MENA broadband markets ripe for investment

Perceptions about the Middle East and North Africa countries’ ability to foster e-commerce are increasingly becoming outdated. The pace of development in the last three years has been truly impressive. Operators across the region are investing large sums in getting high-speed, high-capacity and cost effective telecoms networks into the region and the current infrastructure is much more advanced than perhaps they have been given credit for.

In 2007 and 2008, the Middle East and Africa have boasted the highest broadband subscription growth rates in the world. For technologically and economically advanced nations universal access to broadband services has become an integral part of economic policy. Just look at the amount of press broadband has been receiving in Europe. So it no real surprise that governments in the MENA region are also seeing the availability of broadband services as essential to a healthy and a stable economy for the future, especially in the face of recent recessionary trends experienced around the world.

Let’s not judge the region on its questionable past in terms of telecoms infrastructure development. There’s another incentive for MENA governments to improve their broadband infrastructure in terms of its importance as a necessary educational tool that can spur national development and innovation.

Mobile has had the edge for years. It was easier and cheaper to deploy. However, saturation in the mobile market has begun to have a positive impact on the fixed side with operators recognising the importance of having multiplay strategies to more effectively compete. A major change is already under way and technologies such as FTTx have a bright future, largely due to the high demand from greenfield projects, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. FTTx technologies in the Middle East and North Africa have a 1.7% market share, relatively high compared with Europe, where FTTx had 1.5% at end-2008.

Demand for bandwidth is increasing due to demand for media both managed and “over the top” (i.e third-party, iPlayer for instance, delivery of video that bypasses a broadband provider’s pay-TV distribution services and goes directly to the consumer) throughout the region. However, the vast majority of residential access users require higher access speeds, mainly for basic applications such as e-mail, surfing and linear downloads.

Find out more about Informa Telecoms & Media’s latest research on the MENA region

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