Prior to the Syrian civil war, telecommunications in Syria were slowly moving towards liberalization, with a number of licenses awarded and services launched in the Internet service provision market. The initiative reflected the government’s change in attitude towards liberalization, following its promise to the European Union to liberalize markets by 2010. All other forms of fixed-line communications are provided by the state-owned operator.
The Internet penetration rate was slightly less than 30% in early 2017. The situation of telecommunications in Syria is seriously affected by internal turmoil, so precise details are few and uncertain. The Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE) recently completed a new fibre-optic link connecting parts of Syria’s second largest city Aleppo to STE’s core network in the capital Damascus, thus increasing available bandwidth in an attempt to rebuild the Syrian telecom infrastructure.
The civil war in Syria has led some of the telecom operators, such as MTN Syria, to restrict operations to the safer coastal areas and capital city, Damascus. Telecommunications in Syria have become decentralized and reports on severe damage to infrastructure and equipment are abundant. Once the civil unrest is resolved or significantly reduced in Syria, it is expected that new opportunities for telecoms growth will arise. Syria has a reasonably high mobile penetration, and there are expectations for mobile broadband growth in the medium-term and development of Syria’s fixed broadband as soon as the political situation becomes more stable.
Syria’s economy continues to deteriorate amid the ongoing conflict that began in 2011, declining by more than 70% from 2010 to 2016. The government has struggled to address the effects of international sanctions, widespread infrastructure damage, diminished domestic consumption and production, reduced subsidies, and high inflation, which have caused dwindling foreign exchange reserves, rising budget and trade deficits, a decreasing value of the Syrian pound, and falling household purchasing power.
During 2014, the ongoing conflict and continued unrest and economic decline worsened the humanitarian crisis and elicited a greater need for international assistance, as the number of people in need inside Syria increased from 9.3 million to 12.2 million, and the number of Syrian refugees increased from 2.2 million to more than 3.3 million.
Prior to the turmoil, Damascus had begun liberalizing economic policies, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange, but the economy remains highly regulated. Long-run economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, water pollution, and widespread infrastructure damage.
Syrian Telecom (ST) is the sole provider of fixed telephone services and infrastructure in Syria. After being transformed from a government agency to a company, ST is committed to continue to provide communications services of voice, data, and advanced integrated solutions for ICT services nationwide.
(* Due to the situation of violent conflict ravaging Syria, no information on data centers is available at this moment.)