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:- April 2018 (15th Edition)

Executive Summary

Middle East mobile operators begin to see rising data revenues

On a global level, we saw the mobile operators in the developed markets begin international expansion a few years ago, when it became clear that the mobile markets were saturated and revenue growth opportunities were limited. Developing markets like the Middle East were quickly identified as offering room for potential mobile growth as well as infrastructure building opportunities.

In many ways, the Middle East has benefited from this trend with 6 international operators providing services in parts of the region; bringing valuable experience, infrastructure, services, investment and solutions to the region. The Middle East also has 9 dominant domestic players of its own which are competing with these international players.

The operators face many challenges in the Middle East, including the rise of competition; the impact of civil conflict upon the region, difficult topography, variances in regulatory laws and differing economic conditions. The operators also need to keep pace with the rapid rate of development in telecoms on a global level and this requires huge capital expenditure as well as an appropriately skilled workforce.

Many operators are obliged to pay large tax levies and licensing fees depending on the country - and are subject to various regulatory conditions applied across the different markets of the Middle East.

In many cases governments and operators have attempted to curb or stop the disruptive influence of Over-The-Top players; however, this has had limited success as it can be difficult to regulate such prohibitions and citizens often turn to VPN solutions to access such services.

This BuddeComm annual publication provides a country level analyses of 14 mobile markets across the Middle East including Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It includes analyses of each countries’ mobile market, key mobile market statistics and information on the major operators and trends. It also includes mobile subscriber data for the major international and domestic operators.

This annual publication also incorporates BuddeComm’s ‘Middle East Telecoms Maturity Index’ (TMI). This is an index (on a scale between 0% and 100%) which measures and ranks the relative maturity of the telecoms industries in 12 countries in the region (Syria and Yemen have been excluded from the index at this time). The Index has been devised as a tool to compare the different markets easily and uniformly. Countries have been placed into ‘Market Leaders’, ‘Market Challengers’ or ‘Market Laggards’ categories according to their Market Index score. Countries are compared according to a number of parameters with a focus on fixed broadband and mobile broadband penetration. GDP is also included in a number of charts both for illustrative purposes and as a gauge to help decipher market maturity. However, a number of countries low on the Index scale are noted for the considerable effort still required in terms of market investment, regulatory oversight and effective government-sponsored direction. Given the poor condition of the telecoms market in these countries they have not been placed into either category.

