Analyst questions UAE mobile subscription figures

Arab Advisors say that telco figures may over estimate numbers of mobile users

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By  Ronan Shields Published  November 18, 2007

Mobile subscriber penetration rates for the UAE published by local operators Etisalat and du could be inflated, according to Jordan-based analysts, Arab Advisors Group.

UAE incumbent Etisalat recently announced that mobile penetration in the country had topped 150% and claimed it was "the number one telecom operator in terms of mobile penetration in the world". The company's domestic rival, du, published figures last week claiming that its subscriber base had reached one million ‘active subscribers'.

But with no official definition of the term ‘active subscriber' prescribed by the UAE's telco regulator, the TRA, there is some confusion as to the exact number of mobile users in the country.

Andrawes Snobar, senior research analyst specialising in the UAE's mobile telco market at Arab Advisors Group, said that if such a definition were in place, mobile subscriber penetration rate in the UAE would be around 144% as of the first half of 2007.

"The very high mobile lines penetration rate over saturation is mainly due to two factors: the lack of active subscriber definition and the multiple line usage in the UAE," he said.

Without a specific definition of an active subscriber mandated by the TRA, Etisalat and du have the right to announce their own figures of subscriber bases according to their own criteria, Snobar added.

Mobile penetration in the UAE stood at 152% as of Q207, according to a report published by Dubai-based Delta Partners and the same report noted that mobile penetration in neighbouring Bahrain stood at 153% during the same period.

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