Arab mobile market growth nears 10%

Mobile phone penetration has accelerated further in the Arab world with a growth rate of 9.92%, according to a new report.

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By  Patrick Phelvin Published  January 28, 2004

Mobile phone penetration has accelerated further in the Arab world with a growth rate of 9.92% at the end of June 2003, compared to the increase in fixed lines of just 3.57%. According to the market study, mobile phone subscriptions in 18 Arab countries stood at 29,431,600 at the end of June 2003, whereas landline subscriptions stood at 24,88,300. In sharp contrast, the number of internet users in the 18 Arab countries researched in the survey stood at just 10,245,600, according to the study conducted by Dubai-based Madar Research Group. “The rapid penetration of mobile phones does not come as a surprise to market insiders. The advantages and benefits of a mobile phone nowadays are many, including reduced subscription costs and lower priced handsets and accessories. Additionally, mobile phones are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and versatile, offering value added services that go beyond mere communication functions,” says Bashar Dahabra, founder and CEO,, a regional wireless information service provider. “The figure of 30 million subscribers is still minimal for the vast Middle East and North Africa region. The recent launch of the Multimedia Message Service (MMS) using the Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP) platform heralds further growth for the mobile phone industry. This new technology allows pictures, graphics and videos to be delivered to mobile phones, opening new possibilities in the field of information and entertainment., a leader in this developing market, is ready to expand its cutting edge mobile phone technology to the whole region. We expect the number of subscribers to increase dramatically within the next five years,” adds Dahabra. According to the study, the UAE has 2.65 million mobile phone subscribers, against 1.11 million fixed line subscribers, for a population of 3.7 million. Bahrain has 400,000 mobile phone subscribers, against 178,000 landlines, with a population of 728,000. Kuwait has 1.5 million mobile subscribers, against 485,000 landlines. Saudi Arabia has 6 million mobile phone users, against 3.43 million fixed lines, with a population of 23.89 million. In sharp contrast, some of the less developed Arab countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Sudan, Iraq and Libya, have more landlines than mobile phones. “We foresee a tremendous demand for the value added services being offered over mobile phones, and we can see that more innovative services will be added to the ones currently available,” said Dahabra. “With evolving technologies like Java and GPRS, the mobile phone will add new dimensions to delivering breaking news, greeting cards, movie updates, mshots or cartoons. We are heading into an era in which the mobile phone will be the first resource for accessing news in all forms, including live video.” The 18 Arab countries covered in the Madar survey were the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq and Sudan.

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