Key developments:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 Rising data revenues
    • 1.2 Opportunities in the enterprise sector
    • 1.3 Infrastructure sharing
    • 1.4 Impact of regional conflict
    • 1.5 SIM registration
    • 1.6 Impact of OTT players
    • 1.7 5G
    • 1.8 Leading mobile operators by country
      • 1.8.1 Major domestic operators
      • 1.8.2 Major international operators
    • 1.9 Middle East Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI)
    • 1.10 Middle East Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI) vs GDP per capita
    • 1.11 Middle East mobile and mobile broadband penetration
    • 1.12 Middle East fixed and mobile broadband penetration
    • 1.13 GCC countries fixed and mobile broadband penetration
  • 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 Major mobile operators
      • 3.2.1 MCI (Mobile Communications Iran)/Hamrah-e-Avval
      • 3.2.2 MTN Irancell
      • 3.2.3 Tamin Telecom (Rightel)
      • 3.2.4 Taliya/Rafsanjan Industrial Complex Islamic Cooperative Company (RIC)
    • 3.3 MVNOs
  • 4. Iraq
    • 4.1 Market analysis
    • 4.2 Operator statistics
    • 4.3 Regulatory issues
      • 4.3.1 Temporary mobile licences awarded in 2003
      • 4.3.2 Permanent licences awarded in 2007
      • 4.3.3 Fourth mobile licence
    • 4.4 Major mobile operators
      • 4.4.1 Asiacell Communications (Oooredoo)
      • 4.4.2 Zain Iraq (formerly MTC Atheer)
      • 4.4.3 Korek Telecom
      • 4.4.4 Kurdistan operators
  • 5. Israel
    • 5.1 Market analysis
    • 5.2 Operator statistics
    • 5.3 Regulatory issues
      • 5.3.1 Connection charges
      • 5.3.2 Licensing
      • 5.3.3 LTE Spectrum
      • 5.3.4 Roaming
      • 5.3.5 MTRs
      • 5.3.6 Early termination fee reduction
      • 5.3.7 MNP
      • 5.3.8 Network sharing
    • 5.4 Major mobile operators
      • 5.4.1 Cellcom
      • 5.4.2 Partner Communications Company (formerly Orange)
      • 5.4.3 Pelephone (Bezeq)
      • 5.4.4 HOT Mobile
      • 5.4.5 Golan Telecom (acquired by Electra in 2017)
    • 5.5 MVNOs
      • 5.5.1 Historical background
      • 5.5.2 Recent developments
  • 6. Jordan
    • 6.1 Market analysis
    • 6.2 Operator statistics
    • 6.3 Regulatory issues
      • 6.3.1 Third GSM licence
      • 6.3.2 3G licences
      • 6.3.3 4G spectrum
      • 6.3.4 SIM card registration
      • 6.3.5 MTRs
    • 6.4 Major mobile operators
      • 6.4.1 Zain Jordan
      • 6.4.2 Orange Jordan
      • 6.4.3 Umniah
    • 6.5 MVNOs
  • 7. Kuwait
    • 7.1 Market analysis
    • 7.2 Operator statistics
    • 7.3 Regulatory issues
      • 7.3.1 Third mobile operator
      • 7.3.2 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • 7.3.3 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 7.3.4 Spectrum refarming for LTE
    • 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 Operator statistics
    • 8.3 Major mobile operators
      • 8.3.1 Touch (operated by Zain)
      • 8.3.2 Alfa
  • 9. Oman
    • 9.1 Mobile market analysis
    • 9.2 Operator statistics
    • 9.3 Regulatory issues
      • 9.3.1 Second mobile licence
      • 9.3.2 Third mobile licence
      • 9.3.3 Reseller/MVNO licences
      • 9.3.4 Roaming
      • 9.3.5 MNP
    • 9.4 Major mobile operators
      • 9.4.1 Oman Mobile Telecommunications (OMTC)
      • 9.4.2 Ooredoo Oman
    • 9.5 MVNOs
  • 10. Qatar
    • 10.1 Market analysis
    • 10.2 Operator statistics
    • 10.3 Regulatory issues
      • 10.3.1 Second mobile licence
      • 10.3.2 Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)
      • 10.3.3 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 10.3.4 NP
    • 10.4 Major mobile operators
      • 10.4.1 Ooredoo Qatar
      • 10.4.2 Vodafone Qatar
  • 11. Saudi Arabia
    • 11.1 Market overview
    • 11.2 Market analysis
    • 11.3 Operator statistics
    • 11.4 Regulatory issues
      • 11.4.1 Award of second GSM mobile licence
      • 11.4.2 iDEN contract awarded
      • 11.4.3 Award of Third Generation (3G) licences
      • 11.4.4 Award of third mobile licence
      • 11.4.5 Mobile license extensions 2016
      • 11.4.6 Roaming
      • 11.4.7 MTRs
      • 11.4.8 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
      • 11.4.9 Fingerprinting law
    • 11.5 Major mobile operators
      • 11.5.1 Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
      • 11.5.2 Mobily (Etihad Etisalat)
      • 11.5.3 Zain KSA
