedi announced on 25 May 2002 that the launching of the Zohreh satellite would bring about major changes in Iran's communication system. The satellite would improve telephone communications in remote areas, he said. Initial steps to purchase the satellite from Russia's Uoya Export company are complete, he said, and the contract is worth $125 million. In April, Motamedi said that the building and launch would take two-and-a-half years, and at that time members of parliament criticized the purchase of a Russian satellite, called for a deal with a major international satellite producer, and said that the project does not make technical or economic sense.
During 2002, TCI announced a tender for the construction and launch of two Ku-band geo-stationary orbit satellites, to be placed at 34º E and 47º E. The satellites are named Zohreh and are intended to take over the domestic traffic presently handled by the Intelsat satellite.
In September 2002 Mr. Izadi, the director of the Zohreh national satellite project, was interviewed on Iranian state radio. He said that the platform of the Zohreh satellite is being manufactured in Russia. Izadi went on to say: "Its telecommunications and computer sections are being manufactured by two prominent European companies. Finally, it will be assembled in Russia and it will be launched by a Soyuz missile from Russia to the Islamic Republic's position in orbit and it will be turned over to the Islamic Republic." Izadi said that Iran is waiting for Russia's Avi export company to sign a contract, and the signing of that contract will start a 30-month timetable during which the satellite would be built and launched into orbit. Two satellite control stations would also be set up in Iran. Subsequently, Iran's television and telecommunications networks would be transferred to their own national satellite. Members of parliament had criticized the Zohreh satellite project's connection with a Russian firm of dubious reliability, and some Iranian press outlets have questioned the country's need for such a costly project.
Behbahan parliamentary representative Valiollah Shojapurian, who serves in the legislature's Cultural Committee, warned on 16 April 2003 that Iraq will be producing radio and television programs under US supervision and, "With strengthened transmitters, Iraqi TV programs could be received in Iran with ordinary aerials," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. "Our country's space will be open to various waves," Shojapurian said. "Iranians will be directly influenced by the ensuing cultural atmosphere." Iranian law forbids private ownership of satellite receiving equipment, and the parliament has not had any success in its efforts to amendment this law. In a possible reference to this law, Shojapurian said, "The limitations imposed by Iranian officials so far will not be effective any longer and the people will be influenced by the cultural atmosphere of the neighboring countries." "We should allow different tastes to exist and emerge in the society," he recommended.
On 31 January 2005 Iran and Russia signed an agreement on the design, consultations, testing and lift off of `Zohreh` satellite. The $132 million agreement was signed between Chairman of the Board of Directors of Iran Telecommunication Company Masoud Moqaddas, deputy director of Russian Federal Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos) and managing director of `Avia Exports of Russia.` The satellite will have the capability of telephone communication and fax link, transmission of data and broadcast of radio and television programs throughout the country and will have 12 transponders. The construction and lift off the satellite is estimated to take 30 months after opening of the letter of credit.
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