Regional telecom infrastructure spending at tipping point

Over the next decade, the Middle East will spend nearly 25% of their infrastructure development funds on the expansion of the telecom sector. According to industry estimates, more than US$3 billion will be invested in 2004 alone in mobile network infrastructure to meet the market demand.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  April 7, 2004

Over the next decade, countries in the Arabian Gulf will spend approximately 25% of their infrastructure development funds on the expansion of the telecommunications sector. According to estimates by industry experts, an investment of over US$3 billion will be invested in 2004 alone in mobile network infrastructure to meet the market demand. The above estimates and other insights will be discussed at the upcoming Connect, a regional telecoms summit being organised by IIR Telecoms & Technology at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dubai, from May 30 to June 2, 2004. The theme of the event is ‘Maximising profitability in competitive telecoms markets’ and will feature case studies, presentations and two full-day workshops, conducted by 19 international and regional telecoms operators. According to IIR, with the recent signing of a historic agreement between 16 international telecos, including UAE’s Etisalat, for the SMW4 submarine cable the Middle Eastern telecom landscape is at a tipping point. The SMW4 cable, which will stretch approximately 20,000 km long from Singapore to France, will be an ultra-fast submarine communications link that will transform data connectivity between the Eastern and Western worlds covering the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt in the Middle East with several European and Asian countries. “This project is just one of the developments in the dynamic Middle East telecoms scenario. With modern businesses being driven by communication, governments are increasingly allotting more funds to set up a world-class telecoms infrastructure,” says Sabine Enthammer, executive director, IIR Holdings. “Incumbent operators in the Middle East can elect to take a defensive position or erode their business base over the long-term, or they can embrace the new environment and use it as an incentive for revising their business and operational models,” explains Khalid Abdullah Al Molhem, executive president, Saudi Telecom (STC), one of the speakers at the summit. “The telecommunications landscape in the Middle East is experiencing marked developments towards deregulation and market liberalisation,” says Karim Sabbagh, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, another Connect speaker. “The emerging environment raises three fundamental questions for the region: How should Middle East markets be deregulated and liberalised? How far should liberalisation evolve in the region? What are the priorities and prospects for incumbent operators? This summit will help operators stay competitive in the long-run." The upcoming telecom summit is supported by Etisalat and several regional telco’s and mobile service providers is endorsed by the UMTS Forum; the Global Billing Association and the Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum. “As telecommunications development is a necessary component for continued economic growth, there is a growing realisation among the Middle East countries that adopting advanced telecoms technologies is an excellent investment,” adds Enthammer.

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