Skip to main content
Jun 22 2009

Provision of Lawful Intercept capability in Iran

We've just posted a statement on our website about the work we do in Iran. I'll post it here so people can comment.

========================

Recent media reports have speculated about Nokia Siemens Networks’ role in providing monitoring capability to Iran. To clarify: Nokia Siemens Networks has provided Lawful Intercept capability solely for the monitoring of local voice calls in Iran. Nokia Siemens Networks has not provided any deep packet inspection, web censorship or Internet filtering capability to Iran.

In most countries around the world, including all EU member states and the U.S., telecommunications networks are legally required to have the capability for Lawful Intercept and this is also the case in Iran. Lawful Intercept is specified in standards defined by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project).

To fulfill this Lawful Intercept requirement as part of an expansion to provide further mobile connectivity to Iran in the second half of 2008, Nokia Siemens Networks provided TCI, the Iranian national operator, with the capability to conduct voice monitoring of local calls on its fixed and mobile network.

The restricted functionality monitoring center provided by Nokia Siemens Networks in Iran cannot provide data monitoring, internet monitoring, deep packet inspection, international call monitoring or speech recognition. Therefore, contrary to speculation in the media, the technology supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks cannot be used for the monitoring or censorship of internet traffic.

On March 31st, 2009 Nokia Siemens Networks and Perusa Partners Fund I L.P., a private investment firm advised by Munich based Perusa GmbH, successfully closed the sale of Nokia Siemens Networks’ Intelligence Solutions business to Perusa. Nokia Siemens Networks made the decision to exit this business as it primarily addresses customer segments which differ from telecom service providers and is therefore not part of Nokia Siemens Networks core business.

In all countries where it operates the company does business strictly in accordance with the Nokia Siemens Networks Code of Conduct and in full compliance with UN and EU export control regulations and other applicable laws and regulations.

Nokia Siemens Networks provides the mobile technology for millions of people in Iran to communicate with each other and the outside world. Nokia Siemens Networks firmly believes that providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate ultimately benefits societies and brings greater prosperity.

=================

So that's what we're saying in response to the rumours. Unfortunately, I was unable to clarify for the Wall Street Journal the limited scope of the lawful intercept capability (voice calls only) and rule out all those specifics about deep packet inspection and web filtering. Our failure to kill that speculation at the outset has obviously led to a lot of concern about our work in Iran.

I will endeavour not to filter comments, although solely abusive comments will not be tolerated.

----------------

This is below within the comments, but I've posted here for clarity so you can see our response to some questions/comments:

Lots more comments. I’ve approved pretty much all of them I believe. I’ve only deleted those not in English. Apologies to those commenters.

Firstly: we are not Nokia or Siemens, but a separate and jointly owned subsidiary, Nokia Siemens Networks.

I will aim to deal with the main accusation that even our presence in Iran is wrong.

Mobile networks in Iran, and the subsequent widespread adoption of mobile phones, have allowed Iranians to communicate what they are seeing and hearing with the outside world. The proof of this is in the widespread awareness of the current situation.

The fact that telecom networks in Iran - as they are all over the world - are required by law to have the ability to monitor specific voice calls, needs to be weighed against the huge empowerment that connectivity brings to ordinary Iranians.

When asked, we have been transparent about the communications capability, and the limited monitoring functionality, provided to Iran. We feel there is a net-benefit in an open, responsible company, such as ours, doing business in Iran to bring wider connectivity to people there.

I am sure many people would prefer no Lawful Intercept capability in any telecommunications networks. However, it does have an important role in fighting crime, and most governments around the world have deemed Lawful Intercept a mandatory feature of their networks. That is the regulatory environment in which telecoms networks are built.

So given this Lawful Intercept is mandatory, the question we have to ask is: Would people in Iran be better off without access to telecommunications at all?

We did have a choice as to whether we bring the Iranian people this connectivity, in the knowledge that telecoms networks have the ability to monitor voice calls as they do all over the world, and believe there is a net benefit to the people of Iran.

Ben Roome

And another comment as a lot more similar messages have been posted:

I do want to say to the people commenting here if we're (I'm) aware of the situation in Iran. We are (and I am), and it is mainly because of mobile phone video, photos and calls from across Iran, communicating events first hand as they happen, that we are so aware.

As I said above: we had a choice as to whether we bring the Iranian people this mobile connectivity, in the knowledge that telecoms networks in Iran are required to have the ability to monitor voice calls as they do all over the world. We made that choice and believe there is a net benefit to the people of Iran.

About Ben Roome