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2008 Middle Eastern - Mobile Communications and Mobile Data Market

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the mobile markets in the Middle East. Counties covered: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE and Yemen. Subjects covered include:

  • Mobile statistics and trends;
  • Mobile operators;
  • Spectrum and licence auctions, developments, national policies;
  • Infrastructure, GSM, CDMA, 3G, HSDPA;
  • Trends in the prepaid sector;
  • Mobile satellite services;
  • Mobile data markets;
  • Mobile TV.

This Middle East market report covers the mobile telephony and mobile data markets in each of the following countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE and Yemen. Across most countries of the Middle East, including even some of the most highly penetrated, growth rates are surprisingly high. 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. The region’s mobile markets include:


Iran started proceeding in August 2008 to auction a third mobile licence. Mobile subscriber numbers in Iran grew hugely after the launch of second operator MTN and there remains room for more growth but MTN’s path to launch was torturous, a fact that may discourage some bidders. Russian operators may be interested in the licence.


With little fixed-line infrastructure, Iraqis have taken to mobile use with great enthusiasm, creating penetration levels fast approaching 50% in mid-2008, having grown from zero in only four years. The previously three roughly equal operators have been reduced to two (one of them twice as large as the other) since the award of new 15-year licences but so far the reduction in competition has had no bad effect on growth, which has accelerated considerably in 2008, probably due to the improving security situation.


The Israeli government is moving to create a wholesale market in all sectors of communications, which will lead to change in the mobile sector after a long period of stability. While Israel already has very high levels of mobile penetration, its three roughly equal operators plus one much smaller operator, MIRS, have seen little change in their market shares for some years. The government is expected to issue MVNO licences. In addition, WiMAX frequencies are to be auctioned with MIRS (wholly owned by Motorola) a likely winner. Meanwhile, 3G subscriber levels made up around 25% of total subscribers in early 2008 and revenue from mobile data constituted around 15% of total revenue.


Qatar is currently the only market in the region with a single operator but this is about to change in early 2009 when second-licence winner Vodafone Qatar is due to launch. Qatar’s mobile penetration was already well above 120% in early 2008, leaving little room for Vodafone. Vodafone has experience in the region with operations in Egypt and Turkey but will be the first non-Middle East based operator in the GCC countries.

Saudi Arabia

Since the launch of second operator, Mobily, mobile subscribers have grown rapidly, leading to penetration levels similar to those of the smaller GCC states, at well over 100%, despite Saudi Arabia’s much higher total population. With third operator Zain’s launch in August 2008 the market is about to become even more competitive, particularly as it is the only market where three of the region’s major operators - Etisalat of the UAE, Zain of Kuwait and STC on its home turf - go head to head.


Mobile penetration levels in the UAE are quite spectacular, claimed as being over 175% in March 2008. Growth has been astonishing since the launch of second operator du. 3G subscribers make up over 25% of the total.

For those needing high level strategic information and objective analysis on the mobile telephony and mobile data markets in the Middle East, this report is essential reading and gives further information on:

  • Mobile operators - acquisitions, mergers, and competition;
  • Government policies and regulatory issues;
  • Past and planned licence auctions;
  • Technological developments in the mobile telephony and mobile data markets.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

