4G subscribers in the Middle East and Africa region (MEA) will reach 1,214 million (53 percent of total subscribers), while 5G is estimated to reach 380 million subscribers (17 percent of total) 2027, according to the Nokia MEA Mobile Broadband Index.
Mobile operators’ yearly ARPU in MEA is expected to decrease by $3.8 to reach $41.4 in 2027; yearly data ARPU is estimated to increase by $3.4 in 2027. Low voice revenue due to growing preference for OTT applications will result in a low yearly voice ARPU in 2027.
Top countries in MEA in terms annual ARPU are forecast to be: Qatar ($315), Kuwait ($254), UAE ($253), Saudi Arabia ($207), Oman ($158), Jordan ($139), Palestine ($90), Gabon ($88), Botswana ($76), Bahrain ($68) in 2027.
Revenue of telecom operators in MEA is expected to reach $94.7 billion in 2027 from $76.8 billion in 2022 – at a CAGR of 4.3 percent.
By the end of 2027, data revenue is estimated to reach $66.4 billion (70 percent of total revenue) whereas voice revenue will stand at $26.8 billion.
Postpaid revenue is increasing at a CAGR of 9 percent (from 2022 to 2027) and is projected to reach $37 billion by 2027 owing to targeted offers and bundling OTT services along with new postpaid plans.
Middle East is far ahead of Africa in terms of 5G adoption, while many operators in Africa are still developing their business models around 4G. Voice traffic still relies on 2G and 3G networks in many parts of the region.
5G will contribute to the growth of the mobile broadband subscriber base, which is expected to grow with a CAGR of six percent in MEA. 4G networks in MEA account for 79 percent of overall data traffic today, and by 2027, 4G and 5G will together account for 90 percent of data traffic.
5G adoption is the fastest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, and 5G subscribers are expected to reach 75 percent by 2027, mainly driven by Saudi Arabia.
In non-GCC Middle Eastern countries and in Africa, 4G will remain dominant until 2027, while 5G deployment is at nascent stage today and poised to gain more and more momentum over the next years.
5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) in the GCC countries and 4G FWA in the rest of the MEA region are one of the most attractive use cases, with a significant opportunity for operators to drive incremental revenues.
GCC currently is the most mature region in terms of 5G device ecosystem with approximately 20% of the smart phones with 5G capability.
Many 5G capable devices still connected to 4G layer due to lack of 5G coverage. 5G coverage enhancement will increase the overall 5G traffic share.
5G networks are more energy efficient than previous radio network generations, helping operators reach their sustainability targets.
“Data consumption with high-speed networks is increasing exponentially across the MEA market in both urban and rural areas. Reliable 4G and 5G networks are critical for bridging the digital divide in the region, in addition to supporting data-intensive applications for communities and businesses,” Mikko Lavanti, Head of Mobile Networks at Nokia MEA, said.
Operators are investing in development of metaverse and upgrading networks for higher bandwidth and low latency.