UAE boasts region's highest mobile user rate

WhatsApp has still not made any official announcement or confirmation regarding the feature – here in the UAE or elsewhere. (File)

The UAE has the highest mobile penetration rate in the Arab world, a new report by the Arab Advisors Group (AAG) confirmed yesterday.

According to the report, the rate for mobile phone users in the UAE stood at an estimated 193.5 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 165.5 per cent at the end of September 2009.

The two telecom operators in the UAE have been steadily adding new mobile subscribers. Emirates Business research showed the total number of mobile subscribers in the UAE, at the end of 2009, stood at more than 11.2 million.

From among this, etisalat has 7.74 million mobile subscribers, while du, the newer player in the UAE's telecom market, has 3.48 million subscribers. The region represents one of the world's fastest growing mobile subscription markets with an almost 50 per cent year-on-year increase.

In contrast, international research reports point out, mobile phone penetration rate in the Americas is expected to reach 100 per cent only by 2013. According to a recent report by the ITU, more than two-thirds of the world's population now has a mobile phone subscription. There were an estimated 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2009, corresponding to 67 subscribers per 100 inhabitants globally.

By the end of 2009, mobile penetration in developing countries passed the 50 per cent mark reaching an estimated 57 per 100 inhabitants, more than doubling since 2005 when it stood at 23 per cent.

Developed countries have a mobile penetration rate that exceeds 100 per cent. Mobile subscriptions drive mobile technology use, with mobile broadband subscriptions up to 9.5 per cent of the world's inhabitants at the end of 2009. Mobile broadband growth eclipsed fixed broadband growth in 2009, and was second only to mobile phone subscriptions.

The AAG report analysed and ranked 47 mobile operators in 17 Arab countries, and reckoned that there were 241.3 million cellular subscribers in the region by the end of Q3 2009, up from 206.9 million at year-end 2008 – a growth of 16.6 per cent in nine months.

Egypt's MobiNil (23.4 million) and Vodafone Egypt (22.1 million), and Saudi Arabia's STC (20 million) emerged the top three cellular operators in the region in terms of subscribers.

"Cellular markets are liberalised in the 19 Arab countries covered by the AAG. Qatar's monopolistic cellular market was the last to welcome competition, with Vodafone Qatar Foundation Consortium commercially launching its services in July 2009," Faten Bader, Senior Research Analyst, AAG wrote in the report.

"Between October 2008 and December 2009, three cellular operators and three Mobile Virtual Network Operators launched their operations in the Arab World," said Danya Nusseir, Senior Research Analyst at AAG.

"These operators launched in countries with relatively high cellular penetration rates compared to the rest of the Arab countries. These operators are Zain in Saudi Arabia, Viva (STC) in Kuwait, Vodafone in Qatar and three MVNOs (Renna Telecom, Friendi Mobile and Mazoon Mobile) in Oman," Nusseir added.


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