Middle East - Mobile Network Operators and MVNOs

Publication Overview

The Middle East mobile market offers 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 2019 (16th Edition)

Executive Summary

Growth opportunities exist for mobile operators in the Middle East

The Middle East is earmarked as a region which will experience comparatively high mobile subscription growth in some of its markets over the next few years - compared to many of the more developed and saturated markets around the world. This is expected to be led by the largely populated countries of Turkey, Iran and Iraq which still have room for mobile subscription growth to occur.

5G is also firmly on the agenda for many markets in the Middle East, particularly in the GCC countries. Operators are busy deploying 5G technologies in anticipation of 5G and the introduction of devices, spectrum allocation and regulatory approval will eventually push these developments along faster.

The Middle East is benefitting from a number of pan-regional operators such as Etisalat, Vodafone and Orange which are bringing valuable expertise to the region and compliment the local efforts of strong domestic players such as Batelco, Umniah, Turkcell and VIVA, just to name a few. 4G LTE is already heavily deployed in many markets and the operators are turning to increasing mobile broadband usage in order to grow revenues.

In some Middle Eastern markets however; there are unique challenges relating to civil unrest which has hindered mobile progress. The operators in countries like Yemen and Syria, for example, face more challenging issues relating to infrastructure destruction, security concerns, economic pressure and humanitarian crises.

This report provides valuable information, analyses and statistics into the mobile operators in 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.

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 Emergents 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.

Recent developments:

  • Many mobile operators in the Middle East have formed partnerships in order to develop and progress 5G readiness.
  • Mobile finger-printing and bio-metric registration laws have impacted upon mobile subscriber growth and revenue in many Middle Eastern markets.
  • Mobile data is growing faster than voice in many Middle Eastern markets.
  • High taxes are of concern to some mobile operators in the Middle East.
  • The awarding of Universal licenses and easing of roaming regulations is assisting to create competition in some markets.
  • The adoption of smart phones is expected to increase.

Companies mentioned in this report include:

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.

Kylie Wansink
April 2019

Table of Contents

  • Regional mobile overview

    • Iraq
    • Turkey
    • Iran
    • Market considerations
      • Taxes
      • Universal licenses
      • Roaming
      • Smart phone adoption
      • Data revenue growth
      • 5G
      • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
      • Mobile digital security
    • Middle East country summary
    • Middle East major operators and subscribers
      • Major domestic mobile operators
      • Major international mobile operators
    • TMI Introduction and statistical overview
      • Market analysis
    • Middle East Telecom Maturity Index
    • TMI versus GDP
      • Market Leaders
      • Market Challengers
      • Market Emergents
    • Mobile and mobile broadband penetration
    • Fixed and mobile broadband penetration
    • GCC countries fixed and mobile broadband penetration
    • Market characteristics
  • Bahrain

    • Market analysis
    • Regulatory issues
      • Mobile licenses
      • Subscriber registration
      • Roaming tariff reduction
      • Mobile Termination Rates (MTR)
    • Major mobile operators
      • Batelco
      • Zain Bahrain
      • Viva Bahrain / STC Bahrain
  • Iran

    • Market analysis
      • MVNOs
    • Regulatory issues
      • Second mobile licence – MTN Irancell
      • Third Mobile licence – Tamin Telecom (Rightel)
    • Major mobile operators
      • MCI (Mobile Communications Iran)/Hamrah-e-Avval
      • MTN Irancell
      • Tamin Telecom (Rightel)
  • Iraq

    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Temporary mobile licences awarded in 2003
      • Permanent licences awarded in 2007
      • Fourth mobile licence
    • Major mobile operators
      • Asiacell Communications (Oooredoo)
      • Zain Iraq (formerly MTC Atheer)
      • Korek Telecom
      • Kurdistan operators
  • Israel

