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Broadband service in the Gulf inadequate says report

Study shows broadband quality not able to cope with the demands of today's applications in Gulf states

The study found that Gulf states did not have adequate quality of broadband service to give satisfactory performance from online applications.
The study found that Gulf states did not have adequate quality of broadband service to give satisfactory performance from online applications.

Gulf countries do not have a high enough quality of broadband service to be able to meet the demands of today's applications, according to a new study.

The study, which was carried out by Oxford University's Said Business School and the University of Oviedo, found that quality of service was not adequate to manage modern applications for business and consumers alike, and that Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are a long way from being able to handle applications developed in the next three to five years.

The Broadband Quality Score (BQS) survey analysed approximately 24 million records sourced from actual broadband speed tests from Speedtest.net (Ookla), with results from 66 countries from May to July of this year.

The study also looked at broadband services in relation to the country's stage of economic development, and the difference between services in rural and urban areas.

The BQS was established last year, under the sponsorship of Cisco, as an index that combines key performance parameters to measure the quality of a broadband connection. The BQS includes upload and download speeds, latency and other factors such as network over-subscription, packet loss and service continuity, to assess the quality of broadband service and assign a score.

The researchers set a threshold BQS of 30 to be able to handle today's applications such as file sharing, social networks and video streaming, while applications for the next three to five years such as HD video streaming, telepresence and visual networking would require a score of 50.

While the average BQS in the Middle East increased by 8.8% to 20.2, none of the Gulf countries surveyed met the 30 BQS threshold. Qatar lead the region on 25, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both rated 24 while the UAE was ranked 23. Egypt, which was also studied and is included in the Middle East average, was on 19.

On the rating of broadband leadership, which included the BQS and level of broadband penetration, Bahrain was the leader in the region with a score of 83, followed by the UAE on 70.

In the rankings of broadband leadership split by stage of economic development, the UAE ranked low among ‘Innovation Economies', while Bahrain was among the leader's in ‘Efficiency Economies'. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were similarly ranked as leaders in the ‘Factor Economy' segment.

BQS in the Middle East outside of major cities was also judged to be below the necessary level for today's applications.

Only nine countries worldwide were judged to be ready for ‘tomorrow's applications' with South Korea rating the highest.

Professor María Rosalía Vicente, University of Oviedo, commented: "The Broadband Quality Study shows us which countries have made real moves towards the Internet of the future. It also provides fresh evidence of the urban versus rural quality divide. The challenge for countries now is to bridge this quality divide.

"This quality divide could indicate how future divides in wealth may take shape, as broadband is increasingly determining the ability of individuals, firms and nations to create future prosperity," she added.

Fernando Gil de Bernabé, senior director, Cisco said: "Ever since we embarked on the first Broadband Quality Study with Saïd Business School MBA students and the University of Oviedo we were looking forward to seeing what this year's results would reveal. We certainly haven't been disappointed. It is really exciting to discover that almost every country has seen improvements in broadband quality, despite the economic turmoil of the past year. We can actually see how countries that have made significant investments in fibre and next-generation cable technologies including Korea and the United States, are seeing real progress in broadband quality."

The report made a number of suggestions for different stakeholders. Government, policy makers and regulators were advised to set national broadband agenda with goals for availability, penetration and quality, and to encourage private investment, while service providers should build broadband business models that make quality a key differentiator.

Content producers should provide content and applications that are quality-aware, while equipment vendors should focus on simplicity, usability and interoperability. End users are encouraged to keep home and personal devices up to date, and to conduct regular speed tests so that they know what level of service they are receiving.