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The years of civil unrest in Syria have taken their toll on Syria’s 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 majority of the population (70%) live in poverty, according to reports, and employment is as high as 50%. It is the essential services which are often targeted by opposing forces in these volatile environments, with facilities such as hospitals, education institutes, power stations and telecommunications infrastructure being damaged or destroyed.
The operators themselves face additional issues surrounding security concerns, power outages, staff retention and access to diesel. Despite this challenging environment however, there are some glimpses of hope with both mobile operators reporting rising in revenue in 2015, with much of this attributed to growth in mobile data services. With 3G/HSDPA networks in place, the focus for mobile data has firmly shifted to mobile broadband offerings.
Overall the telecoms sector is growing in Syria, albeit slowly and in varying degrees depending on the geographic area. Generally speaking, Syria has a reasonably high mobile penetration of over 60%, with many Syrians owning cheap or second hand smart phones. Mobile broadband penetration coverage sits at 60-70%. Going forward, opportunities exist in the growing mobile broadband sector, especially once the civil unrest subsides. Fixed broadband is still an emerging area that will also benefit greatly once the country stabilises.
|Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e)|
|Fixed Broadband users||0.34||0.70|
(Source: BuddeComm based on ITU)
- MTN Syria has experienced recent declines in subscribers due to the challenging environment in Syria.
- Both Syrtiatel and MTN Syria reported revenue growth in 2015 due primarily to mobile data growth.
- In January 2015, both Syriatel and MTN Syria were awarded long-term freehold licences by the Syrian authorities, valid until December 2034. These replace the previous build, operate and transfer arrangement.
Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE), MTN Syria, Syriatel.