A large group of Arab countries are heading towards liberalizing their communications markets and opening up to foreign investment. “The Internet has been around in the region for the past few years, but it is only now that Arab governments and establishments across the region are beginning to realize its true potential,” according to Ahmed Naser, Arab Advisors Group regional research manager.
Naser added that “There will be substantial growth in Arab Internet markets in the coming two years as liberalization and deregulation fever spreads across the region.” By the end of 2002, Arab Advisors Group projects there will be over 1.13 million Internet subscribers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states alone. “The number seems small in comparison to other markets across the globe, but that is largely due to the exponential growth in Arab cellular markets,” Naser commented.
“In the coming two years, there will be 5.4 million cellular subscribers in the GCC states,” he added. “Compare the ratio of growth in cellular markets to the GCC states population and you get the big picture.”
Other Arab countries like Jordan will witness up to 300,000 new cellular subscribers next year, according to the Group’s Jordan Projections report. “Unlike the GCC states, low-income markets like those in Jordan will witness growth in both cellular and Internet markets with the introduction of more pre-pay based services,” the analyst explained.
The exponential growth in cellular as compared to the growth in Internet subscribers owes to what Naser called “Easterner’s stay-in touch fever.” “The more you go east, the more people become communicative,” he quipped.
“Arabs, similar to South East Asians, are a very communicative people and their favored medium, similar to the South East Asians, are handheld devices such as the cell-phone.” As such, multi-national operators have come to the region to reap the rewards of this fast growing market. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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