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Maldives - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

  • January 2017
  • -
  • Paul Budde Communication Pty Ltd
  • -
  • 29 pages

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Maldives incumbent Dhiraagu completes fixed network upgrade project
Revenue from the telecom market in the Maldives is limited by the small population, of about 348,000 living on many islands across the archipelago of over 1,000 islands, of which around 200 are inhabited. Nevertheless, the market has developed strongly in recent years, attracting international investment including the Qatar-based Ooredoo Group. By March 2016 the mobile subscriber base had passed 760,000 and mobile penetration had exceeded 215%. Much of this penetration is due to the popular adoption of multiple SMI cards, as also to the tourist sector wherein visitors to the islands get a SIM card for the duration of their stay. In addition a large number of expatriate workers require SIM cards on a semi-temporary basis

The two licensed operators, Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun (Dhiraagu) and Ooredoo Maldives, have both invested in HSPA and LTE infrastructure, providing extensive coverage and furnishing the growth in the adoption of mobile broadband. Both operators also provide fixed-line services: in May 2016 Ooredoo Maldives launched fixed-line broadband and telephony services only six months after securing an operating license.

The country has given priority to telecom infrastructure upgrades, with considerable success. There is a well-developed national network, though investment has been concentrated in the capital Malé as well as in the tourist resort islands. The submarine cable connection to Sri Lanka improved international bandwidth and helped reduce access pricing for end-users. A second submarine cable linked the archipelago to India in 2006. Additional cables linking the main atolls has substantially strengthened domestic connectivity. This will be augmented by a new inter-island cable network contracted by Ooredoo Maldives. Dubbed the National Submarine Cable Project, the 1,200km nationwide system is aimed at supporting traffic demand arising from increased use of mobile broadband and fibre. The cable is expected to lit by the end of 2016

Efficient telecommunications services have been established to all inhabited islands by the national telco, Dhiraagu. Despite having been criticised in the early stages of development for its high tariff structure (while it operated 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 subsequently acquired the whole of C&W Communications' 52% stake in Dhiraagu.

A second mobile licence was issued in due course, with the new operator Wataniya Telecom becoming operational in 2006. Wataniya was acquired by Qatar-based Ooredoo Group and rebranded Ooredoo Maldives in 2013.

Despite a slow start to the opening up of the market, the introduction of competition quickly saw a boom in the country's telecom sector, especially the mobile segment where Ooredoo has secured a 45% share of the market. Dhiraagu has responded by investing in mobile infrastructure, improving the quality of services and extending its product range. Operators have shifted their attention to HSPA and LTE. By August Dhiraagu provided LTE to about 58% of the population.

Key developments:

Dhiraagu completes upgrade of the fixed broadband network in Malé; Ooredoo and Huawei Marine partner to build a 1,200km nationwide submarine cable connecting islands and atolls; Ooredoo Maldives claiming a 45% share of the mobile market; mobile penetration passes 227%; National Submarine Cable comes into service; Ooredoo Maldives announces plans to sell equity to local and international investors following IPO in 2017; Dhiraagu extends fibre service to n Maafushi; both mobile operators extend reach of LTE networks; Ooredoo Maldives awarded the country's third ISP licence, enters the fixed-line market; Ooredoo Maldives expands 4G+ network nationally by end-January 2017; mobile broadband subscribers reach 254,700 by October 2016; report update includes the regulator's market data to October 2016, operator data to Q3 2016, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Dhiraagu, Wataniya, Ooredoo Maldives, Focus Infocom, Thuraya, Cable & Wireless Communications.

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