By Radwan Moussalli
The Middle East telecom market has grown at a significant pace for several years and, as a result, operators and service providers have witnessed their fortunes grow quite dramatically. Growth was driven by several factors but a number of key drivers within the consumer segment gave the markets and operators their biggest push - everything from the rapid penetration of connected devices, to the popularity of social media and mobile broadband, has had a significant hand in shaping the current market.
Today these same markets are still growing but at a more tempered pace, which suggests that the markets have now matured with regards to the consumer segment. This is not a bad thing - every growth market must eventually mature but that doesn’t mean that there are no more opportunities for service providers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are concepts that have the potential to completely change the world within the next 10 years. IoT and IoE offer solutions to hundreds if not thousands of current and future issues - everything from energy waste, to food shortages, to dealing with traffic and the growth of cities to keep up with population growth.
IoT and IoE revolve around connectivity. Everything within a given ecosystem (people/machines) is given the ability to communicate with each other, which when used correctly can generate incredible value for individuals, enterprises and governments. Current studies predict that by 2020, the ratio between machine-type communications and human-type will reach a ratio of 30:1.
Operators must seize opportunities IoT brings
Let’s look at it in terms of numbers - Middle East operators serve about 219 million people, and let’s generously assume that each of those 219 million people is subscribed to two services - that’s a subscriber count of 438 million. That’s a significant number, but if you look at the ratio mentioned, operators and SPs have the opportunity to leapfrog their existing subscriber base to well over a billion subscribers, as they will have to provide connectivity to people, as well as every smart object within that smart ecosystem.
With IoT and IoE, operators in the Middle East have an opportunity that is unlike anything they have witnessed or encountered in the past, and they have to start preparing their infrastructure and networks immediately so they can capitalise on this opportunity. However, although network-based connectivity is required for IoT, this does not ensure that telecom operators that build and run networks guarantee more revenue.
Strong partnerships are needed for a brighter future.
To keep up with the growing demand and evolving “connected” user experience, operators should leverage these times by securing partnerships with organisations that offer flexible solutions and innovative services. By collaborating, operators and service provides extend their reach as well as their service offerings, which can support revenue growth and ensure they stay ahead of the game.
Countries in the GCC and the Middle East have visions to have smarter cities and more enterprise and consumer offerings. Couple that with a forecasted increase in subscription bases, IoT technologies are bound to change and challenge operator networks. While innovative technology is changing the world, partnerships that enhance offerings are a big part of that. By fostering and engaging in strong partnerships, operators have the opportunity to be at the centre of it all, and become facilitators of a brighter and smarter future – and that is where we want to go from here.
Radwan Moussalli, is the senior vice president for Middle East, Central Asia and Africa at Tata Communications.