The Middle East is ideally-placed to advance digital businesses and society, as total Internet users in the Middle East and Africa will grow 1.6-fold to 425 million by 2019, or 27% of the population, thanks to growing demand for mobile devices, video, and social networking, according to the 10th annual Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast 2015,” says Ziad Salameh, managing director Gulf, Levant, Pakistan, and Iraq, and Middle East services at Cisco.
Salameh believes that these fugures will be part of the base to grow the opportunities that the Internet of Things will bring to the region. “We need a robust broadband infrastructure to build this opportunity and that is where you rely on the telecoms sector, on the private sector. The government needs to be ready for the digital era. Definitely the telecoms industry plays a crucial role when digitising and embracing this [IoT] opportunity,” he adds.
However, the Internet of Things opportunity also comes with some challenges that operators need to be ready to face. One of the major concerns is to provide a secured network and keep it protected from possible attacks. “Cisco has been working on this [challenge] to secure organisations. We are fully aware of the evolution of the threats, in terms of cybersecurity. Customers are looking to secure their data, their infrastructure, their IP… These is where we are building a robust portfolio in the security area,” he explains to CommsMEA.
Salameh believes that there is an awareness on different levels in the region and adds that operators are highly aware of this concern.
“It is a key thing to build trust. We are working towards the IoT and we need to make sure that we have security.”
Another concern in the region is the need for more spectrum, as the Internet of Things will create more data that demands new spectrum. “Some regulators are ready to provide more spectrum, but the situation vary from one country to another. My observation is that we need to move faster in terms of regulations and policies. That is extremely important, not only to embrace it, but also to attract the private sector to invest here because there are limitations from the regulators point of view and that prevents the private sector to go and invest,” he says.
“This is extremely crucial to advance into the new area of telecoms. Regulations, policies have to be reviewed. Governments need to be faster. They need to have public and private partnerships that leverage the experience of the key players around the world and listen to them about this experience. They also need to have the private sector to advise them. Regulators can repeat the experience that others have done in advance. This is extremely important,” Salameh concludes.