Already highly saturated – penetration rates were estimated at 175.5% in 2011 – Kuwait’s mobile market is highly competitive as operators compete for subscribers, placing downward pressure on prices, according to BMI. Third-ranked Viva launched 4G services using LTE technology in December 2011. As the first operator to do so, it now offers subscribers mobile internet speeds of up to 100Mbps. This first-mover advantage should allow Viva to gather subscriber numbers in the more lucrative, data-heavy end of the market, although opportunities will be limited until more LTE-compatible handsets are available.
With over 80% of mobile users in Kuwait subscribing on a prepaid basis, operators have launched regular special offers, discounts and – as smartphones gain popularity – value-added services to gain new customers.
The creation of a telecoms regulatory body has returned to make the headlines this quarter, with the government stating in January 2012 that it plans to set up Kuwait’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) shortly. Internet service providers, such as Qualitynet, have received this news positively, as an independent regulator would help introduce greater competition in Kuwait’s broadband market and reduce prices. Qualitynet’s CEO believes that the TRA could become a reality by mid-2012. The creation of a regulatory body could also have an impact on the fixed-line sector, possibly accelerating the government’s plans to privatise it.
One other development in the broadband sector includes the Ministry of Communication’s agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Mobily, signed in January 2012. This will see an underground cable constructed between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and will enable ISPs to tap into Mobily’s bandwidth and enable Kuwaiti operators to give consumers access to higher speeds and better quality broadband.