Top IT stories of 2010 - March

Big events from Microsoft and Cisco, telecom firsts and the Channel Middle East Awards

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Top IT stories of 2010 - March Tech.Ed made its regional debut
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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 23, 2010

March saw two major IT events come to the region for the first time, with Microsoft’s Tech.Ed and Cisco’s Networkers, both globally recognised events making their Middle East debuts.

Microsoft hosted Tech.Ed, a technical and educational event for IT professionals at the Dubai World Trade Centre at the start of March. The three-day event drew attendance of around 1,500 and Microsoft expects it to come back even stronger in 2011.

At the end of the month, it was Cisco’s turn, with Cisco Networkers Bahrain 2010 held at the Bahrain F1 circuit. The event attracted some 1,800 people from across EMEA and Asia. Cisco also announced a strategic agreement with the Bahrain Ministry of Education to collaborate on integrating ICT into education, in line with the Kingdom’s strategic vision for 2030.

The potential of the ICT industry in the region also got a boost from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was attending the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in mid-March. Schmidt said that the Middle East and North Africa region is the company's fastest growing region in the world, in terms of the number of users and revenue generated, and that the company had plans for a local Arabic engineering team in the future.

The telecoms sector turned up a bunch of new launches and firsts in March. The UAE got its first satellite operator, with the awarding of a 10-year licence to Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat). Yahsat, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mubadala Development Company, promised a multi-purpose satellite telecoms system, with plans to offer voice, data, video and internet connectivity solutions.

Bahrain also got a third operator, this time in the mobile space, with the inauguration of Viva. The company, which launched commercial services on 4th March, had already attracted considerable pre-registration for its mobile service.

Vodafone also was awarded a licence for fixed broadband and telephone services in Qatar, after the country's telecoms regulator issued it with the country's second public fixed networks and services licence.

Telecom operator Orange Jordan launched Jordan's first 3G network, bringing hope to the highly-competitive Jordanian market of better revenues per customer. The 3G network, which initially brought coverage to Amman, offered internet and video services and a chance for the operator to get more money out of customers in what is predominantly a price-driven market.

Riyadh gained complete WiMAX coverage, according to Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), after it completed its roll out of the wireless technology to the capital of the Kingdom. Mobily said it planned to continue deploying WiMAX to other key cities in Saudi.

It wasn’t all progress in the telecoms sector however. Egypt's telecom regulator, the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), clamped down on the use of VoIP services via mobile broadband. The NTRA decided to enforce legislation banning VoIP services, although it continued to ‘tolerate’ fixed line VoIP.

Unrelated to Egypt, the head of Skype MEA Rouzbeh Pasha said that actions of the UAE TRA in updating its VoIP policy was only a small step in advancing the country’s communications market and added that until real competition is introduced in the UAE communications market, prices will remain high and few new services will be deployed.

Saudi regulators also fired the first shot in what was to become a global news story, with the announcement that the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) wanted to monitor messages on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for security reasons. Unnamed sources said that the CITC planned to block BBM in mid-March, in case it was being used by terror groups to communicate.

Iran was also cracking down on perceived ICT-driven threats, with the arrest of 30 people who were accused of being part of the network supporting a US cyber war against the state.

In a surprise move, AMD general manager for the Middle East and Africa, Gaith Kadir, left the processor company for a second time, just a year after being lured back to the company to run its regional operations.

March also saw ITP’s Channel Middle East Awards 2010, which recognised the outstanding achievements of vendors and their channel partners during the past year.

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2010 retrospective