ITU puts UAE on top of GCC for internet penetration

International Telecommunications Union says 36.7% of population in UAE have access to the internet - more than any other GCC country.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  September 28, 2003

A recent released global telecommunications report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has placed UAE as the leading country in the GCC for Internet penetration, with 36.7% of the population having access to the Internet

The figure is a marked increase over previous findings in 2001, when the ITU reported a penetration rate of 28% throughout the country.

The study, conducted in 2002 throughout the GCC, Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the UK, also found that the UAE now has 1,117,600 users, the second highest number on the region. Although Saudi Arabia has more actual users, at 1,600,000, the penetration of the population is just 6.9% because of its high population.

Whilst the number of actual subscribers in the UAE is 300,000, the report highlighted that the high penetration rate is due to the country having highest number of Internet users to PCs among any of the regions surveyed, at 2.6 users to every PC. Further penetration growth, therefore, is very much dependent on the proliferation of Internet enabled devices.

"These figures are further evidence that the internet is permeating every sector of the country," said Maroua Naim, general manager, Emirates Internet and Multimedia (EIM)."The main barrier we now face is increasing PC penetration among the population, which currently stands at just 13.6%. As these figures from the ITU were illustrate almost every PC in the UAE is connected to the Net" he added.

EIM is the Internet service provider arm of Etisalat and was launched in March 2000. Since December 2001, high-speed Al Shamil connections for domestic users have risen almost 150%, from 8000 to over 19,500 in June 2003. The high-speed BusinessOne subscriptions for the SME market, meanwhile, have also soared by over 300% from 900 in 2001 to over 4,100 today.

Over the coming years, EIM expects the majority of its dial-up users to migrate to high-speed broadband internet. EIM is also currently developing its of wireless infrastructure, from hotpots (Wi-Fi) to fixed wireless solutions. The objective of EIM is to provide every computer in the Emirates access to a broadband connection with 100% coverage across the UAE.

On the back-end of UAE's internet infrastructure, EIM is working on setting up 11 international links (STM1 lines) and a number of bilateral peering links to regional and international networks, will link the country to the major Internet hubs in Asia, Europe and the U.S, with major technical upgrades on its networks.

Naim said, "We now have over 60 dedicated internet helpdesk staff that operate 24x7x365 via phone, e-mail or SMS. The waiting time for customers on the phone has been reduced from over 2 minutes in 2000 to under 30 seconds today."

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