Guess who! Only two MENA countries have answered the call to liberalise their telecom sectors
Jordan is one of only two states in the region where the telecom sector is fully liberalised, according to a World Bank report, which said mobile broadband penetration in the Kingdom is high and prices are low.
The report, e-mailed to The Jordan Times, showed that the country’s fixed and mobile broadband have reached a developing stage, compared to an emerging state in Algeria, Egypt and Morocco, and a mature stage in Bahrain.
Jordan — as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia — were classified among the countries with high mobile broadband penetration and low prices, said the report titled “Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High-Speed Internet Access”.
Kuwait, the UAE and Egypt were classified as countries with high penetration and high prices.
“Prices of mobile broadband in Jordan are one of the lowest in the region due to the strong competition between existing operators,” Jawad Abbassi, founder and general manager of the Arab Advisers Group, said.
“Usage of mobile broadband in Jordan is much higher than fixed broadband because mobile broadband is more personal and users have access to the Internet wherever they are, as they either have an Internet subscription on their mobile or simply carry an Internet dongle,” Abbassi told The Jordan Times on Saturday.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, only Bahrain and Jordan have implemented a policy of full liberalisation in telecommunications. All other countries have a limit on the number of licensed operators which increased competition in the market, the report said.
Fixed broadband prices constitute about 3.6 per cent of the average monthly income per capita in the MENA region, while mobile broadband prices stand at about 7.7 per cent, according to the report. It also indicated that while Djibouti, Syria and Yemen are significantly above the 5 per cent threshold; Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia have just reached the level that makes rapid broadband take-off possible.
Of the 147 per cent mobile subscriptions in Jordan, about 35.9 per cent are mobile broadband users, while in Kuwait around 32.4 per cent of the total mobile subscriptions of about 209 per cent are mobile broadband users, the World Bank report said.
In Saudi Arabia, where mobile penetration stands at 203 per cent, 27.5 per cent of mobile holders are mobile broadband subscribers.
In terms of fixed broadband, 25.4 per cent of households in Jordan have fixed broadband connections compared to 88 per cent in Bahrain, 69 per cent in the UAE, 66 per cent in Qatar, 51.7 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 32 per cent in Kuwait and 14 per cent in Egypt.
The low penetration growth of fixed broadband in the Kingdom could be explained by a strong fixed-to-mobile substitution effect.
“After the launch of commercial 3G services in Jordan in September 2010, the annual growth of fixed broadband penetration dropped to –0.5 per cent and between 2011 and 2013 was only 2.5 percent,” the report said.
By Mohammad Ghazal