Saturday, August 08, 2009

Wireless broadband will dominate our region soon

It is clear that wirless Internet use will exceed ‘wired’ use worldwide. Internet access delivered across mobile phone networks and Wi-Max networks will be the dominant form of connections soon.

Already, we can see several service providers in Jordan providing such services, including UMax from Umniah, Zain e-Go, Wi-Tribe services and others.
But the main service channel will be mobile GPRS, whereby phone owners will add Internet services to their cellular phone plan or package.

A recent study of this trend in our region, by Dubai-based consultants Delta Partners, confirms that almost 70 percent of broadband subscribers in the Middle East and Africa will use wireless networks by 2011, up from about 38 percent today.

This is partially driven by the region being the world’s fastest growing in terms of mobile penetration in recent years. Fixed line penetration has stagnated at 20 percent in the Middle East and 4 percent in Africa, meaning that any growth in Internet penetration will have to be via mobile.

The lack of coverage seems to be the main obstacle at the moment, but that is set to change with the arrival new submarine cables and aggressive investments in 3G networks from mobile operators.

“This will translate into a significant growth potential for mobile broadband in MEA, with subscribers expected to grow from 2.5 million today to about 40 million in 2011. At a strong ARPU of $10-15 this will represent a market worth around $6 billion in 2011 versus $1 billion today,” says Joao Sousa, partner at Delta Partners.
The report goes on to explain that operators should gain access to international connectivity at competitive prices, create an efficient network operation and develop an effective marketing policy.

Simply, what this means is that pricing should be attractive, and there is a need for more awareness among consumers.

At the moment, generally, users understand the concept of wireless broadband, but are not yet widely adopting it, probably due to prohibitive pricing.

Just like mobile voice services were expensive then dropped in price, mobile data/Internet services will follow. That’s when we shall all be able to enjoy full Internet connectivity, at all times, through any device. Analysts believe we are two years away from such a reality. I hope they are right!


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