Israel was dumped from third to fifth position in the Middle-East & Africa (MEA) penetration rankings in Q1 2008 as both the Seychelles and Qatar overtook it to line up behind the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have held the top two places for the last year. If the second quarter even came close to matching the first in the UAE, then that market will have finished June with a penetration rate in excess of 200%, the rate having stood at 192.5% at the end of March.
MEA: Number of markets in each penetration band
The ownership in Bahrain was more than 20pp behind, at 172.2%, although in the last two quarters at least, the rate has been growing noticeably quicker than in the UAE. The rate in Qatar and the Seychelles has been progressing much more steadily, but both overtook Israel as penetration fell for the first time ever from 127.1% to 126.3% in Q1 08. Four other markets - Kuwait, Reunion, Saudi Arabia and Libya - boasted penetration rates in excess of 100% at the end of March 2008.
Libya became the first mainland African market to join this elite club in the quarter, as the quite remarkable rise of mobility in the country continues.
South Africa was the tenth most penetrated market at the end of Q1 08 with a rate of 96.6%, after also suffering a decline in penetration (although in this case not its first) from 97.9% in the quarter. The penetration rates of a further seven markets also lay within the fourth quartile at the end of March, these being Botswana (90%), Algeria (87%), Oman (83%), Gabon (80%), Jordan (79%), Tunisia (78%) and new entrant Mauritius (76%). Perhaps surprisingly, only three markets - Morocco, Gambia and Mauritania - finished Q1 with penetration rates between 50% and 75%. However, Iran joined them just a few days after the end of the quarter, the mobile ownership rate there having stood at 49.6% at the end of March.
Iran breaking the 50% barrier would have taken the total number of markets with penetration rates in excess of 50% to 21, after Mauritania and Gambia took the total from 18 to 20 in the first quarter. Including Iran, 50 of the 70 markets in the MEA region finished Q1 08 with penetration rates below 50%. However, progress is clear to see. At the end of Q1 07, 36 of markets had penetration rates of 25% or below, a number which fell to 25 a year layer.
Source: Cellular News.