Broadband Access in the Middle East: Network Deployment and Take-up Trends in the Gulf States

April 13, 2018  | Subscribers Only

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The Gulf region has seen a sharp rise in broadband access investments, IHS Markit analyses broadband access trends in the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

IHS Markit looks at key aspects of operator strategies in the Gulf region that have stimulated domestic markets and contributed to record-breaking fibre optic network deployment speeds to national broadband plans or policies that have impeded growth of fixed broadband technologies.


  • Qatar and the UAE lead coverage and uptake of fixed broadband services and fixed NGA technologies such as FTTH/VDSL and 4G LTE.
  • Oman's doubled access and coverage of fixed broadband through the implementation of a successful national broadband plan.
  • The availability of fibre optic broadband is lower in Bahrain and Kuwait as operators in these countries have made investments into alternative high-speed broadband access technologies, upgrading fixed wireless broadband to 4G LTE or using G.Fast technology to re-use pre-existing DSL-copper lines.
  • All Gulf states have implemented plans to attempt increase competition in the fixed broadband market and limit the dominance of incumbent ISPs and operators.

In this report:

  • The broadband markets of the GCC states are relatively mature with high levels of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) infrastructure and high household penetration of fixed broadband services in Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The average
  • The regional average for fixed broadband household penetration amongst the GCC member states in Q3 2017 was 67.2%, with Qatar and the UAE recording the highest levels with over 96% of households in each country having fixed broadband connections. Kuwait ranked last with only a third of households subscribing to fixed broadband services in Q3 2017.
  • Next-Generation-Access (NGA) networks deployments, such as Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and Very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL), have progressed in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the last couple of years due to rapid urbanisation plans.
  • National Broadband Plans and policies helped stimulate high-speed network deployment in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with Oman and Bahrain set to increase broadband access through similar initiatives.
  • Fibre optic network infrastructure is preferred in the region due to the multi-functionality of the technology that can contribute to smart city development, improve property value and provide Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) as an alternative to Satellite TV at a lower cost.

Research by Market
Mobile & Telecom
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