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[November 28, 2012]
The year 2012 has been mixed for telecom industry [Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)]
(Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dubai: The UAE offers a perfect proposition of high per-capita income, low inflation, low unemployment, and high literacy, which represents a healthy business potential for telecom services.
The year 2012 has been mixed for the industry. On a positive side, significant strides were made by both operators to improve customer experience and quality of service, particularly with the launch of LTE services.
The country's mobile broadband offerings have rapidly matured with consumers now able to enjoy exciting new 4G telecom experiences at speeds far surpassing traditional levels. To support the adoption of technologies such as 4G LTE, this year also saw plans set in place for new certified LTE professional training programmes in the UAE as well as the completion of record-setting transmission trials over local telecom networks.
In the area of fixed broadband, the UAE's efforts to make advanced technology available to all of its residents through fibre-optic networks has also born fruit, with the UAE noted again as one of the most networked countries worldwide.
More robust mobile and fixed broadband networks have also supported the growth of many e-government initiatives across the country in fields such as healthcare, academia and commerce.
However, on the negative side, much anticipated introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and Fixed Network Sharing continues to slip.
"During the first nine months of this year, telecoms market in the UAE continued to expand, albeit at a slower pace compared to the previous years. We have also noticed first signs of shift in market power as du continued to clock high double-digit growth while etisalat struggled to maintain its top line revenues throughout the year," Bhanu Chaddha, senior research analyst (Telecommunications) at IDC, told Gulf News.
IDC believes that this trend could be further fuelled next year with timely introduction of MNP and fixed network sharing.
"Capturing additional customers is no longer the business driver it once was for operators. Even looking at the infrastructure itself, competition is becoming less defined by the types of technology used and benchmarked more closely to the customer's actual service experience on a daily basis," Shi Yaohong, President of Huawei Middle East, said.
He said the greatest opportunity for operators today which is also one of their foremost challenges is developing a business strategy that effectively harnesses mobile data as a revenue mainstay.
The region's telecom industry was originally built around the delivery of voice services and this is where mobile operators have long derived the bulk of their revenues. While operators are seeking to compensate for losses in voice-service revenues, data is an area of opportunity; data is constantly evolving from simple images and web browsing into heavier multimedia sharing and content streaming.
Within the last several years, competition has certainly encouraged a lot of innovation on both the services and infrastructure layer.
"I think we've had a lot of achievements in the industry here. We've always been fast [if not first] to market, we were early 3G adopters and we're now one of the earliest 4G adopters and we're well on our way to achieving Ericsson's vision of a truly Networked Society," Ray Hassan, President of Ericsson GCC, said.
"We're moving towards converged services with mobile and fixed coming together, we have triple, quadruple play, in the market. Operators here are definitely offering state of the art services, and I think if you travel around the region you'd be hard pressed to find a better quality network than what is available here. So I think we've made a lot of progress," he said.
The UAE has a very unique sort of landscape in terms of the types of subscribers.
"It's a very varied group of people, from high end subscribers to some of the service industry workers, which is lower end users; the industry has been able to cater to all of that, go through massive growth in the last few years, and has done it quite well," Hassan said.
The movement towards comprehensive, national ICT connectivity in the UAE has been one of the most exciting developments over the past year in particular. The government has really taken bold steps in this arena working with a variety of vendors and consultants to close the digital divide and capitalise on ICT opportunities in fields such as healthcare, education, and transportation.
Today there is also a stronger business rationale for those in the ICT field to integrate more "green" networking solutions into their existing infrastructure. Those that have done this already have seen some incredible results, with more and more case studies from 2012 now available on the regional and global level.
"We have found these business cases to be particularly impactful in giving local entities the assurance that these technologies offer compelling financial as well as environmental incentives," Yaohong said.
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