Mobile broadband usage in 2010 was three times the size of the entire global internet in 2000, states a Cisco visual networking index (VNI) report. Peter Ford, senior director and head of service provider at Cisco, talks about this potential market in the MEA region.
CommsMEA: What is the current trend for mobile broadband growth in the MEA region?
PF: In 2010, global mobile data traffic almost tripled for the third year in a row, a rate which was higher than anticipated and indicative of trends to follow over the next five years.
According to a Cisco VNI report, the Middle East and Africa region is expected to have the highest regional mobile data traffic growth rates, with a CAGR of 129% (63-fold growth) during the period from 2010 to 2015, followed by Latin America at 111% and central and eastern Europe at 102%. The mobile-only internet population is to grow from 14 million last year to 788 million by the end of 2015.
It is forecast that KSA and UAE will pioneer long term evolution (LTE) adoption in the Middle East. LTE penetration is predicted to reach over 3%, more than Western European averages.
Whilst the Middle East is a smaller market, it is better positioned for growth. In the absence of fixed broadband infrastructure, many are now solely relying on mobile broadband to satisfy their internet needs. It is here where we see the Middle East accelerating ahead of other regions in mobile broadband growth.
CommsMEA: What are the emerging business models from broadband deployments in this region?
PF: The broadband environment is changing, and operators will face challenges in finding the right solutions to complex service differentiation demands, in selecting the most favorable network technology options, and in building the optimal customer service model. As more countries in the MENA region move toward a competitive structure, several opportunities will become available for ISPs and operators with global presence to grab a piece of the local broadband market.
Using new technologies such as wireless broadband and FTTP, it becomes more possible to provide high-speed broadband in an economic manner. This helps in reducing the barrier for entry into the broadband market to new operators, while making it increasingly profitable for existing operators.
While mobile technologies are increasingly being used especially when fixed show limited returns, regional operators have already started using these wireless data technologies to offer their customers broadband services on the go.
CommsMEA: Which areas do you address in the operator space?
PF: We work with mobile operators throughout the Middle East and Africa region in enabling them to build flexible, scalable, and secure networks. The Cisco IP Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) architecture supports medianet, mobile internet transformation, data center, and cloud computing solutions.
CommsMEA: How do you think operators can cope with the growing mobile data demand in the MEA region? How Cisco works with operators in easing their networks for increased efficiency?
PF: As mobile data traffic doubles every year, the mobile internet is at a turning point. We work with mobile operators to identify and quantify the potential savings that can be realised by implementing our various optimisation techniques.
Our IP NGN evolves operators’ networks and business models enabling them to uncover potential revenue opportunities from advanced mobile services. For example, the Cisco Mobile Internet Network will help operators to manage the rapid growth in mobile data and profit from it.
We support all leading radio access technologies to create a network of networks with full mobility for faster service deployment, scalability and cost-effectiveness. Our practical tools help operators to gauge the savings potential.
CommsMEA: The emergence of the mobile apps market is dependent on the growth of the local language content. What is the current trend of this market?
PF: Untapped potential, the expansion of 3G networks and increasing use of smartphones are all leading to a dramatic rise in the demand for mobile applications and value added services (VAS) in the MEA region. Over a longer period, the MEA region has been set to be among the top global smartphone markets, with a sustained CAGR of 39% for the next four years. As a result of this growth, mobile manufacturers are increasing their efforts toward the development of Arabic language apps by introducing more locally relevant content and products to consumers.