Brahim Ghribi, Government Business director Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Alcatel Lucent, talks with CommsMEA about FTTH in the Middle East and Africa region.
CommsMEA: What are the countries leading the region when deploying FTTH?
We have to think of FTTH as a global trend, but we see an increase on the adoption in the region. The Gulf is leading the region and the UAE is a leader worldwide with 85% penetration, which is remarkable.
The big three countries in the region, apart from the UAE, are KSA, Qatar and Turkey.
North Africa is still a bit slow and there are some dynamic adoptions in places with high average revenue per user (ARPU).
In the region, Alcatel Lucent is working in Turkey, KSA, UAE and Tunisia. As I mention, North Africa is still slow but there are good signs after some experimentation in some cities that I cannot mention for the moment.
CommsMEA: Which business model would you recommend when investing in FTTH?
We need to know how to invest and how to find the funds. First, you have to work on the regulatory framework to attract investors and to set a fair competition between companies in the sector. Then, the benefit for governments is to create jobs and improve the economy.
FTTH is part of a bigger picture as it is part of the broadband strategy of a country. For example, in Tunisia, after a study done by the Islamic Development Bank, the country created a plan called “Ultra fast broadband for Tunisia” and FTTH is part of the plan, but it is not the only technology. In most broadband plans you have a mix of technologies.
CommsMEA: Which operators are ready to implement this investment in the region?
If you look at the Gulf, which is private sector driven, you have Etisalat, du or STC.
They are investing a lot on deploying the infrastructure and they do not necessarily need public intervention as they can assume all the cost. In other parts of the world, it is a different story, as they [operators] will need public intervention.
The private sector cannot face this investment in different environments.
In most places, governments need to play a role. In some of them by financing or with subsidies. Other governments decide to start public and private partnerships.
CommsMEA: How important is the FTTH/B market when deploying smart cities in the Middle East and Africa region?
ITU has looked at broadband plans with governments and most of them, almost 80%, have said that their main focus and plan is, of course, the infrastructure.
Some of them [governments] are also focused on e-health, e-government and other sectors of the economy, as they want to grow a smart nation.
In order to build this nation, it is important to have infrastructure. However, you also need to think about the users, as you also have to focus about the demand and stimulate it to achieve balance.