The Iranian mobile market continued to grow in the first quarter of 2009, finishing a whisker short of 50m on 49.97m. This left the penetration rate at 70.5%, up from 49.7% a year earlier. Given the increased penetration, it is unsurprising that the quarterly gain of 3.65m was well below the year-earlier figure of 6.15m. Of course, this was still an impressive uplift, and the Q1 08 gain was, moreover, an all-time market record, but this does indicate a gradual slowdown in growth in the Iranian market. Political instability subsequent to the end of the quarter may well have had a further impact on growth.
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On an annual basis, there was a 43.6% increase in customers - again an impressive figure, but again significantly down on the year-earlier figure of 103.9%. In fact, this was the lowest annual growth recorded since Q4 04. For the seventh successive quarter, MTN subsidiary Irancell topped the market for quarterly growth, adding 2.21m to finish on 18.25m. This represented an annual growth rate of 102.2%, maintaining the triple-digit annual growth it has seen in every quarter since its launch in Q4 06. This is one of the strongest performances recorded by any mobile operator in the world in recent years. Nevertheless, Irancell remained more than 10m customers behind market leader TCI Iran at the end of the quarter.
The gap of 11.71m was down from 15.48m a year earlier, but this still suggests that it will be some time before Irancell can think about challenging TCI Iran for the lead. TCI Iran was on 29.96m at the end of Q1 09 having added 1.36m in the quarter. This compares to 2.96m (its record figure) in Q1 08. In terms of proportionate growth, the 22.2% rate recorded in the twelve months ending 31st March 2009 was down from 59.3% in the prior twelve-month period. In real terms, annual net additions were down from 9.12m to 5.45m. Irancell, on the other hand, improved from 7.95m to 9.23m.
The remaining three operators in Iran have little market presence. The largest is Rafsanjan Industrial Complex (Taliya), which was up 39.6% annually to 1.70m, while the other two have fewer than 60k between them.
Source: Cellular News