The number of 5G connections in the MENA region will be more than 50 million by 2025 and 5G will cover approximately 30 percent of the region’s population, according to a GSMA report.
3G and 4G networks account for about half of total mobile connections in the MENA region today and are forecast to increase to 70 percent of the total by the end of the decade.
“We urge telecom operators to make investment in 4G networks to ensure growth and encourage governments to set policies that promote technological, social and economic progress to create a society where all citizens can benefit from mobile technology,” said Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA.
Etisalat and Ooredoo are already undertaking live 5G trials on speed, equipment, latency and beam steering, with commercial launches expected in 2020. The early launches are expected to be based on 3GPP Release 15 and be deployed in dense urban areas.
Further enhancements will be made with 3GPP Release 16, including the development of massive IoT and critical communication services.
There were 365 million unique subscribers across the region in 2016, accounting for 63 percent of the population, which is expected to rise to 399 million or 65 percent by 2020. Smartphone adoption is expected to increase to an estimated 463 million by 2020, representing growth of 167 million from the end of 2016.
Total mobile connections (active SIM cards, excluding M2M) in MENA stood at 639 million in 2016, forecast to rise to 712 million by 2020.
Total mobile subscribers were 360 million in 2016 and will increase to 399 million by 2020 or 65 percent penetration rate and a CAGR of 2.6 percent.
In the GCC States, 76 percent of the population are mobile subscribers, with three of these markets (Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE) having a subscriber penetration rate of 90 percent or above, placing them among the most penetrated mobile countries in the world.
North Africa has an average subscriber penetration rate of 67 per cent, and across the Other Arab States, penetration stands at 46 per cent, including three markets where less than a third of the population subscribe to mobile services (Comoros, Djibouti and Somalia).
In 2016, mobile industry contributed more than $165 billion to the regional economy, or 4.2 percent of GDP. This is expected to increase to almost $200 billion or 4.3 percent of GDP as countries in the region benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services.
Mobile internet penetration has doubled across the region over the last six years, reaching under 40 percent of the population or 228 million subscribers by mid-2017. 350 million people do not have access to the mobile internet.