Mobile phone subscriptions in region see sharp growth

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Mobile phone subscriptions have risen sharply in the Arab world on the back of strong consumer demand combined with increased liberalisation and competition in Arab telecom markets, according to the latest findings from Dubai-based Madar Research.

Subscriptions to mobile phones in the Arab world increased to 87.6 million by the end of 2005 from 51.19 million by the end of the previous year, the research firm found.

This resulted in an average pan-Arab penetration rate of 28 subscriptions per 100 people.

“Thanks to a telecom liberalisation drive which gained momentum in many Arab countries over the past couple of years and the resulting competitive environment and dropping prices, mobile telephony has become accessible to a wider base of Arab consumers,” said Abdul Kader Kamli, president and research director of Madar Research.

He added that in many Arab countries, mobile phones were proving a more attractive option than traditional fixed lines.

“Due to falling fees and rates — not to mention the mobility advantage — mobile phones have interestingly become a more viable alternative in many Arab countries where fixed telephone service is either unreliable or unable to meet demand,” he stated. “Indeed, in some countries, such as Morocco, the subscription ratio of mobile lines to fixed lines is as high as ten to one,” he added.

Yemen and Sudan had the highest growth rates in mobile subscription, the research firm said, while the more mature markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region registered the lowest growth.

The GCC witnessed growth of around 38%, while North Africa (excluding Egypt) made almost 86%, followed by nearly 83% in the Levant region, which groups Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt, the research said.

In terms of penetration rates, the GCC by far leads the Arab world, followed by North Africa and the Levant respectively, the report stated. In terms of future growth, the research firm said it expects mobile growth to sustain strong levels, especially in countries where penetration rates are still low.

Madar Research said it considered 18 countries in the Arab world in total, excluding Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti and Como- ros, when compiling the study.

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