GCC region catches 4G fever GCC region catches 4G fever

Industry experts believe that the next generation of advanced mobile telecommunications services, commonly known as 4G, is expected to continue spreading rapidly throughout the GCC with the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading the way. Ushered in with the advent of long term evolution (LTE) technology, 4G allows SmartPhone users to migrate from 3G’s largely voice-based offering to enjoy the super-high internet speeds – 150 Mbps downlink, 50 Mbps uplink – required to access massive volumes of video and data.

The 4G revolution and LTE technology will be among the key discussions at this year’s Gulfcomms, held at GITEX Technology Week 2012.  GITEX Technology Week runs from 14th to 18th October, 2012 at Dubai World Trade Centre. Gulfcomms is the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region’s largest and most important platform that focuses exclusively on the enterprise level telecoms sector. As the largest business-to-business exhibition for the sector’s carriers, cable, fixed telecoms, Internet Protocol (IP) and satellite across the MEASA region, it opens unparalleled opportunities to solution providers in the fields of telecommunication networks, next generation networks, IP technology, satellite communications, infrastructure solutions, backhauling, and teleconferencing. The headline sponsor of this year’s Gulfcomms is Vocalcom, which provides world-class social contact centre solutions, mobile and web live customer service software, social customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and in-store connected kiosks to engage customers using cloud technologies.

With a recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report noting that youth account for 60% of the population in the Arab world, it comes as no surprise that platforms such as video sharing and social media and smartphone applications are fast being adopted as a key part of a digital lifestyle. According to research powerhouse Gartner, the sale of smartphones grew 58% in 2011, with units sold worldwide in 2011 reaching 272 million – this accounts for 31% of all mobile device sales.

ITU states that Long Term Evolution (LTE) services, which involve wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals, were launched in the Middle East region in September last year in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, followed by Kuwait in December, and Bahrain in January 2012. Oman recently rolled out services in July of this year, and Qatar is expected to do the same within the next few months.

LTE is enjoying dynamic growth and uptake among global operators, including the UAE’s du, as its technology is easily merged with legacy mobile technologies, making the upgrade from 3G quick and cost-effective. According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association’s (GSA) Status of the LTE Ecosystem report, 347 LTE devices, including 64 smartphones, were launched as of March of this year by 63 different manufacturers. 2011 saw more than 8.2 million LTE enabled device shipments worldwide, with industry analysts expecting that number to reach 30 million by the end of 2012.

“Our participation at GITEX reaffirms our position as a leading telecommunications provider. It gives us the opportunity to speak directly to even more of our customers than ever, to understand what they need so that we can continue to innovate to better meet their requirements. A special attraction for us this year is the prestigious ITU telecom World 2012 we are supporting and participating in, apart from Gulfcomms and GITEX Shopper.  We look forward to an eventful participation at GITEX Technology Week for the seventh consecutive year,” said Hala Badri, Executive Vice President Brand and Communication, du.

“We have several reasons for participating in GITEX, not least of which is to make our customers, both existing and potential, aware of the bouquet of services we offer, and interact with our peers in the industry. Every year we showcase our most innovative products on promising platforms such as 4G, to demonstrate the ways in which business can be simplified for our Enterprise customers, or to show individual customers how our value-added products can add to their communications experience,” Badri added.

Driven by early deployments by STC, Zain and Moblily, Saudi Arabia’s LTE subscriptions are highest in the GCC region with over 390,000 expected to register by Q4 2012, representing 457% growth over 2011, according to ABI Research. LTE subscriptions around the world may exceed 40 million by the end of 2012, dwarfing the nine million registered subscribers in 2011. While cyber security may inhibit adoption of online services – for example, e-commerce is often viewed as unsafe in the region – it is estimated that the Middle East will have nearly 7.5 million LTE subscriptions. Leading analysis firm Informa Telecoms & Media goes further, suggesting that LTE subscriptions in the region will reach 15 million by the end of 2016.

Operators aren’t the only industry players eager to see widespread regional adoption of LTE. Dong Wu, Vice President, Huawei Middle East said: “As Huawei Enterprise is seeing considerable growth in the MENA region, GITEX offers us a useful platform to cultivate relationships as well as to showcase our portfolio of ICT solutions, with a particular focus on desktop cloud applications and the application of cloud computing in different industry scenarios. We will also be showcasing our solutions for data centres, cloud computing, enterprise networking and wireless, Unified Communication & Collaboration (UC&C), video conference and telepresence solutions. Nothing beats the opportunity to meet customers, VIP guests and channel partners face-to-face and share information and ideas. We have successfully completed a number of important milestone projects in the region this year, and GITEX gives us a forum to talk about these and share best practices with customers facing comparable business challenges.”

Both du and Huawei have consistently maintained a sizable presence at GITEX’s Gulfcomms exhibition, which is now well-established as the region’s leading enterprise-level telecom industry gathering.  “Companies such as du and Huawei realise that Gulfcomms is the one, single event each year at which nearly all of their stakeholders will be present and fully expecting to see the world’s very latest communications technologies and related solutions on display,” said Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President at Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of GITEX.

Themed Where Technology Means Business, the 32nd edition of GITEX is set to connect more than 138,000 industry professionals and over 3,500 suppliers from 144 countries across five continents, making it one of the world’s top three ICT exhibitions – a reputation only set to soar as the Middle East and Africa and (MEA) region continues to use cutting-edge technology as the fuel for increasingly rapid, era-defining developments.



Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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