UAE’s mobile penetration hits 193%, according to TRA

Regulator’s figures suggest almost two Sim cards per person

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By  George Bevir Published  May 12, 2009

The mobile penetration rate in the UAE now stands at 193%, according to figures released by the country’s telecoms regulator yesterday.

The figure is up from 182% in September last year, and it suggests that the UAE has the highest mobile penetration rate in the Middle East.

In comparison, Bahrain has penetration of 138%, according to data published by Bahrain’s regulator in April. Figures from Oman’s regulator for the last quarter of 2008 show it has a mobile penetration rate of 117%.

Mobile penetration is measured by dividing the number of active mobile users - defined by the UAE regulator as one that had placed or received a call or SMS within a 90 day period - among the population.

According to the UAE TRA’s figures for the six months between September last year and February this year, the UAE’s operators, Etisalat and Du, continued to grow their subscriber base.

Du, which launched in at the start of 2007, has grown its share of the market from 26% in September last year to 28%, with the rest using incumbent network Etisalat.
But the effect of the global economic downturn on the operator’s subscriber numbers is expected to show later this year.

Milan Sallaba, partner at analysts Oliver Wyman, said the effect of an anticipated decline in the population of the UAE would not be evident in the operators’ subscriber numbers until the next set of figures are issued later in the year.

He added that he expected Du’s rate of growth to continue to eat into Etisalat’s share of the market.

“It’s conceivable that Du could achieve 30% in the same six month period of time. But they will have to work for it and it won’t happen automatically,” he said.

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