Middle East - Mobile Network Operators and MVNOS

Publication Overview

The Middle East mobile market offers some opportunities for growth due to its large populations and increasingly progressive outlook. However, there are vast differences between the various countries. Some markets have significant mobile penetration and are looking towards mobile broadband for growth – while other markets face more challenging issues with infrastructure destruction and civil tension inhibiting current growth. This report provides comprehensive insights and statistics into the mobile markets of the Middle East and includes the countries of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. 

Researcher:- Kylie Wansink
Current publication date:- February 2017 (14th Edition)

Executive Summary

Mobile network operators in the Middle East rise to the challenges

Many Middle Eastern mobile operators are facing increased challenges in the mobile sector, due primarily to regulatory reforms, liberalisation, Over-The-Top providers, economic and civil conditions, the lifting of sanctions (Iran) and mobile market saturation.

Competition in particular has grown in many markets. Saudi Arabia, which has the largest ICT market in the Middle East, has seen mobile market competition increase significantly with the introduction of MVNOs; along with a reduction in Mobile Termination Rates (MTRS).

The level of competition differs between country to country however. The mobile market in the UAE, for example, is served by a duopoly comprised of incumbent Etisalat and, since 2007, competing operator du. Both operators are majority owned by the government.

In Israel, factors that have helped drive competition include the introduction of full mobile number portability and the installation of regulatory barriers that prevent operators from linking sales of handsets to services, or offering discounts to customers that commit to longer periods. Strong competition in Israel has led to operators focusing on mobile data and content opportunities as well as on costs, resulting in a number of infrastructure sharing agreements.

To cope with rising competition in Bahrain, Batelco, expanded its operations internationally to offset the competitive domestic market and its foreign operations now contribute almost 60% to group revenues.

In Lebanon, there has been growing pressure from both consumers and the telecommunications minister to see the two mobile operators (Alfa and Touch) lower mobile pricing. In response, the operators began offering cheaper packages in late 2016. Jordan’s mobile operators have also begun to experience a similar growing discontent from its mobile consumers as its telecoms sector is one of the most highly taxed in the region.

Taxes have also impacted upon Iraq’s telecoms markets where the mobile operators’ revenues have declined due partly to the 20% tax levy placed against mobile services in 2015.

The mobile market in Kuwait is highly competitive amongst the three major mobile providers, (Zain, Ooredoo, Viva) and while Zain has the highest market share of about 38%, the other two are not far behind, capturing over 30% each as well.

The various OTT messaging providers have disrupted the market in Oman. This has caused a decline in revenue from streams such as SMS as well as voice for the traditional operators. To combat this trend, the major operators in Oman are focusing on improving the customer experience through both fixed and mobile network upgrades.

In Qatar, both Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar have launched mobile broadband services, underpinned by 3G or LTE networks. Adoption of such services provides a new revenue growth opportunity as the mobile voice market has come under increased competition.

The operators in Syria face additional issues surrounding security concerns, power outages, staff retention and access to diesel. Despite this challenging environment, there are some glimpses of hope with both mobile operators reporting growth in mobile data services. Growth in Yemen’s mobile market however has all but reached a stalemate due to ongoing civil unrest.

Generally speaking, the mobile operators have risen to the challenges presented across the various markets. By using methods such as network infrastructure sharing, international expansion, acquisitions and partnerships, cost cutting and service improvements, many of the operators continue to survive and even grow. Focusing on mobile broadband opportunities is becoming particularly beneficial to many operators. 

Key developments:

  • While the number of post-paid subscribers in Bahrain is lower than pre-paid – this market segment actually contributes around 52% to overall retail mobile market revenues;
  • MCI holds the majority market share in Iran’s mobile market with 57%;
  • In January 2017, it was reported that Electra Consumer Products from Israel had agreed to acquire Golan Telecom.
  • Lebanon’s Alfa, in conjunction with Nokia, recently launched the first LTE-A network in Lebanon.
  • In 2016 Etisalat reported an annual revenue increase of 2.0% which was attributed to rising data usage in the UAE as well as an increase in revenues derived from the enterprise sector.
  • Mobile data services are becoming an increasingly important source of new revenue in Iraq given the maturing mobile voice market.
  • The well-established mobile sector in Kuwait sees the large operators moving towards offering more value-added services as well as conducting technology and network upgrades.
  • Ooredoo Qatar aims to have the first stage of its 5G network deployed by 2018.
  • The two major mobile operators in Oman (Oman Mobile, Ooredoo Oman) are investing huge amounts in expanding and improving upon mobile networks in order to keep up with the growing demand for data.
  • In early 2017 reports were surfacing that a third mobile operator would enter the Syrian mobile market based on a consortium from Iran.
  • Operators in Saudi Arabia are turning their attention towards new service offering such as M2M and cloud related services. 

