The Kuwait telecom industry is relatively mature and advanced, with high penetration rates and per spending capita. Nevertheless, the country’s penetration rates are lowest among the Gulf countries, indicating opportunities for further growth potential.
The Internet penetration rate in Kuwait is slightly less than 80%. The national telecom network is linked to international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), also linked to Bahrain, Qatar, UAE via the Fiber-Optic Gulf (FOG) cable, and with coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; satellite earth stations are also accessible.
Kuwait’s telecom sector is characterized by a highly developed mobile sector with many multiple subscriptions. The majority of total broadband connections are established by mobile devices. The sector is dominated by 3 telecom operators in a highly competitive market, and while Zain is the main competitor with the highest market share of about 38%, the other two are not far behind, capturing over 30% each as well. With this active and solid mobile sector, all 3 operators are moving towards offering more value-added services as well as technology and network upgrades. Kuwait is the only country in the gulf without a Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA). The regulations are carried out by the Ministry of Communication (MoC).
Kuwait has a geographically small, but wealthy, relatively open economy based on its oil reserves, which are more than 6% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for over half of GDP, 94% of export revenues, and 90% of government income.
Despite Kuwait’s dependence on oil, the government has cushioned itself against the impact of lower oil prices, by saving annually at least 10% of government revenue in the Fund for Future Generations. Nevertheless, Kuwait has failed to diversify its economy or bolster the private sector, because of a poor business climate, a large public sector that crowds out private employment of Kuwaiti nationals, and an acrimonious relationship between the National Assembly and the executive branch that has stymied most economic reforms. The Kuwaiti Government has made little progress on its long-term economic development plan first passed in 2010. While the government planned to spend up to $104 billion over four years to diversify the economy, attract more investment, and boost private sector participation in the economy, many of the projects did not materialize because of an uncertain political situation.
The Ministry of Communications is the monopoly operator of fixed telecoms in Kuwait. Fixed-line voice telephony services were expected to be privatised around 2012, but the process stagnated for several years. In 2016 the Government announced plans to resume the privatisation plan of the state-owned fixed telecoms infrastructure, including both fixed lines and long-distance services and infrastructure. The ministry is also planning to set up a Telecom and Information Technology Authority, which will be responsible for offering the MoC’s services for privatisation.