Mobile and broadband growth strong in UAE

There were 12.367mn mobile subscribers in the UAE at the end of March 2012, reports BMI, representing growth of 5.5% q-o-q - significantly higher than average quarterly growth of 1.8% during 2012. The market recorded net additions of 640,000 subscribers in Q112, equivalent of around 80% of the total net additions of 801,000 recorded in the 12 months to December 2011. Despite the UAE’s relatively high mobile penetration rate, positive growth in the mobile market is forecast over the next five years, with an overall growth of 9.5% during 2012 and average growth of 2.2% for the five years to 2016.

This will bring the mobile subscriber base to around 14mn subscribers, a penetration rate of 165%. The fixed-line market will experience upside pressure from increased competition between Etisalat and du due to the implementation of carrier pre-selection services. However, this will be counterbalanced by increasing fixed to mobile substitution, is expected to intensify with the roll-out of next generation mobile broadband technologies. Fixed-line penetration in the UAE is likely to reach 22.9% at the end of 2012, with around 1.908mn fixed-line connections by 2016, reflecting a penetration rate of 22.4%.

A notable new development in the market is the launch of commercial LTE network services by second-ranked du in June 2012. The operator reports the service is capable of speeds of 150Mbps, although existing devices can only support transmission of 100Mbps. The launch follows that of rival Etisalat, which launched LTE services in 2011. du has launched the service using 1,800MHz spectrum, in contrast to the more commonly used 800MHz or 2.6GHz bands.

During Q112, TRA reported a sharp fall in the number of dial-up internet subscriptions. This consequently reduced the total number of internet subscriptions from around 1.3mn at the end of December 2011 to fewer than 960,000 by March 2012. However, there was no commensurate increase in the number of broadband subscriptions following the contraction of the dial-up segment. The broadband market is forecast to grow by 9.5% in 2012 to reach a penetration rate of 11.8%, reaching 13.8% by the end of 2016.

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