Companies mentioned in this report

Mobile Telecommunications Co (MTC) / Zain, Ooredoo Kuwait (previously National Mobile Telecommunication Co (NMT) / Wataniya Telecom), Kuwait Telecom Company (KTC) / Viva, Batelco, Zain Bahrain, Viva Bahrain, Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), Mobile Communications Iran (MCI), MTN Irancell, Tamin Telecom (Rightel), Mobile Telecommunications Company of Isfahan (MTCE), Telecommunication Kish Company (TKC), Iraqi Telephone and Postal Company (ITPC), Asiacell, Zain Iraq, Korek Telecom, Regional Telecom, Cellcom, Orange (Partner), Pelephone (Bezeq), HOT Mobile, Golan Telecom, Rami Levy, Jordan Telecom Group/Orange, Zain Jordan, Batelco/Umniah, Saudi Telecom Company (STC)/Bravo, Integrated Telecom Company (ITC)/Bayn Consortium, GO Telecom/Etihad Atheeb, Mobily/Ettihad Etisalat/Bayanat Al-Oula, Zain KSA, Lebara KSA/Etihad Jawraa, Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (Virgin Mobile MEA), Axiom Telecom, VIVA, Etisalat, du, Jordan Telecom Group/Orange, Zain Jordan, Batelco/Umniah, MTC Touch, Alfa Telecom, Ooredoo Qatar, Vodafone Qatar, OmanTel, Ooredoo Oman, FRiENDi, Majan Telecom (Renna), Samatel, Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE), MTN Syria, Syriatel, Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey, Avea.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Regional mobile overview
    • 1.1 Overview by country
      • 1.1.1 Bahrain
      • 1.1.2 Israel
      • 1.1.3 Lebanon
      • 1.1.4 Saudi arabia
      • 1.1.5 United arab emirates
      • 1.1.6 Iran
      • 1.1.7 Jordan
      • 1.1.8 Oman
      • 1.1.9 Syria
      • 1.1.10 Yemen
      • 1.1.11 Iraq
      • 1.1.12 Kuwait
      • 1.1.13 Qatar
      • 1.1.14 Turkey
    • 1.2 Regional mobile subscriber statistics
    • 1.3 Leading mobile operators by country
  • 2. Bahrain
    • 2.1 Market analysis
    • 2.2 Regulatory issues
      • 2.2.1 Second mobile licence
      • 2.2.2 Third mobile licence
      • 2.2.3 Prepaid subscriber registration
      • 2.2.4 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 2.2.5 MNP
    • 2.3 Major mobile operators
      • 2.3.1 Batelco
      • 2.3.2 Zain Bahrain
      • 2.3.3 Viva Bahrain / STC Bahrain
  • 3. Iran
    • 3.1 Market analysis
    • 3.2 Regulatory issues
      • 3.2.1 Third Mobile licence – Tamin Telecom
      • 3.2.2 Second GSM licence – Irancell
    • 3.3 Major mobile operators
      • 3.3.1 TCI/Mobile Communications Iran (MCI)/Hamrah-e-Avval
      • 3.3.2 MTN Irancell
      • 3.3.3 Tamin Telecom (Rightel)
      • 3.3.4 Taliya/Rafsanjan Industrial Complex Islamic Cooperative Company (RIC)
  • 4. Iraq
    • 4.1 Market analysis
    • 4.2 Regulatory issues
      • 4.2.1 Temporary mobile licences awarded in 2003
      • 4.2.2 Permanent licences awarded in 2007
      • 4.2.3 Fourth mobile licence
    • 4.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 4.4 Major mobile operators
      • 4.4.1 Asiacell Communications
      • 4.4.2 Zain Iraq (formerly MTC Atheer)
      • 4.4.3 Korek Telecom
      • 4.4.4 Regional Telecom / Fastlink
  • 5. Israel
    • 5.1 Market analysis
      • 5.1.1 Recent developments
    • 5.2 Mobile operator statistics
    • 5.3 Major mobile operators
      • 5.3.1 Operators
      • 5.3.2 MVNOs
  • 6. Jordan
    • 6.1 Market analysis
    • 6.2 Regulatory issues
      • 6.2.1 Third GSM licence
      • 6.2.2 3G licences
      • 6.2.3 4G spectrum
      • 6.2.4 SIM card registration
      • 6.2.5 MTRs
    • 6.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 6.4 Major mobile operators
      • 6.4.1 Zain Jordan
      • 6.4.2 Orange Jordan
      • 6.4.3 Umniah
      • 6.4.4 MVNOs
  • 7. Kuwait