1. The Middle East’s Mobile Market
1.1 Market overview
1.1.1 Mobile statistics
1.2 Mobile market forecasts
1.2.1 Egypt
1.2.2 Iran
1.2.3 Iraq
1.2.4 Jordan
1.2.5 Kuwait
1.2.6 Lebanon
1.2.7 Syria
1.2.8 Yemen
1.3 Regulatory issues
1.3.1 Background
1.3.2 Telecom sector liberalisation
1.3.3 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
1.3.4 Number portability
1.4 Major mobile operators in the Middle East
1.4.1 Overview
1.5 Mobile voice services
1.5.1 Prepaid
1.5.2 Satellite mobile
1.6 Mobile data services
1.6.1 Overview
1.6.2 3G
1.6.3 HSPA
1.6.4 Mobile TV
2. Bahrain
2.1 Overview of Bahrain’s mobile market
2.1.1 Mobile statistics
2.2 Regulatory issues
2.2.1 Second mobile licence
2.2.2 Third mobile licence
2.2.3 Prepaid subscriber registration
2.3 Mobile technologies
2.3.1 Analogue
2.3.2 Digital
2.3.3 Third generation mobile
2.4 Major mobile operators
2.4.1 Batelco
2.4.2 Zain Bahrain (formerly MTC Vodafone)
2.5 Mobile voice services
2.5.1 Prepaid
2.6 Mobile data services
2.6.1 Enhanced data for GSM evolution (EDGE)
2.6.2 High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA)
2.6.3 BlackBerry
2.7 Mobile content
2.7.1 Batelco
2.7.2 Zain Bahrain
3. Egypt
3.1 Overview of Egypt’s mobile market
3.1.1 Telecom Egypt’s mobile deal
3.1.2 Third mobile licence
3.1.3 Mobile subscriber statistics
3.2 Regulatory issues
3.2.1 Tariff structure
3.2.2 International gateways
3.2.3 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
3.3 Mobile technologies
3.3.1 3G
3.4 Major mobile operators
3.4.1 MobiNil (Egyptian Company for Mobile Services)
3.4.2 Vodafone Egypt
3.4.3 Etisalat Misr
3.5 Mobile voice services
3.5.1 Prepaid services
3.5.2 Satellite mobile
3.6 Mobile data services
3.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
3.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
3.6.3 Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
3.6.4 GPRS and EDGE
3.6.5 Mobile TV
3.7 Mobile content and applications
3.7.1 Mobile banking
4. Iran
4.1 Overview of Iran’s mobile market
4.1.1 Local handset manufacture
4.1.2 Mobile statistics
4.2 Regulatory issues
4.2.1 Second GSM licence
4.3 Major mobile operators
4.3.1 MCI
4.3.2 MTN Irancell
4.3.3 Taliya/Rafsanjan Industrial Complex Islamic Cooperative Company (RIC)
4.3.4 Mobile Telecommunications Company of Isfahan (MTCE)
4.3.5 Telecommunications Kish Company (TKC)
4.4 Mobile voice services
4.4.1 Prepaid
4.4.2 Satellite mobile
4.5 Mobile data services
4.5.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
4.5.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
4.5.3 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
5. Iraq
5.1 Overview of Iraq’s mobile market
5.1.1 Mobile statistics
5.1.2 Average revenue per user (ARPU)
5.2 Regulatory issues
5.2.1 Temporary mobile licences
5.2.2 Permanent licences
5.3 Mobile technologies
5.4 Major mobile operators
5.4.1 Asiacell Communications
5.4.2 Zain Iraq (formerly MTC Atheer)
5.4.3 Korek Telecom
5.4.4 Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation/Iraqna
5.4.5 Sanatel
5.5 Mobile voice services
5.5.1 Prepaid
5.5.2 Satellite mobile
5.6 Mobile data services
5.7 Mobile content and applications
6. Israel
6.1 Overview of Israel’s mobile market
6.1.1 Mobile statistics
6.2 Regulatory issues
6.2.1 Award of 3G mobile licences
6.2.2 Connection charges
6.2.3 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
6.2.4 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
6.3 Mobile technologies
6.3.1 Analogue
6.3.2 Digital
6.3.3 integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN)
6.3.4 3G
6.3.5 High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA)
6.4 Major mobile operators
6.4.1 Pelephone Communications Ltd
6.4.2 Cellcom
6.4.3 Partner Communications Company Ltd (Orange)
6.4.4 MIRS Communications Ltd
6.5 Mobile voice services
6.5.1 Prepaid
6.6 Mobile data services
6.6.1 i-mode
6.6.2 Push-to-talk (PTT)
6.7 Mobile content and applications
6.7.1 Mobile TV
6.7.2 External content providers
7. Jordan
7.1 Overview of Jordan’s mobile market
7.1.1 Mobile statistics
7.2 Regulatory issues
7.2.1 Third GSM licence
7.2.2 MVNOs
7.3 Mobile technologies
7.3.1 GSM
7.3.2 Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN)
7.4 Major mobile operators
7.4.1 Jordan Mobile Telephone Services/Zain Jordan
7.4.2 Orange
7.4.3 XPress Telecommunications
7.4.4 Umniah
7.5 Mobile voice services
7.5.1 Prepaid
7.5.2 Satellite mobile
7.6 Mobile data services
7.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
7.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
7.6.3 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
7.6.4 Push-to-talk (PTT)
7.6.5 Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
7.6.6 BlackBerry
7.7 Mobile content and applications
8. Kuwait
8.1 Overview of Kuwait’s mobile market
8.1.1 Mobile statistics
8.2 Regulatory issues
8.2.1 Third mobile operator
8.3 Mobile technologies
8.3.1 Analogue
8.3.2 Digital
8.3.3 Third generation mobile
8.4 Major mobile operators
8.4.1 Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain)
8.4.2 National Mobile Telecommunication Co (NMT)/Wataniya Telecom
8.5 Mobile voice services
8.5.1 Prepaid
8.5.2 Satellite mobile
