Syria - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 1 Sep 2021 Update History

Report Pages: 85

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

Difficult operating environment forces out MTN Syria

The years of civil war and destruction to infrastructure continue to have a toll on the telecoms sector in Syria. Although over the years the major mobile service providers Syriatel and MTN Syria have endeavoured to restore and rebuild damaged networks, the operating environment has been difficult. Following disputed demands for back taxes, MTN Group in July 2021 confirmed that it could no longer operate in the country, and planned to sell its majority stake in MTN Syria to the other shareholder Tele Invest.

Telecommunication services in Syria are highly regulated. Although urban areas can make use of the network built and maintained by the government-owned incumbent Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), many underserved remote areas in the countryside are obliged to rely on satellite communications. The domestic and international fixed-line markets in Syria remain the monopoly of the STE, despite several initiatives over the years aimed at liberalising the market.

Mobile broadband penetration in Syria is still quite low, despite quite a high population coverage of 3G networks and some deployment of LTE infrastructure. This may provide potential opportunities for growth once infrastructure and economic reconstruction efforts make headway, and civil issues subside.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Key developments:

  • MTN Group confirms its decision to exit the Syrian market, citing the difficult operating environment.
  • Civil unrest continues to disrupt telecom services, particularly in rural and remote areas which can be difficult to access.
  • Emergency Telecommunications Cluster aid network operating in Syria to provide emergency internet connectivity and telecom services.
  • Report update includes operator data to Q2 2021, ITU market data for 2020, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report include:

Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE), MTN Syria, Syriatel.

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