x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Make Iraq first call for a good mobile deal

In its annual index of the region's most competitive mobile markets, the Arab Advisors Group ranked Iraq ahead of long-time leader Jordan.

Customers looking for a good deal from a Middle-Eastern mobile operator should head to Iraq, a report suggests, with the country overtaking Jordan as the Arab world's most competitive mobile market. In its annual index of the region's most competitive mobile markets, the Arab Advisors Group ranked Iraq ahead of long-time leader Jordan, which narrowly pipped it to the post last year. The UAE fell two places to number 14 of the 19 countries listed, below Mauritania and Yemen. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a number of new telecommunications licences were sold to local and international companies. The country's communications infrastructure had suffered from decades of conflict and sanctions, and the new operators capitalised on widespread demand for mobile services, along with a relatively loose regulatory environment. Jawad Abbassi, the founder of Arab Advisors, said he expected Iraq to remain high on the index long after the departure of US troops and the strengthening of a national government and regulatory system. "Other countries might become more competitive, but I think Iraq will remain a very vibrant, competitive market for quite some time," he said. "Iraqi consumers, and operators, are reaping the benefits of what will remain a growth market." In recent years, the Cellular competition intensity index has reflected the mixture of change and stagnation in regional mobile markets. Markets such as Qatar, Syria, Lebanon and Libya - which have yet to undertake meaningful liberalisation of their markets - have remained at the bottom of the list, while Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia have hovered at the top. The ranking compares each operator to others in the region and does not benchmark the companies against networks in other regions. As a relative index, entrants whose status has not changed can fall in the rankings if others improve. Egypt, which added Etisalat as its third mobile operator in 2007, has risen most dramatically, from number 11 then to number 5 today. The UAE, which was ranked at number 10 when du joined the market in 2007, has slipped four places in two years. Qatar, which remained the Arab world's final telecoms monopoly until the launch of the Vodafone network this year, has sat in last place for the past three years. tgara@thenational.ae