Business needs better broadband

Middle East business needs cheaper, faster broadband options

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Business needs better broadband (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 16, 2014

In this month's issue of ACN we focus on a case study from KNPC, where the oil company was facing performance issues because of legacy hardware that could not keep up.

The solution was a hardware upgrade - requiring investment and planning of course - but it was a simple enough solution to the problem. Solutions to IT problems are not always that straightforward however, and in an increasingly connected world, it's becoming apparent that the solution does not always lie within the IT organisation's arena, but that often communications providers are where the problem, and the fix, can be found.

For all the speed of development of the technology sector in the GCC and wider Middle East, there is still an ongoing issue of the cost and availability of enough bandwidth to enable connected industries and smart businesses, and to cope with the increasing demand from high performance applications and distributed organisations. In short, are telecoms operators and regulators doing enough to support the visions of a high tech future for the region?

At the very end of April, the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority revealed that it is in discussions with various industry stakeholders on the development of a National Broadband strategy. In the GCC, with so much focus from government on deploying technology to drive the region forward, the current lack of a single co-ordinated plan for broadband development in the UAE seems odd. The Emirates have various smart government and development plans, but one of the most fundamental elements to enable these - the underlying broadband network - has not been given its own official roadmap.

In the wider Middle East, the UAE stands out for not having formalised a policy on broadband. In February, a World Bank report noted that 11 out of the 19 countries in the MENA region have adopted national broadband strategies, which recognise the importance of broadband, and commit to increasing broadband penetration. Low-cost broadband infrastructure has proven benefits to economies, with direct contributions to a country's productivity, competitiveness, ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), ability to diversify away from reliance on natural resource sectors, along with job creation and skills development.

At the same time however, the World Bank report authors said that the region as a whole is held back by lack of competition in the telecoms sector. Planning for better broadband networks is one thing, but overall, the region needs to increase competition to create more broadband access at more affordable prices, for the benefits of government, business and individuals in the region.

For businesses in the region, the availability of more affordable and more accessible broadband would be a considerable boost. In too many markets, just the time that it can take to get connected to services or add additional lines is a huge drawback. In most markets, there is precious little competition on price - if you want this level of connectivity, this is the price you have to pay.

The issue of better broadband access is becoming increasingly important to almost all sectors and types of business. It is how you connect to customers and partners. The speed at which you can connect, effects the types of services that can be delivered, and how you share and access data. It is about how effectively you can use your communications. As a basic example - would your organisation benefit from high quality video conferencing versus travelling to meet customers? Enterprises in the region need to push for better connectivity, at a more cost effective price point, for the benefit of all.

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