GSM sector comes of age

The recent GSM-3G Middle East and Gulf convention staged in Dubai proved a strong draw for a host of multinational companies keen to tap the regional telecommunications market. CommsMEA caught up with some of the key players in attendance.

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By  Administrator Published  October 8, 2007

Kirkaldy also points out that MenaTelecom can now offer services in all tiers of the market after the company elected to use Motorola's 802.16e solution.

"MenaTelecom can now address the fixed, nomadic and ultimately the mobile segment of the market should the regulatory environment allow it," he says.

We have reviewed our portfolio of services to address the needs of the various market segments in the Middle East handset market.

"Telecom operators understand that there are benefits to deploying GSM networks as well as investing in wireless broadband technologies such as 802.16e WiMAX.

"Motorola has always worked closely with operators to identify the solutions that best meet their specific requirements and the needs of their growing subscriber bases."

Kirkaldy expects next year to be critical for WiMAX deployment in the Middle East and Africa, pointing to the South African market as harbouring huge potential for large-scale network roll out.

He also expects South Africa to leapfrog the rest of the world and deploy the 802.16e mobile standard.

This is a similar situation as with local and African voice telephony roll out, where most of the continent leapfrogged fixed lines and moved to mobile, he adds.

"We need only look at the success of cellular phone services as an indicator of the business case for WiMAX and its potential for creating new price points," he says.

Earlier deployment would have meant most operators would have rolled out the‘d' standard, while the focus will now be on ‘e', Kirkaldy explains.

The global WiMAX market is still in its infancy, with about 500,000 users in total. Kirkaldy claims demand for increased bandwidth provision is driving the business case for the emerging technology.

With penetration rates still well below the 30%, development of channel distribution strategies is crucial in the mobile segment.

US mobile phone distribution company Brightpoint underlined its commitment to the Middle East region by exhibiting at both GSM-3G and GITEX Technology Week within a week of one another.

The company expects to increase its volume shipments to 100 million this year from the 64 million devices its shipped in 2006 following its $384 million acquisition of handset distributor Dangaard Telecom.

"We are anticipating that 25% of our global revenues will come from our operations in the Middle East and Africa," reports Jac Currie, Brightpoint president, emerging markets.

The company's Middle East headquarters are situated in Dubai Airport's Free Zone, with Currie additionally noting that the merger now enables Brightpoint to better position itself in the market.

"We have adapted our portfolio of services to address the needs of the various market segments that characterise the Middle East handset market. We have handsets that are priced from $15 to $600," he explains.

Currie also states the company's relationships with primary mobile handset vendors including Neo, which currently ships the world's smallest handset, and Taiwanese smartphone vendor HTC, provides it with a significant edge over its rivals in the region.

"The market is changing so rapidly that we require daily feedback from our enterprise relationship management partners," he says. "We are aware of the importance these relationships to ensuring we take our operations in the region to the next level."

The attention the expo received speaks volumes for the sheer potential of the Middle East GSM markets, particularly given the event's timing when compared to the much larger GITEX exhibition with its dedicated GULFCOMMS telco industry component.

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