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Mobile pushes ahead in Kuwait, but the market must liberalise

Kuwait's telecoms industry is something of an anachronism in the region due to the lack of liberalisation of the market, according to Research & Markets. Not only does Kuwait not have an independent regulator, the Ministry of Communications is both the regulatory entity and also the operating entity for fixed-line services. Plans to establish a telecommunications regulatory authority have been raised, particularly by competitors, although nothing has materialised.

A further problem with the lack of independence and corporatisation in the fixed-line sector is a lack of available information on the sector. Limited competition does exist in the Internet provision sector, with four major ISPs, although prices are set by the government. Services are accessible via ADSL, FttH and WiMAX.

Recognising the potential of applying ICT to improve both social and economic development, Kuwait has taken steps to develop a digital economy; national level policies for e-health and e-government have been developed, with a number of services available online.

The mobile sector has been the most successful telecoms market in Kuwait. Zain and Wataniya operated as a duopoly with competition only improving after a third operator, Viva, launched services. Penetration has reached levels indicative of saturation. Competition will improve further should mobile number portability be introduced; this is currently in the planning phase.

All three mobile network operators have launched mobile broadband products to take advantage of deployed 3G/HSPA networks. With offered download speeds higher than that of fixed line ISPs, mobile broadband presents the mobile operators with an opportunity to make inroads into the underdeveloped broadband market, given the reach of their networks, existing brand recognition and product distribution channels as well as established pool of customers.

Kuwait is one of the wealthier members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), ranking third in GDP per capita behind Qatar and the UAE. Kuwait's economy is primarily dependent on oil revenue, representing approximately 50% of GDP and almost all government revenue. Like the other smaller GCC members, it has a very high expatriate population, forming at least two-thirds of the whole country. As in other similar countries, this makes its total population very fluid and thus all penetration statistics very unreliable and distorted.

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