Middle East mobile penetration at a peak....but ARPU set to fall dramatically
Although the UAE has reported mobile penetration of 193%, inferring that nearly every man, woman and child in the Emirates possesses two SIM cards, the figure could represent something of a high water mark for the region. The figures, from regulator TRA are computed by dividing the number of active mobile users - defined as a user that had placed a call or sent an SMS at least once in a 90 day period - by the total population.
However, foreign workers are terminating contracts as they depart the country because of the recession and the UAE's population is expected to decline, although figures are yet to feed through.
Of more concern for operators in the region is falling ARPU. Telecoms consulting firm, Oliver Wymann, expects ARPU for Middle Eastern telecom firms to drop by half by 2013 in African and South Asian markets because of increasing competition, price reduction and a second-wave of customers that are predominately lower income.
ARPU will fall from US$12 today to US$6 in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2013, and from $6 to $3 in