UAE Leads Mideast Telco Connectivity

The United Arab Emirates leads the Middle East and North Africa in telecom connectivity, according to data compiled by analyst firm Arab Advisors Group .

The annual Total Country Connectivity Measure (TCCM) shown in the table combines the fixed-line penetration, cellular penetration, and Internet user penetration rates (the number of subscribers per 100 people) of 19 countries to come up with a ranking that represents the extent of its communications connectivity at the end of 2007.

Table 1: Total Country Connectivity Measure (TCCM)
Country 2007 Ranking 2007 TCCM % score 2006 Ranking 2006 TCCM % score
United Arab Emirates 1 329.5 1 261.4
Bahrain 2 210.4 3 233.9
Saudi Arabia 3 207.9 4 173.5
Qatar 4 193.1 2 255.6
Kuwait 5 164.7 5 161.8
Libya 6 162 7 131.3
Oman 7 153.7 6 137.5
Jordan 8 133.9 8 130.3
Algeria 9 130.7 10 110.4
Lebanon 10 124.6 9 113.1
Tunisia 11 122.7 11 110
Syria 12 122.5 12 106.4
Egypt 13 111.6 13 92.7
Morocco 14 106.6 15 73.2
Palestine 15 90.5 14 74.5
Iraq 16 77.2 16 64.2
Mauritania 17 54.5 18 41
Yemen 18 47.2 17 42.9
Sudan 19 28.9 19 21.7
Source: Arab Advisors Group

The measure indicates the reach of telecom services as a whole within a country, but doesn’t show individual connectivity because people are counted more than once if they have both mobile and fixed lines.

The UAE came in first with a score of 329.5 percent, up from 261.4 percent in 2006. It has a mobile penetration rate of 171.2 percent, which helped boost its score.

Countries have penetration rates over 100 percent when operators include inactive customers in their subscriber accounts or users have more than one SIM card (which makes tracking real subscriber rates a real pain).

According to the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority , the seven emirates had 7.6 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2007, 1.38 million fixed-line subscribers (48 percent of which were residential), and 904,000 Internet subscriptions, 42 percent of which were broadband. The population is estimated to be around 4.5 million.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait round out the top five -– the same group as in 2006 but in a different order -- while Sudan again brings up the rear with a score of just 28.9 percent.

It's no surprise that the six oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries –- the top five here plus Oman, which ranks seventh –- lead connectivity in the region as these fast-growing economies invest billions of dollars in expanding their telecom infrastructure. (See Who Does What: Middle East Carriers.)

Qatar and Bahrain ended up with lower numbers than 2006 due to the restatement of official population figures at a higher level in 2007, which pushed down the penetration numbers.

The fact that Egypt ranks 13th in penetration while also climbing into 10th place in Light Reading's ranking of the 10 emerging markets with the most new mobile subscribers shows its potential for growth in fixed-line services and increased mobile penetration. Egypt had 30.07 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2007 in a population of 81 million –- a penetration of 37 mobile phones for every 100 people. (See Top 10 Emerging Mobile Markets 2007.)

Mobile penetration accounts for most of the connectivity in the region, but Arab Advisors says growth of broadband in Saudi Arabia and fixed wireless services in Morocco contributed to higher scores in those two nations.

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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