UAE’s broadband usage grows by 189%

Despite the extreme user apathy surrounding broadband internet in most of the Middle East, subscriptions to Emirates Internet & Multimedia’s (EIM’s) broadband offerings witnessed significant growth in 2002.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  February 25, 2003

|~||~||~|Despite the extreme user apathy surrounding broadband internet in most of the Middle East, subscriptions to Emirates Internet & Multimedia’s (EIM’s) broadband offerings witnessed significant growth in 2002. As of December last year, 16,177 users had signed up for its Al Shamil consumer service and 2740 businesses were using the monopoly internet service provider’s (ISP’s) BusinessOne broadband offering. These increases represent year on year growth rates of 108% and 189%, respectively.

“Our high penetration of broadband, compared to the rest of the Middle East is due to a number of factors. Firstly, the country is a hub, second we are the only [ISP] to really adopt broadband and, thirdly, we have embraced the internet and are really trying to be leaders in it,” says Abdulla Hashim, senior manager for business development & sales at EIM.

Declining prices have also played an important role in the uptake of broadband, especially for businesses. For instance, prices for leased lines have come down by 60% since March 2001 and, in the same timeframe, the number of connections have risen from 427 to 766. Hashim says increased internal efficiencies and the reduction of international bandwidth costs have facilitated these price cuts.

“The main reason we have been able to reduce costs is due to our internal work efficiency. Also, bandwidth costs are and the technology costs are coming down. Whenever we have cost reductions we try to pass them onto the customer,” he adds.

Despite the 100%-plus leap in its subscription rates, broadband customers still account for only a small portion of EIM users — approximately 5%. However, EIM expects to double the number of users this year and lay the groundwork for yet more growth post 2003. To facilitate this increase, the ISP will be working to boost awareness of its BusinessOne and Al Shamil services, as well as educating users about the benefits broadband can provide.

“If you compare us to the advanced countries, such as the US or South Korea, our percentages are good, but there will be more growth. To encourage this we are continually promoting its [broadband’s] importance and trying to change the mindset [of people] when it comes to the internet,” says Hashim.

This promotion will revolve around a series of initiatives and new technologies that address the traditional sticking points of broadband adoption — cost, availability and a lack of content. To begin with, home users will see more content in the form of online games, while businesses will be urged to investigate the application service provider (ASP) model.
However, Hashim explains that while content provision is important, EIM would rather focus on building the correct infrastructure and let others deliver the rest.

“We have broadband multiplayer online games and we are trying to enter into partnerships with other content providers. However, we actually want to provide [just] the infrastructure and let the content providers provide the content,” he says.

In terms of technology, EIM is set to introduce cable modem technology, which will deliver higher speed bandwidth for residential users that live in areas where cable TV is available. Via the cable technology, users of the Al Shamil service will be able to connect to the internet at speeds of either 1 M/bits/s or 2 M/bits/s, rather than the current 384 K/bits/s.

“In the next couple of months we will be launching cable modem technology, which will offer more speed to users… We will not be replacing ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), but providing customers with another option… We will also be trying to increase the use of broadband by deploying different technologies, such as wireless hotspots,” says Hashim.||**||

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