  • 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 Major mobile operators
      • 12.3.1 Syriatel
      • 12.3.2 MTN Syria
  • 13. Turkey
    • 13.1 Market analysis
    • 13.2 Regulatory issues
      • 13.2.1 Overview (recent general laws and regulations)
      • 13.2.2 Third Generation (3G) licences
      • 13.2.3 Third and fourth GSM licences
      • 13.2.4 Significant market power (SMP)
      • 13.2.5 MTRs
      • 13.2.6 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • 13.2.7 Telsim privatisation
    • 13.3 Major mobile operators
      • 13.3.1 Turkcell
      • 13.3.2 Vodafone Turkey
      • 13.3.3 Turk Telekom (Avea)
  • 14. United Arab Emirates
    • 14.1 Market analysis
    • 14.2 Operator statistics
    • 14.3 Regulatory issues
      • 14.3.1 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 14.3.2 MNP
    • 14.4 Major mobile operators
      • 14.4.1 Etisalat
      • 14.4.2 du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)
    • 14.5 MVNOs
      • 14.5.1 Virgin Mobile
      • 14.5.2 Swyp
  • 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 – Major domestic operators by subscribers – 2012 – Q3 2017
      • Table 2 – Middle East – International mobile operators by subscribers – 2012 - 2017
      • Table 3 – Bahrain - Accepted cumulative mobile number portability requests – 2011 – Q3 2016
      • Table 4 – Bahrain - Batelco total group mobile subscribers – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 5 – Zain Bahrain – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX and ARPU - 2005 – 9M 2017
      • Table 6 – Iran - Mobile operators market share – 2016; mid 2017
      • Table 7 – MTN Irancell – Revenue and CAPEX – 2013 - 2016
      • Table 8 – MTN Irancell – mobile subscribers – 2007 – 2016
      • Table 9 – Iraq - Mobile operator market shares – 2004 – 2017
      • Table 10 – Iraq - Asiacell revenue – 2016; 2017
      • Table 11 – Iraq - Asiacell subscribers – 2006 - 2017
      • Table 12 – Zain Iraq financial data – 2006 – 2017
      • Table 13 – Zain Iraq mobile subscribers – 2006 – 2017
      • Table 14 – Zain Iraq prepaid subscribers – 2009 - 2017
      • Table 15 – Iraq - Korek Telecom subscribers – 2013 - 2016
      • Table 16 – Israel - Major mobile operators’ market share by subscribers – 2010 - 2016
      • Table 17 – Israel - Major mobile operators’ subscribers – 2017
      • Table 18 – Israel - Major mobile operators’ monthly mobile ARPU – 2013 – Q3 2017
      • Table 19 – Israel - Cellcom – consolidated revenue and operating profit – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 20 – Israel - Cellcom – mobile subscribers and ARPU – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 21 – Israel - Partner – revenue and operating profit – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 22 – Israel - Partner – mobile subscribers and monthly ARPU – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 23 – Israel - Pelephone – revenue and operating profit – 2003 – 9M 2017
      • Table 24 – Israel - Pelephone – mobile subscribers and monthly ARPU – 2005 – Q3 2017
      • Table 25 – Israel - HOT Mobile – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX – Q3 2016; 2017
      • Table 26 – Israel - HOT Mobile – mobile subscribers – 2010 – Q3 2016
      • Table 27 – Jordan - Major mobile operators’ market share – 2004 – 2016
      • Table 28 – Jordan - Mobile Termination Rates – 2010 - 2014
      • Table 29 – Zain Jordan financial data (including ARPU) – 2005 – 2016
      • Table 30 – Zain Jordan prepaid/postpaid mobile subscribers – 2005 – 1H 2017
      • Table 31 – Orange Jordan – mobile revenue and subscribers – 2006 - 2016
      • Table 32 – Jordan - Umniah – mobile subscribers – 2008 - 2016
      • Table 33 – Kuwait - Mobile operators’ market share – 2005 - 2017
      • Table 34 – Kuwait - Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – 2017
      • Table 35 – Kuwait - Zain Group subscribers, revenue and profit – 2005 – 2017
      • Table 36 – Zain Kuwait revenue, income, ARPU and subscribers – 2005 - 2017
      • Table 37 – Kuwait - Zain – prepaid share – 2005 - 2017
      • Table 38 – Ooredoo Kuwait financial data and subscribers – 2016; 2017
      • Table 39 – Kuwait - Viva revenue, net profit, EBITDA, and subscribers – 2012 – 2017
      • Table 40 – Lebanon - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 – 2017
      • Table 41 – Lebanon - Touch mobile subscribers – 2005 – 2017
