Maldives - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

  • May 2014
  • -
  • Paul Budde Communication Pty Ltd
  • -
  • 35 pages

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Data Series

The Maldives sees continuing strong growth in mobile broadband services.

Providing good communications for the Maldives has been paramount, with its relatively small population of less than 350,000 living on many islands across the archipelago (over 1,000 islands of which around 200 are inhabited). The nation can claim to have met this challenge with considerable success. It now prides itself on having built one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in the region. With the country's well-developed national network, the capital Malé is particularly well served, as are the tourist resort islands; this was further enhanced by the provision of a submarine cable connection to Sri Lanka back in 2005; at the same time the opportunity has been taken to provide undersea links between the main atolls, thereby substantially strengthening the domestic connectivity. And a second submarine cable linked the archipelago to India in 2006.

Efficient telecommunications services have been established to all inhabited islands by the national telco, Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Pvt Ltd (Dhiraagu). Dhiraagu, initially set up as a joint venture between the government and Cable & Wireless plc, has played a major role in establishing the country's telecoms infrastructure. Despite having been criticised in the early stages of development for its high tariff structure whilst operating as a monopoly provider, the company has played an undeniably important role in building networks and delivering telephone services across the archipelago. Dhiraagu's shareholding was opened to public investment in late 2011 when an IPO saw the government sell off some of its stake. In a somewhat surprising move, Bahrain's Batelco acquired the whole of C&W Communications' 52% stake in Dhiraagu during 2013.

Dhiraagu was initially granted an exclusive licence to provide all telecommunications services in the country. With its licence renewal in 1995, the operator was given a more clearly stated mandate to provide telephone access to all inhabited islands by the year 2000. The Dhiraagu monopoly was officially set to run out in 2008. However, the government moved to open up the market earlier than that. The licensing of a second ISP by the government in 2002 signalled its intention to proceed with deregulation ahead of time. A second mobile licence was issued in due course, the new operator Wataniya Telecom becoming operational in 2006. (Wataniya was rebranded Ooredoo in 2013.)

Despite a slow start to the opening up of the market, the introduction of a level of competition quickly saw a boom in the country's telecom sector, especially the mobile segment. By 2012 Wataniya had over 200,000 mobile subscribers or around 40% of the total market. At the same time the incumbent Dhiraagu was also continuing to vigorously develop its mobile subscriber base, improving the quality and extending its product range. Mobile penetration in the Maldives had reached a remarkable level of more than 190% by the start of 2014. However, mobile subscriber growth was finally flattening out' and the market's attention was shifting to new generation offerings. Both operators had launched 3G and higher services (Ooredoo had launched 4G) and the take up rate for these new service offerings was particularly strong. The growth of mobile broadband internet services had been running hot through 2012 and 2013; this pattern was expected to continue in 2014.

Market highlights:

The Maldives continues to benefit from a more competitive market, with service improving greatly since the arrival of second mobile operator Wataniya Telecom (now called Ooredoo);
Ooredoo quickly claimed around a third of the mobile market following its launch in 2006 and by 2014 had around 40% of the total subscriber base;
Mobile penetration was approaching 200% (although some sources suggested a lower figure);
After a period of rapid overall growth, mobile subscribers are still increasing but at a slower pace;
At the same time, there has been strong growth in Third Generation (3G) and more advanced mobile services;
Ooredoo launched a 4G/LTE service with limited coverage at end-2013;
Despite Dhiraagu strongly promoting its fixed-line service, the number of fixed subscribers continues to fall;
After a major push into broadband internet, the Maldives has established a solid base of fixed broadband services;
Since 2010, however, the bulk of broadband growth has been in mobile broadband services;
In 2013 Bahrain's Batelco acquired the whole of C&W Communications' 52% stake in Dhiraagu;
The government of the Maldives was moving forward with plans to launch a satellite;
An overall slowing in the Maldives national economy in 2009 had certainly affected the country's telecom sector;
Stronger growth in the national economy in 2011 provided encouraging signs and suggested further growth opportunities for the telecom sector; after 2012 saw the economy slip backwards again, forecasts for the 2013/2015 period were seeing a return to healthy growth.

Maldives - key telecom parameters 2012 - 2014
Category | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 (e)
Fixed-line services:
Subscriber penetration | 7.4% | 6.8% | 6.5%
Internet:
Total number of fixed subscribers | 19,500 | 21,500 | 23,200
Total number of mobile broadband subscribers | 69,600 | 90,100 | 200,000
Mobile services:
Subscriber penetration | 172% | 189% | 195%

This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in the Maldives.

Subjects covered include:

Key Statistics;
Market and Industry Overviews;
Major Operators (Mobile and Fixed)
Regulatory Environment;
Infrastructure;
Mobile Market;
Internet Market, including Broadband.

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