The Middle East is forecast to have a very high growth rate over the next few years for broadband networks, especially in the mobile area. Portio Research reports that Egypt, Oman and Sudan are the Top 3 fastest growing mobile markets worldwide based on their Worldwide Mobile Industry Handbook 2011-2016. IDC reports that the number of mobile subscribers in the Middle East will approach 271M by the end of 2012 (report here) with mobile penetration topping 100% in 2012. Informa released a report on the regional share for mobile subscribers, with Iran and Saudi Arabia leading the way for the region.
Procera has been working with a number of mobile operators in the Middle East, and our findings are that the usage patterns for Middle Eastern mobile operators is similar to other regions, but that the number of “power users” is much lower – which usually translates to a lower number of smartphones and mobile broadband dongles. The statistics below represent an aggregation of that data across specific operators that Procera is working with. We believe strongly that “All network trends are local”, and detailed analytics on YOUR network are what help network operators build profitable service models, and encourage operators to gain insight into their subscriber’s behavior before creating new services.
However, many trends in the Middle East have similar traffic distributions as other regions. For example, the domains visited on Middle Eastern mobile networks are very similar to what you might see on mobile networks around the world. The chart below shows the top sites visited over the past two months on the mobile network, from a traffic as well as total number of connections:
It is not a surprise that Facebook, Google (including local versions of Google), and several CDNs (Amazon and Akamai) lead the way in total traffic volume – which shows that content really is king in the Middle East as well as the rest of the world. From a connections point of view, Facebook is still the number one by far, with Zynga making an appearance as a social gaming powerhouse, and Google maintaining a strong position due to searches and advertising.
From an application point of view, Streaming Video is at the top of the heap from an overall bandwidth usage as well for different types of applications used by mobile subscribers.
Drilling down into specific applications, Streaming Media applications again take top honors, but as seen by Facebook’s position in the website table, HTTP browsing is not far behind.
Drilling down into Streaming Video specifically, Flash Video (for non-IOS phones) and HTTP Media Streaming (used primarily by IOS) are the top applications, which is consistent with other regions that do not have Netflix or similar video streaming services..
The Middle East is a rapidly growing mobile data market, and many operators are reporting mobile data traffic growth in excess of 100% a year (even with penetration passing 100%!). The introduction of LTE into many countries will only increase that growth, and the ability of the mobile operators to create service plans targeted to consumer application and content trends will increase their revenue AND enhance subscriber satisfaction.