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

Moving to mobile

Although many of the vendors, partners, consultancies and market-related companies in the Middle Eastern telecoms market will be focused on landline communications as their bedrock, the natural extension to mobile is what drives many of their current innovation strategies and this directly aligns with their positioning for liberalisation when it happens.

"When looking at the mobile communications market, the introduction of new players anywhere in the world has always meant stronger competition, leading to lower prices and market growth and boosting innovation. This has been seen in the UK and Italy, when Hutchison 3G launched, and has been seen in Nigeria when the market opened up to liberalisation and the number of players went from one to four in a matter of months," stated Stéphanie Pittet, research director, consumer services, Gartner Middle East.

"In the UAE, a market that is already heavily penetrated, the launch of du has boosted mobile connection growth. Incumbent telcos tend to be a heavier machine, so slower to evolve than leaner structures, however they have the benefit of scale compared to new entrant, so can well benefit from liberalisation eventually," added Pittet.

Stepping onto the international stage

As the Middle East's telecoms markets are carried forward on a surging economic wave by the region's general bill of good health, they naturally become more 'connected' to the rest of the world.

No sector of the economy is more globally on view (apart from tourism perhaps) than the communications channels, which exist between the Middle East and the rest of the world. The trouble with this is, when things go totally wrong - the rest of the world notices.

"The recent internet outage in the Middle East, at the beginning of the year, is estimated to have cost US $250 million to US $300 million per day. Not only did this incident demonstrate the need for new resilient systems to be deployed, it also confirmed the need for legislators in the region to take a more liberal approach when issuing non carrier licenses," stated Paolo Susnik, CEO of Tiscali International Network.

Tiscali's Susnik is adamant that new licenses should be allowed under the prescription that part of the capacity, be destined for protection mechanisms for the nations within the Gulf.

A more liberalised market, according to Susnik, would foster better competition and increase resiliency while lowering costs and risks for business and consumers alike.

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