opportunities in the market for mobile phones in Dubai and the UAE

As the global economy finds its way towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with advanced economies taking the lead, consumer confidence is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Consumers are starting to make purchases they had put on hold in 2020 because of the uncertain environment. In the case of electronic devices, the purchase of smartphones has taken the lead over other goods such as laptops and TV sets. In this article, we take a look at the trends and opportunities in the market for mobile phones in Dubai and the UAE.

Mobile phone sales in UAE are recovering and growing After a small negative impact on the mobile phones market in 2020, with retail sales dropping to 5.1 million units that year, these are set to recover and are expected to reach over 5.50 million units in 2021, a figure similar to that observed in 2019. This is part of a strong recovery trend, where mobile phone retail sales are expected to grow at a compound rate of 7.2% in the next five years, to reach almost 8 million units sold by 2025.

Dubai as a trading hub for mobile phones Dubai is a perfect location for the mobile phones sector, as re-exports reached almost USD20 billion in 2019 (figure 2). After a number of mobile phone devices worth USD4.3 billion remained

in the UAE, most of the merchandise was destined to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt as major destinations. In total, re-exports to the region amounted to USD14.3 billion. In addition, Dubai also serves as a major export platform for markets in the rest of the world: exports to Asia reached USD2.6 billion, while those to Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa were above USD1 billion each. In Asia, countries in South and Central Asia such as Iran and Kirghizstan were the largest destinations for mobile phones, followed by Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dubai’s re-exports of mobile phones to Africa were largely shipped to Kenya, as well as to Nigeria and Senegal. Meanwhile, mobile phones sent to Europe in 2019 ended up mostly in the Netherlands and Czechia, although most of the countries in the region had a fair amount of market share

A major shift towards 5G technology in the GCC region by 2026

While smartphones supporting 5G technology currently represent a small group of total smartphones sales, this is expected to change in the next few years. Worldwide, there were 290 million 5G subscriptions in 2020, and these are expected to double by the end of 2021.

In the region, subscriptions to 5G-supported mobile phones in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will reach 62 million in 2026. That is a shift from 2% of all mobile phone subscriptions in 2020 to 73% by 2026, while the share of the current dominant technology (LTE) will go down from 80% to 22%. This larger share of 5G technology in mobile phone devices in the GCC region will be higher than in Western Europe (69%) and North-East Asia (65%), and only below that in North America (84%).

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