Mobile growth accelerates across region

The growing trend of fixed-to-mobile substitution is increasingly threatening monopoly telecoms operators across the Middle East and North Africa, according to analyst house Arab Advisors Group.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  June 18, 2003

The growing trend of fixed-to-mobile substitution is increasingly threatening monopoly telecoms operators across the Middle East and North Africa, according to analyst house Arab Advisors Group.

The research group found that by the end of 2002, the total number of cellular subscribers for nineteen mobile operators in the Arab World exceeded 22.2 million, a combined penetration rate of 11.45%.

Meanwhile, the total number of fixed telephone lines reached only 20.69 million by the same point, a combined penetration rate of 10.6%.

According to Arab Advisors, Telecom Egypt served the largest number of fixed lines, and Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), Telecom Egypt and Etisalat in the UAE generated the highest PSTN revenues among the examined operators.

STC and Etisalat, along with Maroc Telecom, also held the bulk of mobile subscribers. Together, the three operators had more than 50% of the total market.

The average GSM monthly ARPU for the fifteen examined mobile operators was US$43 in 2002 with a median of US$46. STC, one again, had the highest monthly ARPU during the year.

“The highest PSTN penetration rate is in the UAE and Qatar at 31% and 29% respectively,” says Hala Baqain, Arab Advisors senior research analyst.

“The relatively low PSTN penetration rates in the region, when compared to global standards, do not necessarily indicate that the markets are under-served. This is due to the fact that the average family size in the Arab countries is usually high, around 6 per household, which translates into respectable household penetration rates. For example, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE had 100% household penetration or more by 2002,” she adds.

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