Market matures, business booms

There may be more competition than ever before, but there is still plenty of opportunity left for cash-rich operators to exploit.

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By  Administrator Published  September 7, 2007

The telecomms sector across the Middle East and North Africa continues to capture the attention of the world. Operating licenses still come up for grabs regularly and telecomms companies have demonstrated that they are prepared to open their wallets to secure them.

Take a week in August as an example of how vibrant the industry is. Within the space of just a few days, Etisalat Misr announced that it has picked up one million customers in the first seven weeks of operation; Korek Telecom said it would invest US $1 billion in its Iraqi mobile network; and around 25 companies said they would bid for a 26% stake in a new Kuwaiti mobile operator.

The amount of money that operators have available to them is also staggering. Just last month, three companies agreed to pay US $3.75 billion between them to secure three permanent mobile phone licenses in Iraq.

Earler this year, Qatar-based Qtel paid around US $3.7 billion to buy a 51% stake in Kuwait-based Wataniya, a company with mobile phone operations in several countries.

UAE-based Etisalat's Egyptian arm is ready to spend US $1.41 billion over three years building its infrastructure. This is on top of the roughly US $2 billion it paid for the right to operate a mobile telephone service in the country.

Operators are paying these huge sums of money to snap up available assets while they can, but there is also a feeling that this is a business that may still have plenty of room for growth. Many markets, such as Egypt, still have relatively low overall mobile usage rates. In those markets where penetration levels are high, voice traffic still dominates and the market for data services such as multimedia messaging, mobile TV and mobile internet is just about poised for takeoff.

GULFCOMMS, which debuted last year, helps to raise the profile of the telecommunications industry and gives operators and suppliers a perfect forum in which to communicate. Over 100,000 visitors were counted at last year's GITEX Technology Week event, and GULFCOMMS has benefitted by being a part of the region's biggest and longest-established information technology trade show. GULFCOMMS is a perfect opportunity for suppliers to the telecommunications industry to meet with potential customers and tap into this booming market.

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