Jet-setting Etisalat mobile phone users sending e-mails, browsing the latest sports scores and updating their statuses on Facebook helped to triple the amount of data used while roaming outside the UAE last year.
The operator attributed the rise in "data roaming" to better quality in mobile browsing as well as an increase in subscribers using their mobiles for personal and work reasons, said Ali Amiri, the executive vice president of the carrier and wholesale services division at Etisalat. Many people in the UAE own two handsets to keep their work and personal usage separate.
"More people are roaming more often, and they are accessing more services through increasing numbers of specialist devices," Mr Amiri said. "These are trends that will continue for years to come, and as such, we see no reason for any slowing in the growth of roaming traffic." If there is a preferred smartphone for travelling, chances are it is an iPhone. Market share of the popular Apple handset grew more than 17 per cent over a six-month period ending in October to 20 per cent overall, data from InMobi shows. The company analyses the types of devices that display mobile advertisements, obtaining an accurate indication of the size of the Middle Eastern market.
Use of the iPhone was boosted after the release of the fourth-generation model last June, with regional operators such as Etisalat and Mobily offering it via promotions.
The rise in the iPhone's share came at the expense of Nokia, which lost about 15 points to 65.2 per cent of the market. Devices made by Sony Ericsson, Samsung and the BlackBerry maker Research In Motion each had less than 10 per cent of the market.
The data show that the Middle East is increasingly an important market for advertisers, said Rob Jonas, the managing director for Europe and Middle East at InMobi.