Infrastructure 'damaging telecoms business' - AT&T

US telecoms giant aims to put in place systems to avoid repeat of Dec, Jan disruptions.

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By  Alex Delmar-Morgan Published  April 16, 2009

A senior telecoms industry figure has called for better infrastructure in the Middle East, claiming it is damaging business.

Ron Spears, CEO of business solutions at US telecoms giant AT&T, which is expanding its footprint in the Middle East by opening an office in Dubai, said his company hoped to improve infrastructure in the region by putting in place equipment to cope with high volumes of wireless voice and data traffic.

“There’s going to have to be some investment in telecommunications infrastructure in the Middle East,” said Spears.

“When you have cable failures like you had in December, the Middle East was almost isolated from the rest of the world. It’s problematic because it slows down business dramatically,” he added.

In December, there were disruptions to internet and phone lines between the Middle East and Europe after three undersea cables in the Mediterranean were damaged.

In January 2008 a similar problem occurred.

Spears said good telecoms infrastructure was key to attracting foreign investment to a region.

“The countries themselves have done a great job. Inter-regionally the investment has not been enough and there needs to be more. If you don’t have resilient and robust communications infrastructure in the region you are not going to be able to persuade multinationals to move their businesses into the region,” he said.

AT&T said there was a need for highly specialised ‘switching’ equipment, capable of handling high bandwidth traffic- including video- in the Middle East to improve infrastructure.

AT&T is the second largest mobile carrier in the US behind Verizon Wireless with 77m customers. It is also one of the largest providers of IP (internet protocol)-based communications services for businesses in the world.

In June 2008 it formed a tie-up with software giant Apple and became the exclusive provider of the iPhone in the US.

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