      • Table 42 – Lebanon - Alfa – mobile subscribers – 2009 - 2017
      • Table 43 – Oman - Operators mobile market share by subscribers – 2012 – Q3 2017
      • Table 44 – Omantel Group revenue by segment – 2012 – Q3 2017
      • Table 45 – Omantel Oman revenue – 2012 – Q3 2017
      • Table 46 – Omantel Mobile- mobile subscribers - 2015 - Q2 2016
      • Table 47 – Ooredoo Oman – total fixed and mobile subscribers – 2011 – 2016
      • Table 48 – Qatar - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 - 2015
      • Table 49 – Ooredoo Qatar revenue and net profit – 2005 – 2017
      • Table 50 – Vodafone Qatar – financial data – 2009 - 2017
      • Table 51 – Vodafone Qatar – mobile subscribers – 2009 - 2017
      • Table 52 – Saudi Arabia - Major mobile operators’ subscribers and market shares – 2005 – Q1 2017
      • Table 53 – Saudi Arabia - Mobily revenue and mobile subscribers – 2006 – 9M 2017
      • Table 54 – Saudi Arabia - Zain KSA mobile subscribers and revenue – 2015 – 9M 2017
      • Table 55 – Syriatel – Revenue – 2008 - 2017
      • Table 56 – MTN Syria Revenue and CAPEX – 2009 – mid 2016
      • Table 57 – MTN Syria – Subscribers – 2009 – Q3 2017
      • Table 58 – Turkey - Mobile operators’ revenue market share by service – Q3 2017
      • Table 59 – Turkey - Mobile operators’ market share by subscribers – 2007 – Q3 2017
      • Table 60 – Turkey - Mobile operators’ market share by revenue – Q3 2017
      • Table 61 – Turkcell group financial data – 2012 – 2017
      • Table 62 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly blended ARPU – 2007 - 2016
      • Table 63 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly MOU and mobile churn – 2001 – 2016
      • Table 64 – Turkcell smartphone penetration – 2012 – 2016
      • Table 65 – Vodafone Turkey financial data – 2008 - 2017
      • Table 66 – Historical - Vodafone Turkey pre and post-paid ARPU – 2006 - 2014
      • Table 67 – Vodafone Turkey smartphone penetration – 2011 - 2015
      • Table 68 – Turk Telekom mobile revenue – 2007 – Q2 2017
      • Table 69 – Turk Telekom prepaid, post-paid subscribers and blended ARPU – Q2 2013 - 2017
      • Table 70 – UAE – mobile operators’ market share by subscribers – 2010 - 2016
      • Table 71 – Etisalat (UAE) mobile subscribers and blended ARPU – 2011 – 2017
      • Table 72 – UAE - du mobile revenue – 2009 – 2016
      • Table 73 – UAE - du mobile subscribers – 2010 – 2017
      • Table 74 – UAE - du mobile minutes of use (MOU) – 2010 - 2014
      • Table 75 – MTN Yemen - subscribers, ARPU, and market share – 2009 - 2017
      • Table 76 – MTN Yemen – revenue and capex – 2014 – 2017
      • Table 77 – Yemen - SabaFon subscribers – 2004 – 2017 Q2
      • Chart 1 – Middle East - Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI) - 2017
      • Chart 2 – Middle East - Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI) vs GDP per capita - 2017
      • Chart 3 – Middle East – mobile subscriber penetration versus mobile broadband penetration - 2017
      • Chart 4 – Middle East - fixed broadband penetration versus mobile broadband penetration - 2017
      • Chart 5 – GCC members – fixed broadband penetration versus mobile broadband penetration - 2017
      • Chart 6 – Jordan - Mobile operators’ market share at a glance - 2016
      • Chart 7 – Lebanon - Mobile operators – subscriber market share – 2009 - 2017
      • Chart 8 – Saudi Arabia - Major mobile operators market share – Q1 2017
      • Chart 9 – Turkey - Mobile operator market share by subscribers – Q3 2017
      • Chart 10 – Turkey - Mobile operators’ market share by revenue – Q3 2017
      • Chart 11 – UAE - Market share by mobile subscribers – Etisalat and du - 2016
      • Exhibit 1 – Middle East - Key characteristics of telecoms markets by country
      • Exhibit 2 – Generalised market characteristics by market segment
      • Exhibit 3 – Background information - Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation/Iraqna
      • Exhibit 4 – Saudi Arabia - Historical – Bravo

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Regulations & Government Policies
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Number of pages 129

Status Current

Last updated 25 Apr 2018
Update History

Lead Analyst: Kylie Wansink

Contributing Analyst:

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