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Syria - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 10 Aug 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 74

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

Restoring telecommunication networks in Syria is a key priority

The telecoms sector in Syria has paid a heavy toll from the years of civil war and destruction. The major mobile operators Syriatel and MTN Syria, along with the incumbent, have focussed on restoring and rebuilding damaged mobile and fixed networks. It is a challenging environment for the operators, which also face a lack of basic infrastructure including power and water in some areas, along with security concerns. For its part, MTN Group recently confirmed plans to exit the Syrian market, citing the difficult operating environment.

Both Syriatel and MTN Syria were recently requested to pay billions in back taxes to the Syrian government. Tensions in this regard have escalated, particularly between the regulator (SyTRA) and Syriatel, which resulted in the Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) suspending the trading of shares of Syriatel in early June 2020.

Telecommunication services in Syria are decentralized and some of the remote areas rely on expensive satellite communications while the urban areas utilise the highly regulated network supplied by the government-owned incumbent Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE). The domestic and international fixed-line markets in Syria remain under the strict monopoly of the STE. Initiatives have been launched to liberalise the market in the past but without much success.

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 Coronavirus in 2020 is having 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. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

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:

  • The years of civil unrest in Syria have taken their toll on telecom infrastructure and while the capital Damascus has survived reasonably well, it is the outskirts, rural and remote areas which have felt the brunt of the destruction.
  • MTN Group has opted to exist the Syrian market, citing hyperinflation and the difficult operating environment.
  • The international aid network known as the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster has been operating in Syria for many years and provides emergency internet connectivity and telecommunications services.
  • Broadband developments in Syria are governed by the 2018 ICT Policy.
  • Report update includes operator data to Q2 2020, ITU market data for 2019, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report include:

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

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