Six countries in the region have penetration levels well over 100%. This is mostly due to a recent increase in competition – a second or third operator has entered the market or a new investor has bought a share of an existing operator – causing a subsequent drop in tariffs or improvement in services. Multi-SIM ownership is common as subscribers aim to maximise special offers and different deals. Jordan is a standout case of a country with high penetration levels for its GDP per capita due to a ferociously competitive market.
The mobile markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, with penetration levels in mid-2008 of 163%, 150% and 187%, would appear to be well past saturation point even considering multiple-SIM usage. However, it should be remembered that penetration statistics are only a very rough guide, particularly in these countries, due to anomalies in the population counts. The populations of the GCC countries are very fluid with very large numbers of expatriates constantly arriving and leaving, which makes determining exact penetration levels very difficult. For example, at least 80% of the population of the UAE is made up of expatriates. The fluidity of this expatriate population also makes growth possible for new competitors in the market despite the high penetration levels. Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE would otherwise appear to have quite astonishing annual growth levels considering their high levels of penetration. In addition, both Syrian and Jordanian subscriber numbers have included the large proportion of the Iraqi middle class that have been residents but not included in population totals. Israeli subscriber numbers include many Palestinians who are also not included in population statistics.
For more information and detailed forecasts of most Middle East countries see:
For information relating to individual Middle Eastern countries, see: The Middle East.
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