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Thuraya prepaid simcard renewal in Iran
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Travelling with a Thuraya satellite phone using a Thuraya prepaid simcard requires access to Thuraya prepaid scratch card numbers every year. The yearly simcard renewal requires a minimum balance. While on the move this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Being close to a Thuraya dealer in Asia is quite a rarity. The only place we’ve actually seen a Thuraya prepaid scratch card is in the Netherlands. So far we’ve been using the convenient FillFull service for Thuraya prepaid scratch card numbers. However this service is down since November 2007. What to do when you find yourself in Iran and you need to renew a Thuraya prepaid simcard registration? Thuraya requires a yearly fee to keep Thuraya prepaid number active. The registration renewal takes 99 US$ when there’s been minimal use of the Thuraya number in the past year. This is paid through the prepaid balance. Basically this means topping-up the prepaid balance before the expiration date of the Thuraya phone number. Thuraya sends daily SMS text messages weeks in advance to indicate expiration.

So far we depended on the FillFull service at The service sends the scratch card number by SMS and is paid through a credit card transaction. This service was the official top-up system Thuraya mentions at it’s website.

Unfortunately the FillFull service went down somewhere in November 2007 – no reasons given. At first the FillFull indicated it would be offline for a week or so. Next it gave no ETA at all. In January 2008 it stated we would receive a message when it’s online again. A bit peculiar since it was possible to login at as if everything worked as before. For us it meant going back to the old system of buying a Thuraya scratch card somewhere someplace.

In july 2008 Thuraya mentions a new service. Read about it here with info about the Hughes 7100/7101.

At that moment we found ourselves in Iran. The only official Thuraya dealer is located in Tehran – which is Asia Telecom. Not really a fun drive when it’s winter and we had no reason to go there anyway. But the Thuraya website lists a 24 hr service number in Iran for Thuraya subscribers so we took a chance.

Expecting a ‘Farsi only’ operator we got connected with an English speaking support desk. The result of this call amazed us. A Thuraya scratch card number is sent to us by a SMS text message after a bank deposit at the account of Asia Telecom. The deposit slip has to be faxed to Asia Telecom including the Thuraya phone number. To re-confirm the Iranian top-up procedure we received a SMS from Asia Telecom with the account number, fax number and the conversion rate of US$ to Iranian Rials.
Thank you Asia Telecom!

In Shiraz we made a 20 unit test deposit (199.000 Rials) and faxed the deposit slip as explained to Asia Telecom. 2 hours later we received the prepaid scratch card number by SMS. It worked seamless with a minimum of hassle. Naturally making the deposit required extensive help of the Melli bank because the deposit itself is a Farsi only matter. After this test deposit we made the required deposits to save our Thuraya number for the coming year.

For the Thuraya prepaid registration renewal procedure itself there is a catch. When the required prepaid balance is sufficient and renewal is due, the service menu (calling 150 free of charge) has a 6th option. Normally this 6th option is not there. When renewing at the first renewal indication by SMS text message (approx. 3 weeks in advance) you loose about 3 weeks of the previous year. So basically its better to wait till the last week or so to maximise the time up to the next renewal. Downside is the daily SMS text messaging of Thuraya to warn you for expiration. And those SMS text messages arrive in the middle of the night….and with minimal satellite signal the “SAT alert mode” goes off many times in a row – causing a night full of rings and beeps.

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