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A new anti-smuggling initiative set to debut in Iran later this week could result in an effective iPhone ban until Apple agrees to officially do business in the country as a registered entity, local reports say.
According to a Tasnim News Agency report on Monday, later translated by The Japan Times, government officials intend to enact a set of anti-smuggling rules that will, in effect, ban the use iPhone if Apple does not act.
"If Apple will not register an official representative in Iran within the next few days, all iPhones will be collected from the market," the director of Iran's anti-smuggling office told reporters.
Specifically, Iran's government will implement a country-wide mobile phone registry in cooperation with cellular operators, telecommunications unions and resellers that requires all cellphones be registered with a central database prior to use. Since Apple is not recognized as a legitimate business, its products cannot be registered under the new guidelines. The ruleset is not retroactive, however, meaning existing iPhones — smuggled or not — will not be scrutinized.
Iran's government did not elaborate on how it plans to detect unregistered devices, though it can be assumed the system involves cross referencing device IDs with the anti-smuggling database as they show up on cellular networks. As for enforcement, a Tehran IT union representative suggested illegitimate iPhones will be confiscated.
Despite not having an official presence in Iran, Apple's products are in high demand through unauthorized resellers. Like other high-tech U.S. companies, Apple was barred from selling products in Iran due to trade sanctions, though reports in 2012 revealed a thriving "underground" market for iPhones and other off-limits hardware.
In 2013, following a relaxation of trade restrictions under the Obama administration, Apple announced it would restart sales to customers who planned to travel back to Iran. A year later rumors suggested the company was looking to set up a network of authorized resellers in the region, though an official presence has yet to materialize.