GSMA reports: MENA mobile operators set for global 5G leadership

MEna mobile 29The number of smartphone connections across MENA stands at 332mn as of Q2 2018. (Image source: Free-Photos/Pixabay)The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arab States1 are set to be global leaders in the deployment of 5G networks, with all six markets expected to launch 5G mobile services in the next two years, according to two GSMA reports released at Mobile 360 Series – MENA

GSMA Intelligence’s reports “The Mobile Economy: Middle East and North Africa 2018” and “5G in MENA: GCC operators set for global leadership” highlight that pioneering mobile operators in the GCC Arab States are expected to launch 5G networks commercially from 2019, driving innovative new services across the region and spurring future growth.

By 2025, 5G will account for 16 per cent of total connections in these markets.

“Backed by proactive government support, mobile operators, particularly in the GCC Arab States, have been quick to establish the foundations for global leadership in the deployment of 5G technology, moving rapidly from trials to early commercialization,” said John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at GSMA.

“It is imperative that the region’s governments create a regulatory environment that allows 5G to flourish, including releasing sufficient spectrum, so that businesses and citizens can fully enjoy the innovative new services that 5G will deliver, as well as the resulting socio-economic benefits,” Giusti added.

Policy central to realising 5G digital future

The reports encourage policymakers to establish spectrum roadmaps that commit to releasing sufficient quantities of spectrum across all frequency ranges to enable operators to meet coverage and capacity.

They further note that governments should implement tax policies that could improve affordability and boost digital inclusion, and adopt an approach to licence renewals that enables operators to make long-term investment decisions rather than maximising government revenue.

A region of increased smartphone adoption

There are currently 381mn unique mobile subscribers (Q2 2018) across the MENA region, accounting for 64 per cent of the population. Between 2017 and 2025, the MENA region, as a whole, is expected to see the fastest subscriber growth rate of any region except Sub-Saharan Africa, growing to reach 459mn of the population.

The number of smartphone connections across MENA stands at 332mn as of Q2 2018, accounting for more than 50 per cent of total connections in the region. The UAE remains a global leader in terms of smartphone adoption, second to Singapore, with smartphones accounting for 85 per cent of total connections. High mobile broadband usage and smartphone adoption have also resulted in more people across the region using data services such as IP messaging and using their mobile phones to watch online video.

Revenue opportunities in the early 5G era

There will be significant opportunities for operators across new consumer-oriented services such as immersive reality, eSports and enhanced in-venue digital entertainment at stadiums and music venues, for example. Further, video consumption on mobile devices will evolve to include newer augmented reality and virtual reality applications that will make content even more immersive and data intensive.

Mobile contributing to jobs and economic growth

In 2017, the mobile industry contributed approximately US$165bn to the MENA region’s economy, equivalent to four per cent of GDP. This contribution is expected to increase to more than US$200bn by 2022 as countries in the region benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services.

The mobile ecosystem also supported more than one million jobs in 2017, which includes workers directly employed in the ecosystem and jobs indirectly supported by the economic activity generated by the sector. Further, the mobile industry made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with more than US$17bn raised in 2017 in the form of general taxation.

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