Dubai: The telecommunication and broad band internet sectors will generate $70 billion in annual revenue by 2015 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), from the current revenue of $50 billion, according to a recent report.

This translates to $2.5 billion annual growth.

"Private participation in infrastructure in the region is increasing, jumping from around $1.6 billion in 2002 to $6.7 billion in 2005. Ultimately, as stakeholders work together to institutionalise effective regulatory frameworks and practices, the environment will be ripe for increased investment, innovation, and higher adoption and usage rates," Karim Sabbagh, vice-president of Booz Allen Hamilton - a research and consulting firm, said.

The number of mobile operators in the Mena region reached 50 while the number of fixed-phone operator rose to 33, including eight in Iraq alone.

In terms of number of operators, Jordan has the highest mobile operators with four, while Qatar has one.

"In the past few years, telecom operators in the Mena region have exhibited varying levels of readiness to expand beyond their home markets," says the latest BAH report on Beyond Licence Acquisitions.

"A a result, only a handful of ambitious operators have dominated the race for international expansion."

Among them, etisalat has nine mobile operations while MTC has 20 and Egyptian operator Orascom has seven.

The report says, the international expansion pioneers have been the operators that faced growth stagnation in their saturated home markets as they become liberalised or reach higher maturity levels.

However, as the market matures, major telecom players are expanding into other markets while mergers and acquisitions has also begun in this market.

The total value of seven major acquisitions in Mena reached a whopping $21.16 billion in four years.

The growing faith in the market regionally is reiterated by the recent acquisition of Wataniya - Kuwait's second largest mobile operator by Qtel, a deal valued at $3.8 billion.

"This deal underscores the huge appeal of emerging markets for telecoms M&A activity where massive growth potential and attractive synergies are proving to be a magnet for operators seeking to propel themselves onto the global stage," Abdullah Mutawi, partner at Trowers & Hamlin who advised on the deal, says.

"The proportion of these deals led by Middle Eastern telecoms operators is quite remarkable."

Mena operators' migration to non-traditional geographies and acquisition of existing operators is emerging and will likely become increasingly common, the report say.