On November 4, 2017, it was published that Iran had placed a balloon above the Mehran border crossing with Iraq, as part of a project described as unprecedented, intended to provide free Wi-Fi connection to Shiite pilgrims arriving every year at the Holy Shrine of Shiite Imam Hussein bin Ali in Karbala, Iraq for the Arba’een rites and rituals.
According to official sources, the balloon, which is located at a height of 500, has been checked on November 3, 2017, and become operative the next day, along with a radio transmitter set up in the city of Mehran to provide the necessary bandwidth. The transmitter sends the bandwidth to the balloon, providing free Internet service to anyone below the balloon without the need for a password. The 100 MB bandwidth is supposed to suffice, based on the fact that its users are passersby rather than regular residents. However, in case the traffic increases in the coming days, the bandwidth will also be increased.
According to the report, during atmospheric events or while a helicopter passes in the area, the balloon will be temporarily grounded and then returned to its orbit afterwards. Furthermore, if the project succeeds, it will also be implemented on other border crossings. It was actually planned to be implemented last year, but was postponed due to reasons which were not technical.
According to the Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Iranian Internet equipment has been confiscated by the Iraqi security forces during the performance of religious rites by the Iranian pilgrims. The minister added that “drastic measures were taken for launching Wi-Fi internet service en route Najaf to Kabala. Unfortunately, Iraqi officials did not issue necessary license in this respect.” He did not mention the type of equipment seized and the exact location. This happened despite reports on necessary steps being taken by the Interior Minister and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq.