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Iraq tops Arab telecom survey

Iraq dethrones Jordan to become the Arab world’s most competitive cellular market, while Qatar emerged as the least competitive

Iraq’s telecom sector emerged as the most competitive of the 19 Arab countries surveyed. (Getty Images)
Iraq’s telecom sector emerged as the most competitive of the 19 Arab countries surveyed. (Getty Images)

Iraq has overtaken Jordan to become the Arab world’s most competitive mobile market, while Qatar emerged as the least competitive, according to the latest Cellular Competition Intensity Index from Jordan-based Arab Advisors Group.

Iraq gained 91%, the highest score out of the 19 countries in the survey, which assesses and ranks the level of competition in the region’s cellular markets. Jordan followed closely on 82.7%, Saudi Arabia on 79.2%, and Palestine on 78.6%.

The report demonstrates the huge strides made by Iraq since the end of the 2003 war, when the country lacked a single mobile network and instead relied on a state-run landline operation.

Iraqi now has three national GSM operators, Zain Iraq, Asiacell Iraq, and Korek Telecom, and is set to gain a fourth operator, possibly in the next 12 months. The country also has two regional players in the Kurdistan region, according to Andrewes Snobar, research manager, Arab Advisors Group.

“While Iraq’s largest operator, Zain, has a substantial market share of more than 50%, Iraq’s score benefited from the availability of corporate offers, operational ILD competition and 3G services,” he said.

Elsewhere in the survey, more developed countries ranked far below Iraq. For example, the UAE languished in 12th place, with a score of just 50.2%, placing it behind Yemen on 57.6%, Bahrain on 55.2%, Kuwait on 54.4%, and Tunisia on 51.5%.

African countries also performed strongly in the report, ahead of many of their Middle East counterparts. Morocco gained fourth place with a score of 67.7%, followed by Algeria on 64.6%, Sudan on 63.3%, and Mauritania on 61.3%.

The five least competitive markets emerged as Oman (44.8%), Libya (35.7%), Syria (34.2%), Lebanon (33.6%), and Qatar (31.5%).

The index takes into account the number of operators, packages, and services available in each of the 19 countries covered by the report, with each category assigned a certain weight according to its importance as an “indicator of competition”.

The report is based on categories including the number of licensed and expected operators; the number of working operators; the market share of largest operator; the number of current prepaid and postpaid plans; the availability of 3G services and competition for international calls.