    • 7.1 Market analysis
    • 7.2 Regulatory issues
      • 7.2.1 Third mobile operator
      • 7.2.2 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • 7.2.3 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 7.2.4 Spectrum refarming for LTE
    • 7.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 7.4 Major mobile operators
      • 7.4.1 Zain Kuwait
      • 7.4.2 Ooredoo Kuwait
      • 7.4.3 Viva
  • 8. Lebanon
    • 8.1 Market analysis
    • 8.2 Regulatory issues
      • 8.2.1 Overview
      • 8.2.2 Lebanon’s current mobile contracts
      • 8.2.3 Open international tender 2015
    • 8.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 8.4 Major mobile operators
      • 8.4.1 Touch (operated by Zain)
      • 8.4.2 Alfa
  • 9. Oman
    • 9.1 Mobile market analysis
    • 9.2 Regulatory issues
      • 9.2.1 Second mobile licence
      • 9.2.2 Third mobile licence
      • 9.2.3 Reseller/MVNO licences
      • 9.2.4 Roaming
      • 9.2.5 MNP
    • 9.3 Major mobile operators
      • 9.3.1 Oman Mobile Telecommunications (OMTC)
      • 9.3.2 MVNOs
  • 10. Qatar
    • 10.1 Market analysis
    • 10.2 Regulatory issues
      • 10.2.1 Second mobile licence
      • 10.2.2 Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)
      • 10.2.3 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 10.2.4 NP
    • 10.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 10.4 Major mobile operators
      • 10.4.1 Ooredoo Qatar
      • 10.4.2 Vodafone Qatar
  • 11. Saudi Arabia
    • 11.1 Market analysis
    • 11.2 Regulatory issues
      • 11.2.1 Award of second GSM mobile licence
      • 11.2.2 iDEN contract awarded
      • 11.2.3 Award of Third Generation (3G) licences
      • 11.2.4 Award of third mobile licence
      • 11.2.5 Roaming
      • 11.2.6 MTRs
      • 11.2.7 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
      • 11.2.8 Fingerprinting law
    • 11.3 Major mobile operators
      • 11.3.1 Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
      • 11.3.2 Mobily (Etihad Etisalat)
      • 11.3.3 Zain KSA
    • 11.4 Mobile operator statistics
  • 12. Syria
    • 12.1 Market analysis
    • 12.2 Regulatory issues
      • 12.2.1 Third mobile licence
      • 12.2.2 Current BOT contracts/Long term free hold licenses
    • 12.3 Operators
      • 12.3.1 Syriatel
      • 12.3.2 MTN Syria
  • 13. Turkey
    • 13.1 Market analysis
    • 13.2 Recent developments
    • 13.3 Regulatory issues
      • 13.3.1 Overview (recent general laws and regulations)
      • 13.3.2 Third Generation (3G) licences
      • 13.3.3 Third and fourth GSM licences
      • 13.3.4 Significant market power (SMP)
      • 13.3.5 MTRs
      • 13.3.6 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • 13.3.7 Telsim privatisation
    • 13.4 Mobile operator statistics
    • 13.5 Major mobile operators
      • 13.5.1 Turkcell
      • 13.5.2 Vodafone Turkey
      • 13.5.3 Turk Telekom (formerly Avea)
  • 14. United Arab Emirates
    • 14.1 Market analysis
    • 14.2 Regulatory issues
      • 14.2.1 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 14.2.2 MNP
    • 14.3 Mobile operator statistics
    • 14.4 Major mobile operators
      • 14.4.1 Etisalat
      • 14.4.2 du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)
  • 15. Yemen
    • 15.1 Market analysis
    • 15.2 Regulatory issues
      • 15.2.1 GSM licences awarded
      • 15.2.2 Third GSM licence
    • 15.3 Major mobile operators
      • 15.3.1 MTN Yemen
      • 15.3.2 SabaFon
      • 15.3.3 TeleYemen/Yemen Mobile
      • 15.3.4 HiTS Unitel/Y Telecom
      • Table 1 – Middle East – mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration by country – 2014 - 2016