    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Connection charges
      • Licensing
      • LTE Spectrum
      • Roaming
      • MTRs
      • Early termination fee reduction
      • MNP
      • Network sharing
    • Major mobile operators
      • Cellcom
      • Partner Communications Company (formerly Orange)
      • Pelephone (Bezeq)
      • HOT Mobile
      • Golan Telecom (acquired by Electra in 2017)
    • MVNOs
      • Historical background
      • Recent developments
  • Jordan

    • Market analysis
    • Regulatory issues
      • Third GSM licence
      • 3G licences
      • 4G spectrum
      • SIM card registration
      • MTRs
    • Major mobile operators
      • Zain Jordan
      • Orange Jordan
      • Umniah
    • MVNOs
  • Kuwait

    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Third mobile operator
      • Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • Roaming tariff reduction
      • Spectrum refarming for LTE
      • Mobile tower management
    • Major mobile operators
      • Zain Kuwait
      • Ooredoo Kuwait
      • Viva
  • Lebanon

    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Lebanon’s current mobile contracts
      • Open international tender 2015
      • Spectrum
      • Interconnect
      • Counterfeit mobile devices regulation
    • Major mobile operators
      • Touch (operated by Zain)
      • Alfa
  • Oman

    • Mobile market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Second mobile licence
      • Third mobile licence
      • Reseller/MVNO licences
      • Roaming
      • MNP
      • Spectrum allocation
    • Major mobile operators
    • MVNOs
  • Qatar

    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • New executive powers
      • Second mobile licence
      • Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)
      • Roaming tariff reduction
      • NP
    • Major mobile operators
      • Ooredoo Qatar
      • Vodafone Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia

    • Market overview
    • Market analysis
    • Operator statistics
    • Regulatory issues
      • Award of second GSM mobile licence
      • iDEN contract awarded
      • Award of Third Generation (3G) licences
      • Award of third mobile licence
      • Mobile license extensions 2016
      • Roaming
      • MTRs
      • Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
      • Fingerprinting law
    • Major mobile operators
      • Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
      • Mobily (Etihad Etisalat)
      • Zain KSA
  • Syria

    • Market analysis
    • Regulatory issues
      • Third mobile licence
      • Current BOT contracts/Long term free hold licenses
    • Major mobile operators
      • Syriatel
      • MTN Syria
  • Turkey

    • Market analysis
    • Regulatory issues
      • Overview (recent general laws and regulations)
      • Third Generation (3G) licences
      • Third and fourth GSM licences
      • Significant market power (SMP)
      • MTRs
      • Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
      • Telsim privatisation
    • Major mobile operators
      • Turkcell
      • Vodafone Turkey
      • Turk Telekom (Avea)
  • United Arab Emirates

    • Market analysis
    • Major mobile operators
      • Etisalat
      • du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)
    • MVNOs
      • Virgin Mobile
      • Swyp
  • Yemen

    • Market analysis
    • Regulatory issues
      • GSM licences awarded
      • Third GSM licence
    • Major mobile operators
      • MTN Yemen
      • SabaFon
      • TeleYemen/Yemen Mobile
      • HiTS Unitel/Y Telecom

