Despite a slow start in the MENA region, 5G is projected to account for half of all mobile subscribers by 2030, by which time it also be a significant driver of GDP for the region, says a new GSMA Intelligence report.
According to the GSMA Mobile Economy MENA 2023 Report, there are currently 415 million unique mobile subscribers in the region, which will grow to 550 million by 2030. Meanwhile, mobile internet users will grow from 330 million today to 425 million in the same period.
While 23 mobile operators in nine MENA markets have launched commercial 5G services as of the end of November (six of them with 5G SA), 5G currently accounts for just 3% of mobile subscribers in the region overall. According to the report, it’s not helping that 5G has yet to launch commercially in any market in North Africa, mainly because operators are still waiting for 5G spectrum.
The report forecasts that 5G will account for 50% of mobile subscribers in MENA by 2030, with 4G at 33% and whatever 2G and 3G networks remain by then at 17%. That said, 4G will remain king in the interim.
Also, the report notes that 5G penetration in GCC states will be much higher, accounting for 95% of subscribers collectively in those states. For the rest of MENA, 5G penetration will be around 44%, lagging behind the projected global average of 54%.
In any case, the report also claims that 5G will contribute US$60 billion to the overall GDP in the region by 2030, which is over 13% of the overall expected economic impact of mobile by that time.
The services sector is expected to be the biggest direct beneficiary, accounting for 48% of that figure, followed by the manufacturing sector (35%), with the latter driven by use cases such as smart factories, smart cities and smart grids.
For context, GSMA Intelligence says mobile’s contribution to GDP in MENA will grow from US$370 billion in economic value at the end of 2022 to US$440 billion in 2030, “driven mostly by the continued expansion of the mobile ecosystem and verticals increasingly benefiting from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the take-up of mobile services.”
The report was launched on Tuesday at the kickoff of the GSMA M360 MENA event in Riyadh.