The bounty of sensible regulation in Africa and Middle East

Posted on August 1, 2006  /  3 Comments

Arab Mobile Phone Subscriptions Jump 70% in 2005
The number of mobile phone subscriptions in the Arab world has grown by a whopping 70 percent in 2005, underlining a strong consumer demand coupled by increased liberalization and competition in Arab telecom markets, according to a recently published Madar Research study. The study also reveals that Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have achieved mobile phone penetration levels among their population that are comparable with those prevalent in Europe and Pacific Rim countries.
Mobile subscription in the Arab world – total of 18 countries covered by Madar Research excluding Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti and Comoros – grew from 51.19 million by end 2004 to 87.06 million by end 2005, exceeding all expectation and forecasts.
This resulted in an average pan-Arab penetration rate equivalent to 28 subscriptions per 100 of population, ranging in individual countries from a low of just over five percent penetration to a high that exceeds 100 percent.
“Thanks to a telecom liberalization drive which gained momentum in many Arab countries over the past couple of years and the resulting competitive environment and dropping prices, mobile telephony has become accessible to a wider base of Arab consumers,” said Abdul Kader Kamli, president and research director of the Dubai Media City-based Madar Research. “Due to falling fees and rates – not to mention the mobility advantage – mobile phones have interestingly become a more viable alternative in many Arab countries where fixed telephone service is either unreliable or unable to meet demand. In such countries the subscription ratio of mobile lines to fixed lines can now reach a high of 10 to one as is the case in Morocco, which is by far higher than the ratio in the industrialized world,” Kamli added.
Madar Research expects mobile growth to sustain strong levels, especially in countries where penetration rates are still low.
Classification of Arab countries by regions shows that the highest growth rate in mobile subscription was recorded in the least information and communication technology-savvy countries of Yemen and Sudan, while the lowest growth was seen in the more mature markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The GCC witnessed growth of around 38 percent, while North Africa (excluding Egypt) made almost 86 percent, followed by nearly 83 percent in the Levant, which groups Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. In terms of penetration rates the GCC leads by far the Arab world, followed by North Africa and the Levant, respectively.
Among other findings of the study are Libya’s remarkable three-digit growth in mobile subscription – the highest in the Arab world in 2005, Jordan’s rise to become the most competitive mobile telecom market among the countries covered by the study, and Bahrain’s ascendance to the list of world’s top countries in mobile penetration.


  1. There’s also an interesting development in Argentina, where the government is planning to award mobile operator licences free of charge to telecoms co-operatives.


    I wonder if anyone in the TRC in Sri Lanka actually keeps abreast with international developments in regulation, spectrum management and just plain common sense…

  2. Issuing scarce resources free of charge is not a good idea. Sri Lanka’s licenses (prior to those of Suntel and Lanka Bell) were more or less “free.” Not much good those free licenses did.

    Free sounds good, but transparent auctions preceded by the putting in place of effective regulation (such as interconnection) is what works best.

    That is what people who keep abreast with best practices in telecom regulation will find out.

    LIRNEasia will shortly announce a scholarship competition to a telecom regulation course in Singapore that senior-level persons in civil society can apply for. TRC will have to pay, but non-profits can use the scholarships.

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