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Syria - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

August 2019 | 65 pages | ID: SC5F71A21573EN
BuddeComm

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Restoring telecommunication networks in Syria is a key priority

The telecoms sector in Syria has paid a heavy toll from the years of civil war and destruction. The major mobile operators of Syriatel and MTN Syria, along with the incumbent, have been focusing on restoring and rebuilding damaged mobile and fixed networks. It is a challenging environment for the operators which also face a lack of basic infrastructure like power and water in some areas, along with security concerns.

Furthermore; both Syriatel and MTN Syria were recently requested to pay billions in back taxes to the Syrian government. Tensions in this regard have escalated, particularly between the regulator (SyTRA) and Syriatel, which resulted in The Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) suspending the trading of shares of Syriatel in early June 2020.

Telecommunication services in Syria are decentralized and some of the remote areas rely on expensive satellite communications while the urban areas utilise the highly regulated network supplied by the government-owned incumbent Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE). The domestic and international fixed-line markets in Syria remain under the strict monopoly of the STE. Initiatives have been launched to liberalise the market in the past but without much success.

Mobile broadband penetration in Syria is still quite low, despite quite a high population coverage of 3G networks and some deployment of 4G LTE infrastructure. This may provide potential opportunities for growth once infrastructure and economic reconstruction efforts make headway and civil issues subside.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Key developments:
  • The years of civil unrest in Syria have taken their toll on Syrias telecommunications infrastructure and while the capital Damascus has survived reasonably well, it is the outskirts, rural and remote areas which have felt the brunt of the destruction.
  • The international aid network known as the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster has been operating in Syria for many years and provides emergency Internet connectivity and telecommunications services.
  • Broadband developments in Syria are governed by the 2018 ICT Policy.
Companies mentioned in this report include:

Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE), MTN Syria, Syriatel.
1 KEY STATISTICS

1.1 Country overview

2 COVID-19 AND ITS IMPACT ON THE GLOBAL TELECOM SECTOR

2.1 Economic considerations and responses
2.2 Mobile devices
2.3 Subscribers
2.4 Infrastructure
2.5 Impact on Syria

3 TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET

3.1 Historical overview
3.2 Market analysis
3.3 Market challenges
3.4 Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC)

4 REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

4.1 Historic overview
4.2 Regulatory authority
4.3 Fixed-line developments
4.4 Mobile network developments

5 MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS

5.1 Market analysis
5.2 Mobile statistics
5.3 Mobile broadband statistics
5.4 Mobile infrastructure
5.5 Major mobile operators

6 FIXED-LINE BROADBAND MARKET

6.1 Market analysis
6.2 Broadband statistics

7 FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS IN SYRIA

7.1 Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE)

8 TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE

8.1 National telecom network
8.2 International infrastructure

9 DIGITAL ECONOMY

10 APPENDIX HISTORIC DATA

11 GLOSSARY OF ABBREVIATIONS

12 RELATED REPORTS

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Top Level Country Statistics and Telco Authorities - Syria 2019
Table 2 Syria - GDP growth and inflation fluctuations 2008 2018
Table 3 Middle East 3G and 4G - mobile infrastructure and population coverage 2014 - 2018
Table 4 Syria - mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2010 - 2020
Table 5 Syria - mobile broadband subscribers and penetration 2009 2018
Table 6 Syriatel revenue 2008 1H 2018
Table 7 MTN Syria - revenue and CAPEX 2016 2019
Table 8 MTN Syria subscribers and annual ARPU 2014 2019
Table 9 Syria - percentage of Internet users 2010 2018
Table 10 Syria - fixed broadband subscriptions 2010 - 2019
Table 11 Syria - international Internet bandwidth 2008 2018
Table 12 Syria - fixed lines in service and teledensity 2008 - 2018
Table 13 Historic - Syria - mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2008 - 2009
Table 14 Historic - Syria - fixed broadband subscriptions 2008 - 2009
Table 15 Historic - Syria - fixed lines in service and teledensity 1995 - 2007
Table 16 Historic - Syria - fixed broadband subscriptions 2004 - 2007
Table 17 Historic Syria - international Internet bandwidth 2004 2007
Table 18 Historic - Syria - mobile subscribers and penetration rate 1999 - 2007
Table 19 Historical - MTN Syria Subscribers and ARPU 2009 2013
Chart 1 Mobile operator market share based on subscribers - 2019

Syria’s telecom sector continues to be impacted by the ongoing civil war. Reports include instances of information warfare, proposed sanctions against telecom companies, damage to telecoms infrastructure and loss of connectivity to the global Internet. The deteriorating situation is having an impact on market development with regulatory developments delayed. However given the utility nature of telecoms, services are likely to be restored once fighting ceases.

Fixed-line services remain the monopoly of state-owned Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), which has upgraded its infrastructure to support delivery of broadband services. However the ongoing civil war has damaged infrastructure, resulting in the need for repairs.

Broadband subscriber data indicated strong growth although the ongoing civil war is likely to impact future growth prospects. Recognising the potential of applying ICT to improve both social and economic development, Syria has taken steps to develop a digital economy. E-government services are available, with a national e-government policy in place to guide developments. To support e-health development public funding has been made available for ICT equipment, software, pilot projects, skills training and scholarships. E-health initiatives also extend to the mobile sector (m-health), with m-health initiatives undertaken.

Syria’s mobile market is served by a duopoly comprised of two operators, MTN Syria and Syriatel. Both have been impacted by the ongoing civil war, with base stations taken out of commission. Mobile data services are becoming an increasingly important source of new revenue as the mobile voice market begins to mature. With 3G/HSPA implemented and network modernisation undertaken, the focus for mobile data is beginning to shift to mobile broadband offerings.



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