Mobile broadband trends: 4G/LTE to account for 10% of SIMs in Middle East and North Africa markets by 2017

Telecom Lead Africa: 4G/LTE will account for 10 percent of SIMs in the Middle East and North Africa markets by 2017.

4G connections will grow at a CAGR of 122 percent between 2012 and 2017. 4G will not be launched in Egypt until 2013 and Morocco in 2014, according to Analysys Mason.

4G phone

3G will be the dominant network technology, reaching 192 million SIMs with 43 percent of all SIMs in the region by 2017.

Subscribers in 2G mobile networks will peak in 2015, when subscriptions in 3G and 4G connections will begin to take over.

In a recent report, Yankee Group said the number of active LTE connections will grow from 114 million in 2013 to 258 million in 2014. The OTT threat is eating into operator revenues. In 2011, mobile operators worldwide generated $769 billion in voice and consumer messaging service revenue. By 2016, this will fall to $697 billion.

Operators will look beyond connectivity for sustainable differentiation. There will be more bundling of OTT communications apps with LTE subscriptions as well as operators increasing their portfolio of cloud-based solutions, including offering bundled content storage and backup with premium LTE services.

Recently, Frost & Sullivan said mobile broadband services revenue in Latin America will grow to $34.41 billion in 2017 from $6.74 billion in 2011.

The substantial increase will be driven by increasing demand for mobility, penetration of smart devices, and convergent services and bundles. By the end of 2011, handsets already accounted for 80.5 percent of all mobile broadband connections.

The increasing coverage of 3G, 3.5G, and 4G networks and greater penetration of low-cost smart devices has significantly increased the revenue generation opportunities of mobile broadband service providers in Latin America. Mobile broadband is emerging as a likely substitute for fixed broadband in metropolitan areas, both in the residential and corporate segments, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Analysys Mason says telecoms sector revenue in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to grow 27 percent to $96.4 billion in 2017 from $70.3 billion in 2011.

The fastest growth area during the forecast period will be mobile data services, with handset data revenue set to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 17.9 percent between 2012 and 2017.

Growth rates in subscriber numbers will continue to decline, as will mobile voice prices.

The penetration rates of active SIMs in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates already exceed 100 percent of the population, and will surpass 100 percent in Algeria in 2012 and Egypt in 2011.

Operators in the region will be increasingly pressured to reduce their mobile voice tariffs in the face of over-the-top voice and messaging services.

“Given these declines, operators will look to increase the average revenue per user (ARPU) of their higher-value customer base by encouraging greater mobile data usage,” said Roz Roseboro, principal analyst at Analysys Mason.

Because the growth in subscriber numbers is slowing, operators will also focus on retaining their customer base, although this will be difficult because the newer, lower-income subscribers tend to be less loyal than the established higher-end ones.

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