List of Tables

  • Table 1 – Middle East - mobile subscriptions and annual growth – 2014 - 2019
  • Table 2 – Middle East - mobile smartphone adoption growth – 2017; 2020
  • Table 3 – Zain Bahrain – mobile data market share of total revenue – 2015 – 2018
  • Table 4 – Middle East mobile market – country summary - 2019
  • Table 5 – Middle East – Major domestic operators by subscribers – 2013 - 2018
  • Table 6 – Middle East – international mobile operators by subscribers – 2012 - 2018
  • Table 7 – Bahrain - Batelco total group mobile subscribers – 2005 – Q1 2018
  • Table 8 – Zain Bahrain – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX and ARPU - 2005 – 2018
  • Table 9 – Zain Bahrain – market share of mobile data revenues – 2015 – 2018
  • Table 10 – Iran mobile operators – subscriber market share – 2016; mid 2017
  • Table 11 – MTN Irancell – Revenue and CAPEX – 2016 – 2017
  • Table 12 – MTN Irancell – mobile subscribers and ARPU – 2007 – 1H 2018
  • Table 13 – Iraq - Mobile operator market shares – 2004 – 2018
  • Table 14 – Iraq - Asiacell revenue – 2016 - 2018
  • Table 15 – Iraq - Asiacell subscribers – 2006 - 2018
  • Table 16 – Zain Iraq financial data – 2008 – 2018
  • Table 17 – Zain Iraq mobile subscribers – 2006 – 2018
  • Table 18 – Zain Iraq prepaid subscribers – 2009 – 2018
  • Table 19 – Iraq - Korek Telecom subscribers – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 20 – Israel - Major mobile operators’ monthly mobile ARPU – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 21 – Israel - Cellcom – consolidated revenue and net profit – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 22 – Israel - Cellcom – mobile subscribers and ARPU – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 23 – Israel - Partner – revenue and operating profit – 2005 – 2017
  • Table 24 – Israel - Partner – mobile subscribers and monthly ARPU – 2005 – Q3 2018
  • Table 25 – Israel - Pelephone – revenue and operating profit – 2003 – Q2 2018
  • Table 26 – Israel - Pelephone – mobile subscribers and monthly ARPU – 2005 – Q3 2018
  • Table 27 – Israel - HOT Mobile – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX – Q3 2016; Q3 2017; Q2 2018
  • Table 28 – Israel - HOT Mobile – mobile subscribers – 2010 – 2017
  • Table 29 – Jordan - Historical - Mobile Termination Rates – 2010 – 2014
  • Table 30 – Jordan - major mobile operators’ market share – 2004 – 2017
  • Table 31 – Zain Jordan financial data (including ARPU) – 2005 – Q3 2018
  • Table 32 – Zain Jordan prepaid market share - mobile subscribers – 2005 – 2017
  • Table 33 – Orange Jordan – mobile revenue and subscribers – 2006 – 2017
  • Table 34 – Orange Jordan – total revenue and EBITDA – 2016 - 2017
  • Table 35 – Jordan - Umniah – revenue and profit – 2016 - 2017
  • Table 36 – Jordan - Umniah – mobile subscribers – 2008 – Q1 2017
  • Table 37 – Kuwait - mobile operators’ market share – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 38 – Kuwait - mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – 2018
  • Table 39 – Kuwait - Zain Group subscribers and revenue – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 40 – Zain Kuwait revenue, net profit, ARPU and subscribers – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 41 – Zain Kuwait – prepaid share – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 42 – Ooredoo Kuwait financial data, subscribers, ARPU – 2016; Q3 2018
  • Table 43 – Kuwait - Viva revenue, net profit, EBITDA, and subscribers – 2012 – 2018
  • Table 44 – Lebanon - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 – 2017
  • Table 45 – Lebanon - Touch mobile subscribers – 2005 – 2017
  • Table 46 – Lebanon - Alfa – mobile subscribers – 2009 – 2017
  • Table 47 – Oman - operators mobile market share by subscribers – 2012 – 2018
  • Table 48 – Omantel Group revenue by segment – 2012 – Q2 2018
  • Table 49 – Omantel Oman revenue – Q3 2017 – Q2 2018
  • Table 50 – Omantel Mobile- mobile subscribers – Q3 2015; 2016; 2017
  • Table 51 – Ooredoo Oman – revenue and blended ARPU – 2013 – 2017
  • Table 52 – Ooredoo Oman – total fixed and mobile subscribers – 2011 – Q1 2018
  • Table 53 – Qatar - Mobile operators’ market share – 2009 – 2018
  • Table 54 – Ooredoo Qatar revenue and net profit – 2015 – 2018
  • Table 55 – Vodafone Qatar – financial data – 2009 – 2018
  • Table 56 – Vodafone Qatar – mobile subscribers – 2009 – 2018
  • Table 57 – Saudi Arabia - major mobile operators’ market share – 2005 – 2018
  • Table 58 – Mobily revenue and mobile subscribers – 2006 – 1H 2018
  • Table 59 – Saudi Arabia - Zain KSA customers and revenue – 2015 – 9M 2018
  • Table 60 – Syriatel – Revenue – 2008 – 1H 2018
  • Table 61 – MTN Syria Revenue and CAPEX – 2016 – 2018 1H
  • Table 62 – MTN Syria – Subscribers and ARPU – 2009 – Q1 2018
  • Table 63 – Turkey - mobile operators’ spectrum market share
  • Table 64 – Turkey - mobile operators’ revenue market share by service – Q3 2017
  • Table 65 – Turkey - mobile operators’ market share by subscribers – 2007 – 2018
  • Table 66 – Turkey - mobile operators’ market share by revenue – Q3 2017
  • Table 67 – Turkcell Turkey subscribers – 2016; Q2 2018
  • Table 68 – Turkcell group financial data – 2012 – 2018
  • Table 69 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly blended mobile ARPU – 2008 – 2018
  • Table 70 – Turkcell Turkey average monthly MOU and mobile churn – 2001 – 2018
  • Table 71 – Turkcell smartphone penetration – 2012 – 2018
  • Table 72 – Vodafone Turkey financial and subscriber data – 2008 – 2018
  • Table 73 – Historical - Vodafone Turkey pre and post-paid ARPU – 2006 – 2014
  • Table 74 – Historical - Vodafone Turkey smartphone penetration – 2011 – 2015
  • Table 75 – Turk Telekom Group - key financial data – 2007 – 2018
  • Table 76 – Turk Telekom Group - prepaid, post-paid subscribers and blended ARPU – 2012 – 2018
  • Table 77 – UAE – mobile operators’ market share by subscribers – 2010 – 1H 2018
  • Table 78 – Etisalat (UAE) mobile subscribers and blended ARPU – 2011 – 2018
  • Table 79 – UAE - du mobile revenue – 2009 – 2017
  • Table 80 – UAE - du mobile subscribers – 2010 – 2017
  • Table 81 – UAE - Historical - du mobile minutes of use (MOU) – 2010 – 2014
  • Table 82 – MTN Yemen - subscribers, ARPU, and market share – 2009 – 2017
  • Table 83 – MTN Yemen – revenue and capex – 2014 – 2017
  • Table 84 – Yemen - SabaFon subscribers – 2004 – 2017 Q2

