Middle East - Fixed Broadband Market
Encouraging signs for fixed broadband development in the Middle East
While the Middle East has relatively low levels of fixed broadband penetration when compared at a global level; there are still some very progressive developments occurring in this diverse region. Mobile is the predominant broadband platform in many Middle Eastern countries - but there are also many examples of countries investing and encouraging the build-out of fixed broadband networks and National Broadband Networks (NBNs).
Israel and Saudi Arabia are two examples of countries in the Middle East which have a higher level of fixed broadband penetration when compared to other markets in the region, although the majority of these subscriptions are based on DSL. In Saudi Arabi however there is evidence that DSL subscriptions are in decline as consumers switch to either mobile broadband or FttH/FttP service offerings.
Fibre-based access technologies are already dominant in The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.
In Turkey we see significant investment in expanding fibre-optic broadband networks underway but in the meantime DSL retains it status of having the largest market share of all the fixed broadband access technologies.
Government support is crucial for fixed broadband development and some governments are encouraging infrastructure sharing in order to create competition and speed up fixed broadband progress. A significant development occurred in early 2018, when Iran introduced fibre-based infrastructure sharing.
Bahrain’s telecommunications industry is guided by its Fourth National Telecommunications Plan which focuses on fibre-optic infrastructure deployment and establishing affordable prices for high-speed access. The development of a national broadband network based on fibre is well underway in Jordan and the Ministry of Communications (MoC) in Kuwait is also expanding Kuwait’s fibre broadband infrastructure.
Lebanon has also been working on improving its fixed infrastructure in recent years, driven by the telecoms ministry. In 2018 we are seeing significant progress in this area with the awarding of licenses which allows three existing services providers to operate and supply FttH services to consumers, using Ogero’s government-owned network.
As part of Oman’s National Broadband Strategy, the Oman Broadband Company (OBC) hopes to have all homes and businesses connected to its national broadband infrastructure by 2040.
Looking at Iran from a broad perspective; it appears to offer significant opportunities for telecoms growth. Its population is one of the largest in the Middle East, it has a youthful population and there is an unmet demand for both fixed and mobile telecoms services.
Overall the political unrest in Iraq has battered its telecommunications sector and created a challenging environment for the telecoms operators in recent years. In 2018 however there are signs of stability with the installation of thousands of new fibre-optic cables.
Syria and Yemen have also struggled to maintain telecoms infrastructure and services under the pressures of civil unrest. In 2018 there are reports Syria’s situation is stabilising and this perhaps offers optimism that the fixed broadband sector may be once again restored and developed.
The Middle East is a diverse region and while its fixed broadband penetration and average speeds are still comparatively low – it is encouraging to see that many governments and operators are supportive of national broadband development. Once substantial high-speed networks based on fibre are place, the Middle Eastern region offers many opportunities for services and industries to grow that require high-speed access such as e-commerce; data centres; start-ups; e-health and smart communities.
Many unique challenges and opportunities exist in the Iranian telecoms market.
Fixed broadband subscribers have been declining in Bahrain since 2014.
Israel has a higher level of fixed broadband penetration than many other countries in the region.
The improvements to Lebanons broadband infrastructure will boost the already flourishing digital economy as well as the start-up culture that has attracted international interest and recognition.
The UAE has gained international recognition for its high FttH broadband penetration rates.
Once stability is firmly in place in Iraq, the opportunity to build-out fixed and mobile infrastructure will arise in some of the areas which have low coverage or suffered the brunt of destruction.
National Broadband Network deployment continues in Jordan.
Improvements to Kuwait’s fibre-broadband infrastructure are underway in 2018.
Oman has a well-established mobile sector and is now growing its fibre-optic broadband infrastructure.
Increasing international capacity will assist in Qatars long-term development goals as stated in its National Development Strategy document Qatar National Vision 2030.
Turkey offers substantial opportunities for fixed broadband growth considering its current penetration is only around 15%.
The civil war in Syria showed signs of stabilising in 2018 and this has raised hopes that infrastructure and economic reconstruction activities may begin. This can only be positive for the telecoms sector which has paid a heavy toll from the years of destruction.
Until telecommunications infrastructure can be improved across Yemen and the civil unrest stabilises – there will be very little progress ahead for the sector in the short term.
Internet penetration in Saudi Arabia has reached around 80%, well above the average for the Middle East.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Batelco, MenaTelecom (acquired by VIVA), Kalaam Telecom, Noor-sat, Zain Bahrain, Viva Bahrain; Bezeq, Bezeq International, Pelephone, HOT Telecom, HOT Mobile, Cellcom, 013 NetVision, Partner (Formerly Orange), 012 Smile, Xfone, Golan Telecom (Electra Communications), Israel Broadband Company (IBC); Remi Levy, Mobile 019, Ogero Telecom, Touch (Zain), Alfa Telecom (Orascom); Iraqi Telephone and Postal Company (ITPC), Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel); Ooredoo Oman; Oman Broadband Company (OBC); Awasr-Oman; Etisalat; du; Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI); Ooredoo Qatar, Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN); Turk Telekom (formerly Avea), Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey, Turksat, Superonline; Saudi Telecom Company (STC)/Bravo, Integrated Telecom Company (ITC)/Bayn Consortium, GO Telecom/Etihad Atheeb; TeleYemen, Public Telecommunications Corporation (PTC); Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE); Jordan Telecom Group/Orange; Mobile Telecommunications Co (MTC) / Zain.