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SMB sector drives VoIP demand

Demand set to increase pressure to liberalise VoIP in Gulf countries

Middle East countries that block VoIP services are likely to come under further pressure to liberalise access to services in the light of a recent report from ICT developer Avaya.

Indeed, the MENA region has experienced a massive increase in demand for advanced business class IP telephones, with a fast growing small and medium sized business (SMB) sector in the region driving demand for internet protocol (IP) telephony, according to Avaya.

According to recent statistics, the annual shipment for IP phones reached 10 million units in 2006, and the global market for IP telephony looks promising with expectations of further growth up to 164 million units by 2010, and $15 billion worth of IT services related to IP telephony migration within the next five years.

Reflecting the international scenario in IP technologies adoption, Avaya's survey, which was administered during a recent 14-city road show in the region, revealed that some 71% of the 1,000 decision makers surveyed are ready to deploy IP telephony solutions.

Khalid Khan, SME channel manager for Avaya in the MENA region, said: "IP telephony is gaining popularity within the ever-growing SMB sector as the technology promotes efficiency interaction with customers and callers while holding down costs."

Despite the rise in popularity of VoIP, a number of Middle East countries, including the UAE, block services. The results of Avaya's survey are likely to increase pressure on governments and regulators to liberalise access to VoIP services, and particularly for business, according to industry analysts.

The UAE has already taken some steps towards addressing the issue. Ahmad Abdul Karim Julfar, chief operating officer of Etisalat, the UAE's incumbent operator, said in January that the company was "technically ready" to provide VoIP.

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