List of Charts

  • Chart 1 – Middle East – Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI)
  • Chart 2 - Middle East - Telecoms Maturity Index vs GDP per Capita - 2018
  • Chart 3 – Middle East – mobile subscriber versus mobile broadband penetration - 2018
  • Chart 4 – Middle East – Fixed broadband penetration versus mobile broadband penetration
  • Chart 5 – GCC countries – fixed vs mobile broadband penetration
  • Chart 6 – Israel - Major mobile operators – monthly mobile ARPU decline – 2013 - 2018
  • Chart 7 – Jordan - mobile operators’ market share at a glance – 2017
  • Chart 8 – Kuwait – mobile operators market share – 2018
  • Chart 9 – Lebanon - mobile operators – subscriber market share – 2009 – 2017
  • Chart 10 – Saudi Arabia – major mobile operators market share - 2018
  • Chart 11 – Turkey - mobile operator market share by subscribers – 2018
  • Chart 12 – Turkcell Turkey – Average monthly blended mobile ARPU growth – 2008 - 2018

List of Exhibits

  • Exhibit 1 – Middle East – Country by country - TMI rank and industry description
  • Exhibit 2 – Generalised Market Characteristics by Market Segment
  • Exhibit 3 – Background information - Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation/Iraqna
  • Exhibit 4 – Saudi Arabia - Historical – Bravo acquisition

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Mobile & Wireless Broadband and Media
Mobile Communications (voice and infrastructure)
Regulations & Government Policies
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Number of pages 236

Status Current

Last updated 17 Apr 2019
Update History

Lead Analyst: Kylie Wansink

Contributing Analyst:

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