Freedom call

Liberalised telecoms markets represent an opportunity for new market entrants to offer fresh services.

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By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  May 24, 2008

Matthews makes his comments as a result of his company's work in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai for clients that include The Economic Development Board of Bahrain and Wafi.

"When choice is absent, branding is often a matter of executive tidiness and not attributed with much importance. But in competitive de-regulated markets it becomes a vital bridge in a competitive strategy, providing the platform for differentiation and customer communication," added Matthews.

Commentators are quick to point out that economic benefits are waiting to be realised once the currently closed off telecoms markets in the Middle East do open up.

What is left is service differentiation - operators in the region need to offer more services in more areas.

This momentum for change will, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), be felt in both the mobile and fixed line markets.

"The liberalisation of the telecoms sector over the last twenty years has brought huge economic and social benefits. Massive private sector investment by mobile operators is delivering universal access; today around 3.5 billion people are connected to mobile services. Typically, national mobile sectors accelerate their growth as second and third licenses are introduced," said Gabriel Solomon, director for government & regulatory affairs at the GSM Association.

"It is slightly ironic that the Middle East is producing some world class telecom conglomerates such as Zain and Etisalat who take advantage of market liberalisation in other continents while some of the Middle East markets remain less open. But the wave of liberalisation is gathering pace in the Middle East in line with WTO commitments. Along with opening up domestic mobile markets we urge governments to liberalise their international gateways; doing so would further stimulate sector investment and international calling prices would fall," added Solomon.

Architectural factors

Many of the Middle East's telecoms companies have in the past looked West in the hope of avoiding many of the pitfalls of building and operating new capabilities in liberalised markets.

At the same time, the particular economics of the region have often resulted in non-traditional approaches to typical problems.

Given this background, with some countries simultaneously managing a rapid ramping-up of subscriber numbers, some vendors are highlighting the importance and value that a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) can bring. (A SOA is a collection of services.)

"Whilst many are aware of the traditional values of an SOA - such as the inclusion and management of legacy platforms and applications, a SOA structure in Middle Eastern telecoms companies today must focus on the cost of remote management and ease of deployment. This latter point can be crucial when considering deployments from a major country to other smaller countries and states in the locality - it is harder to manage and deploy all these functionally similar components without SOA-aligned governance," stated Mark Darbyshire, CTO, communications practice, for TIBCO.

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