BuddeComm has released a new report on the Middle East as part of their annual research publications.
Key Highlights of the report:
Wealth and higher GDP are not the only indicators of higher levels of telecommunication development in the region. Openness to trade and social and economic liberalness are also important.
There is little competition in the industry or government attempt to encourage it.
Whilst UAE, Qatar and Bahrain are amongst the most developed telecommunications markets, they have no competition in either fixed-line or mobile provision.
Only Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have established independent regulators and that of Saudi Arabia is at a very early stage of development.
Fixed-line infrastructure is characterised by high levels of digitalisation but low teledensity.
Telecommunications are dominated by incumbent fixed-line operators. Fixed-line provision is a monopoly in all countries except Israel.
There has been very little foreign investment in fixed-line operators and no foreign telco or investment company owns a majority share in any Middle Eastern fixed-line operator.
With the exception of the UAE and, to a lesser extent, Israel Internet use in the Middle East is very low.
The UAE has an Internet penetration rate at West European levels, partly due to government encouragement. This has included the establishment of the flourishing Dubai Internet City, a high-tech free trade zone.
Contrastingly, Saudi Arabia has an Internet penetration rate of less than 2%, despite its oil wealth. Internet connections have only been publicly available since 1999.
Internet use is tightly controlled in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia also has strict censorship and censorship is increasing in Iran having been surprisingly liberal.
Internet cafes are popular in several countries, partly due to high access costs. In Iran there are over 1,500 in Tehran alone plus more in other towns and cities.
Broadband Internet provision is still in its infancy. Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) subscription numbers are low and cable Internet is also not widely available.
Low Internet use, particularly from the home, has led to low levels of B2C e-commerce.
Fixed-line teledensity has been overtaken by mobile in most countries. However, in some cases, both figures are low.
Israel has one of highest rates of mobile subscription in the world but Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Iran all have penetration levels below 3%.
Mobile telephone growth rates are particularly high in Turkey, which ranked eighth in a table of numbers of net additional subscriptions in mid-2001. Growth rates are also high in Jordan and Oman but from a lower base.
Turkey and Israel have very competitive mobile markets, each with four operators. There is no competition in mobile telecoms in Bahrain, Iran, Oman, Qatar, and UAE – not that it seems to have hindered growth in UAE or Bahrain.
Third generation mobile system (3G) licences have been issued only in Israel.
Several pan-regional satellite TV operators have large shares of the TV market in most Arab countries. These include digital TV operators. Digital TV is also available in Israel and Turkey.
See also: 2002 Middle East Telecoms and Information Highways.
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