8.6 Mobile data services
8.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
8.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
8.6.3 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
8.6.4 Push-to-talk (PTT)
8.6.5 Blackberry
8.7 Mobile content and applications
8.7.1 Mobile TV
9. Lebanon
9.1 Overview of Lebanon’s mobile market
9.1.1 High tariffs
9.1.2 Mobile statistics
9.2 Regulatory issues
9.2.1 Overview
9.2.2 Lebanon’s current mobile licences
9.2.3 Background - original BOT contracts
9.3 Major mobile operators
9.3.1 Zain
9.3.2 Alfa Telecom
9.4 Mobile voice services
9.4.1 Prepaid
9.4.2 Satellite mobile
9.5 Mobile data services
9.5.1 Mobiles at war
9.5.2 PowerMeMobile
10. Oman
10.1 Overview of Oman’s mobile market
10.1.1 Mobile statistics
10.2 Regulatory issues
10.2.1 Second mobile licence
10.2.2 Reseller licences
10.3 Mobile technologies
10.3.1 Analogue
10.3.2 Digital
10.3.3 Third generation mobile
10.4 Major mobile operators
10.4.1 Oman Mobile Telecommunications (OMTC)
10.4.2 Nawras Telecom (Omani-Qatari Telecommunications Company)
10.5 Mobile voice services
10.5.1 Prepaid
10.5.2 Satellite mobile
10.6 Mobile data services
10.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
10.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
10.6.3 Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
10.6.4 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
10.6.5 Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
10.6.6 High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA)
10.6.7 BlackBerry
11. Qatar
11.1 Overview of Qatar’s mobile market
11.1.1 Mobile statistics
11.2 Regulatory issues
11.2.1 Second mobile licence
11.3 Mobile technologies
11.3.1 Analogue
11.3.2 Digital
11.3.3 Third generation mobile
11.4 Major mobile operator
11.4.1 Qtel
11.4.2 Vodafone Qatar
11.5 Mobile voice services
11.5.1 Prepaid
11.5.2 Satellite mobile
11.6 Mobile data services
11.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
11.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
11.6.3 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
11.6.4 BlackBerry
11.6.5 Mobile TV
11.6.6 Email
11.7 Mobile content and applications
12. Saudi Arabia
12.1 Overview of Saudi Arabia’s mobile market
12.1.1 Mobile statistics
12.2 Regulatory issues
12.2.1 Award of second GSM mobile licence
12.2.2 iDEN contract awarded
12.2.3 Award of 3G licences
12.2.4 Award of third mobile licence
12.2.5 Spam controls
12.3 Mobile technologies
12.3.1 Analogue
12.3.2 Digital
12.3.3 3G
12.4 Major mobile operators
12.4.1 Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
12.4.2 Ettihad Etisalat (Mobily)
12.4.3 Public Telecommunications Company (Bravo)
12.4.4 Zain Saudi Arabia
12.5 Mobile voice services
12.5.1 Prepaid
12.5.2 Satellite mobile
12.6 Mobile data services
12.6.1 Mobile TV
12.7 Mobile content and applications
12.7.1 Location-based services (LBS)
13. Syria
13.1 Overview of Syria’s mobile market
13.1.1 Mobile statistics
13.2 Regulatory issues
13.2.1 Pilot project
13.2.2 BOT contracts
13.3 Mobile technologies
13.3.1 3G
13.4 Major mobile operators
13.4.1 Syriatel
13.4.2 MTN Syria
13.5 Mobile voice services
13.5.1 Prepaid
13.5.2 Satellite mobile
13.6 Mobile data services
14. Turkey
14.1 Overview of Turkey’s mobile market
14.1.1 Mobile statistics
14.2 Regulatory issues
14.2.1 3G licences
14.2.2 Third and fourth GSM licences
14.2.3 Significant market power (SMP)
14.2.4 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
14.2.5 Telsim privatisation
14.3 Major mobile operators
14.3.1 Turkcell
14.3.2 Vodafone (Telsim)
14.3.3 Avea
14.3.4 Turk Telekom
14.4 Mobile voice services
14.4.1 Prepaid
14.4.2 Satellite mobile
14.5 Mobile data services
14.5.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
14.5.2 Multi Media Messaging Service (MMS)
14.5.3 General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
14.5.4 Push-to-talk (PTT)
14.5.5 Enhanced Date for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
14.5.6 BlackBerry
14.5.7 Mobile TV
14.6 Mobile content and applications
14.6.1 Location-based services
14.6.2 M-commerce
15. United Arab Emirates
15.1 Overview of UAE’s mobile market
15.1.1 Mobile statistics
15.2 Regulatory issues
15.2.1 Overview
15.2.2 Mobile number portability
15.3 Mobile technologies
15.3.1 Analogue and digital
15.3.2 Third generation mobile
15.4 Major mobile operators
15.4.1 Etisalat
15.4.2 Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company/du
15.5 Mobile voice services
15.5.1 Prepaid
15.5.2 Satellite mobile
15.6 Mobile data services
15.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
15.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
15.6.3 Push-to-talk (PTT)
15.6.4 BlackBerry
15.6.5 Mobile TV
16. Yemen
16.1 Overview of Yemen’s mobile market
16.1.1 Mobile statistics
16.2 Regulatory issues
16.2.1 GSM licences awarded
16.2.2 Third GSM licence
16.3 Major mobile operators
16.3.1 TeleYemen/Yemen Mobile
16.3.2 SabaFon
16.3.3 MTN Yemen
16.3.4 HiTS Unitel
16.4 Mobile voice services
16.4.1 Prepaid
16.4.2 Satellite mobile
16.5 Mobile data services
17. Glossary of Abbreviations

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