Middle East mobile subscription rates set to hit 15 percent growth in 2009
The Middle East region represents one of the world’s fastest growing mobile subscription markets with a 47% year-over-year increase in 2008, even as the world economy struggles and slows, according to figures from Informa Telecoms & Media at this year’s GSM 3G Middle East Conference in Dubai.
Globally, subscription growth of 11.7% is still expected for 2009, driven by increasingly mobile and growing populations, but the economies of Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East will be the engine for this growth, with a regional forecast of more than 15% subscription growth for the next year. In contrast, growth of just below 5% is expected in Western Europe and 5.6% in North America in 2009.
Mobile penetration in Arab countries reached 56% at end of the second half of 2008, although this figure is much higher across GCC markets, with the more mature markets expected to see a surge in wireless broadband usage as operators look to develop their networks and drive an increase in data traffic levels in 2009. Some of the most dynamic economies in the Gulf are already seeing a surge in the use of Wi-max and broadband technology.
The new data was unveiled by Abdulaziz Fakhroo, chairman of GSM Arab World, the regional representative body of the wireless industry representing mobile operators in 22 Arab countries and 199 million customers, as part of his welcoming address entitled “GSM/3G Status and Future Opportunities in Arab Countries.”
“The region is still seeing growth rates in mobile subscriber numbers that are higher than the economies of Europe and the Americas, and this lead seems set to widen in 2009. With each new generation of broadband technology, the nations of the Arab world are enjoying an increasing range of social and economic benefits that are enabling people to benefit from the good times and be resilient in the more challenging ones,” said Engineer Fakhroo.
Fakhroo, who is Divisional Manager, Wireless Networks, at Qtel, commented on the current status of 3G technology and the future opportunities to be found in Arab countries. Key trends emerging in the market include a shift from voice to increased data usage; increases in customer-driven content, products and services; and a striking decrease in the “digital divide” in the Arab world.
In particular, he noted that – in spite of the slowing economies – mobile broadband technologies are likely to increase in importance in 2009, because of the benefits delivered for the knowledge economies of nations, which are becoming more valuable as commodity prices fall.
Fakhroo noted that regionally, Arab countries have been able to realize significant value by supporting the growth of their knowledge economies.
Now in its 13th year, the GSM 3G Middle East Conference is the Middle East's leading communications conference and exhibition. The conference brings together 2,500 telecom decision makers from across the whole communications value chain - mobile and fixed line operators, internet service providers, regulators, investors, telecoms solution vendors, content providers and more, 160 exhibitors and 65 expert speakers for agenda setting and strategic debate.
Fakhroo concluded: “I am delighted to represent Qtel at this prestigious and important conference, especially since Qtel was the first telecom operator to bring 2G services to the Middle East in 1994. This year's theme, “Towards a Broadband World” is highly appropriate. The conference’s appeal is now truly global as the telecom companies of the Middle East expand beyond the region and into new emerging markets.”