      • Table 2 – Middle East - leading mobile operators by subscribers and country
      • Table 3 – Accepted cumulative mobile number portability requests – 2011 - 2015
      • Table 4 – Bahrain - Batelco total group mobile subscribers – 2005 – Q2 2016
      • Table 5 – Zain Bahrain – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX and ARPU - 2005 – 2015
      • Table 6 – Iran - Mobile operators market share - 2016
      • Table 7 – MTN Irancell – Revenue and CAPEX – 2014 - 2016
      • Table 8 – MTN Irancell – Subscribers, ARPU and MOU – 2006 – 2015
      • Table 9 – Iraq - Mobile operator market shares – 2004 – 2015
      • Table 10 – Iraq - Asiacell financial data (including ARPU) – 2006 – Q2 2015
      • Table 11 – Iraq - Asiacell subscribers – 2006 - 2015
      • Table 12 – Zain Iraq financial data – 2006 – 2015
      • Table 13 – Zain Iraq mobile subscribers – 2006 – Q3 2016
      • Table 14 – Zain Iraq prepaid subscribers – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 15 – Iraq - Korek Telecom subscribers – 2013 - 2015
      • Table 16 – Israel - Mobile operators’ market share – 2010 - 2015
      • Table 17 – Israel - Cellcom – Consolidated revenue and operating profit – 2005 – Q2 2016
      • Table 18 – Israel - Cellcom – mobile subscribers and ARPU – 2005 – Q2 2016
      • Table 19 – Israel - Partner – revenue and operating profit – 2005 – Q2 2016
      • Table 20 – Israel - Partner – subscribers, MOU and ARPU – 2005 – Q2 2016
      • Table 21 – Israel - Pelephone – revenue and operating profit – 2003 – 2015
      • Table 22 – Israel - Pelephone – Subscribers and ARPU – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 23 – Israel - HOT Mobile – Subscribers and ARPU – 2010 – Q2 2016
      • Table 24 – Jordan - Mobile Termination Rates – 2010 - 2014
      • Table 25 – Jordan - Major mobile operators’ market share – 2004 – 2015
      • Table 26 – Zain Jordan financial data (including ARPU) – 2005 – 2015
      • Table 27 – Zain Jordan prepaid/postpaid mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 28 – Orange Jordan – revenue, ARPU, and subscribers – 2006 - 2015
      • Table 29 – Jordan - Umniah – subscribers – 2008 - 2015
      • Table 30 – Kuwait - Mobile operators’ market share – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 31 – Kuwait - Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – 2015
      • Table 32 – Kuwait - Zain Group subscribers, revenue and profit – 2002 – 1H 2016
      • Table 33 – Zain Kuwait revenue, income, ARPU and subscribers – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 34 – Ooredoo Kuwait financial data – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 35 – Ooredoo Kuwait prepaid, postpaid, and mobile broadband subscribers – 2007 - 2014
      • Table 26 - Kuwait - Viva revenue, net profit, EBITDA, and subscribers – 2009 - 2016
      • Table 36 – Lebanon - Mobile operators’ market share – 2004 – 1H 2015
      • Table 37 – Lebanon - Touch prepaid and postpaid subscribers – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 38 – Lebanon - Alfa – subscribers – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 39 – Omantel Group revenue by segment – Q1 2015 – Q2 2016
      • Table 41 – Ooredoo Oman – total subscribers
      • Table 42 – Qatar - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 43 – Ooredoo Qatar – blended ARPU - 2009 - 2015
      • Table 44 – Ooredoo Qatar subscribers – 2007 - 2015
      • Table 45 – Vodafone Qatar – financial data – 2009 - 2016
      • Table 46 –Vodafone Qatar – subscribers and ARPU – 2009 - 2016
      • Table 47 –Saudi Arabia - STC revenue and profit – 2015; 2016
