There are three mobile network operators (MNOs) in Kuwait – STC, Ooredoo, and the home-based telco Zain. CITRA (the telecom regulator) has been planning over the past year to increase the competitiveness of the Kuwaiti mobile market and make mobile services more affordable. As such, in March 2021, CITRA issued the first MVNO licence in the country. The licence was awarded to Virgin Media Kuwait, which is a joint venture between STC (which owns 10%) and Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa. This new entrant will help CITRA in promoting competition and more affordable mobile plans.
As of January 2022, Virgin Media Kuwait has yet to launch. GlobalData expects the launch in March 2022, with the MVNO offering mobile handset plans and data-only plans. The MVNO will enter a relatively developed market, where it will face stiff competition from the existing three market players, with established market dynamics.
The power struggle is expected to affect the 5G state of play as well, as coverage has already reached 97% of the population and the uptake has reached 5% of total mobile subscriptions in 2020. The three established MNOs offer mobile 5G plans on both postpaid data-only plans and handsets plans. The telcos are monetizing 5G through postpaid plans which have notably higher ARPUs than in prepaid plans.
Another layer of pressure for new entrant will be high mobile penetration of the population in the country. It reached circa 151.4% of the population in 2021 with a high level of multi-SIM ownership in the country.
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