Arab cellular rates - Highest? Lowest? Fairest?

Arab Advisors Group has launched a new report which analyses the cellular tariffs for 42 cellular operators in 19 Arab countries.

Cellular Rates in the Arab World: A Regional Comparison

The report focuses on the average cellular rates of the countries' operational cellular providers. The process of analysis and comparison was designed to be as fair as possible.

When calculating the average cellular rates, for example, the Arab Advisors Group relied on the simple average for all relevant packages and offers in each market. In turn, average peak and off-peak minute rates in the report include the tariffs for on-net and off-net traffic. The report also covers the airtime billing methods that the cellular operators use.

The regional average post-paid minute rate was calculated to be US$0.11). This conceals some quite noticeable extremes

  • Lebanese operators have the highest average cost of prepaid cellular minutes in the Arab World (US$0.46);
  • Mauretanian operators have the highest average cost of post-paid cellular minutes (US$0.28);
  • UAE (US$0.08) and Yemen (US$0.24) offer the lowest average cellular minute costs for prepaid and post-paid respectively;
  • Sudan and Lebanon have the most expensive average post-paid cellular connection fees;
  • Qatar and Sudan have the highest prepaid average connection fees (excluding initial balances built into the purchased lines); and
  • The UAE and Yemen lie on the other extreme from Lebanon and Mauretania, having the region's most affordable average prepaid minute rate and average post-paid minute rate respectively.

Rates relative to wealth

The Arab Advisors Group also conducted an analysis of rates relative to the wealth of the country in a regional context. The rich Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE have low-cost rates relative to their GDP per capita. However, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, and Sudan still have high-cost cellular rates relative to the examined countries' GDP per capita. Countries that can be regarded as fair relative to GDP per capita are Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Increased Competition

What increased competition is doing is to drive operators into adopting billing per second or fractions of a minute. As of July 2006, an array of 17 different billing methods were in use by 41 cellular operators in the 19 Arab countries. Fifteen operators still use the traditional (and most profitable) per minute billing for post-paid packages while 13 operators adopt it for prepaid plans. Although the majority of operators have abandoned this method, it is still the most common billing method utilised, as it is employed in 36% of post-paid billing methods and 27% of prepaid billing methods. Per second billing, which offers the best value for end users, is the basis for a total of 16 post-paid and prepaid plans in the Arab World.

Cellular Rates in the Arab World: A Regional Comparison has been released to Arab Advisors Group Telecoms Strategic Research Service subscribers. The report can be purchased from the Arab Advisors Group for US$1,500. The 32-page report, which has 25 detailed charts and diagrams, covers cellular operators operational by the end of July.

It is a reflection of the opening up of Arab markets to cellular competition that the countries retaining monopoly cellular services can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Jordan, by contrast, offers a choice of four operators, closely followed by three each in Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

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