      • Table 48 – Saudi Arabia - Mobily revenue – 2006 – Q3 2016
      • Table 49 – Saudi Arabia - Zain KSA subscribers and revenue – 2008 - 2015
      • Table 50 – Saudi Arabia - Major mobile operators’ subscribers and market shares – 2005 - 2015
      • Table 51 – Syriatel – Revenue – 2008 - 2015
      • Table 52 – MTN Syria Revenue and CAPEX – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 53 – MTN Syria – Subscribers – 2009 - 2016
      • Table 54 – Turkey - Mobile operators and subscribers – 2015
      • Table 55 – Turkey - Mobile subscribers by operator – 2007 – Q1 2016
      • Table 56 – Turkey - Mobile operators’ market share – 2007 – Q1 2016
      • Table 57 – Turkcell group financial data – 2005 – Q3 2016
      • Table 58 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly blended ARPU – 2007 - 2015
      • Table 59 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly MOU and churn – 2001 – Q3 2015
      • Table 60 – Turkcell smartphone penetration – 2012 – 2014
      • Table 61 – Vodafone Turkey financial data – 2008 - 2016
      • Table 62 – Vodafone Turkey pre and postpaid ARPU – 2006 - 2014
      • Table 63 – Vodafone Turkey smartphone penetration – 2011 - 2015
      • Table 64 – Turk Telekom (Avea) revenue, EBITDA, and CAPEX – 2007 - 2015
      • Table 65 – Turk Telekom (Avea) prepaid, postpaid and blended ARPU and blended MOU – 2007 - 2015
      • Table 66 – UAE – mobile operators’ market share – 2010 - 2014
      • Table 67 – UAE - Etisalat mobile subscribers and ARPU – 2011 - 2015
      • Table 68 – UAE - du mobile revenue – 2009 – 2016
      • Table 69 – UAE - du mobile subscribers – 2010 – 2016
      • Table 70 – UAE - du mobile minutes of use (MOU) – 2010 - 2014
      • Table 71 – Yemen - MTN subscribers, ARPU, and market share – 2005 - 2014
      • Table 72 – Yemen - SabaFon subscribers – 2004 - 2015
      • Chart 1 - Middle East - mobile subscribers by country – 2014 - 2016
      • Chart 2 – Jordan - Mobile operators’ market share at a glance - 2015
      • Chart 3 – Kuwait - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 - 2015
      • Exhibit 1 – Background information - Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation/Iraqna
      • Exhibit 2 – Saudi Arabia - Historical – Bravo

Related Reports

Annual Publication Profile

Technologies

Companies (Major Players)
Mobile & Wireless Broadband and Media
Mobile Communications (voice and infrastructure)
Regulations & Government Policies
Telecoms Infrastructure

Number of pages 97

Status Current

Last updated 27 Feb 2017
Update History

Lead Analyst: Kylie Wansink

Contributing Analyst:

Purchase this Report

US$1,590.00

Licence Information

Share this Report

Purchase with Confidence

After being away from the market for 6 years, I am glad to see that your site has been enriched with more reports and opinions. I’m looking forward to exploring what I used to consider as the best reliable source of information in the market.

Slim Saidi, Ph.D., University of Wollongong in Dubai

Special Offers

Caribbean - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses
US$795.00 until 1 Nov 2017
(normal price US$1,590.00)

Honduras - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses
US$375.00 until 1 Nov 2017
(normal price US$750.00)

Sample Reports

A selection of downloadable samples from our Annual Publications catalogue.


Download a Sample Report

More than 4,000 customers from 140 countries utilise BuddeComm Research

Are you interested in BuddeComm's Custom Research Service?

News & Views

Have the latest telecommunications industry news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to Paul's FREE weekly News & Views.