By Alex Ritman
A new report from Australian analysts says that mobile penetration in the Middle East will be higher than Asia-Pac by the end of the year.
Mobile penetration in the Middle East will overtake Asia Pacific by the end of 2006, according to studies by analysts at Australia-based BIS Shrapnel. The report noted that in 2005, 20.6 million people in the Middle East region subscribed to a mobile service, an increase of 48%, bringing the total customer base to 62.9 million at the end of the year.
According to Wisam Francis, MENA analyst at BIS Shrapnel and author of the Middle East Telecommunications 2005 to 2010 report, a further 150 million people in the region are in range of a mobile network. “It is conceivable that the cellular subscription will double before the end of the of 2010.”
The growth will come from Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain. “Iraq and Algeria recorded triple digit growth in 2005. Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen all recorded an average yearly subscription growth of 50% or more,” says Francis.
Further growth will be boosted by increased liberalisation such as the launch of the second operator in the UAE in mid-2006. Looking to the future, the 2013 expiry date of Qtel’s reign as sole provider in Qatar is likely to be brought forward, ending all mobile monopolies in the MENA region.