Gulf's telecoms connections redraw world map [National, The (United Arab Emirates)]
(National, The (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As developing markets such as India and China evolve, the UAE is set to become a global telecoms hub. Jonathan Gainer / Bloomberg
Qatar-based Gulf Bridge International (GBI) is a new broadband fibre network connecting all the states in the Arabian Gulf region with Europe, Asia and Africa.
The GBI chief executive Ahmed Mekky says mobile usage in India is increasing and this is "driving up international capacity requirements from India. The GBI cable will help to address this increasing demand … Our cable system is the only cable system to provide direct connectivity from India to all the countries of the Gulf".
Increased adoption of mobile communications is driving massive growth in developing countries such as India.
As the UAE market matures, other markets such as India and China now show massive growth potential.
"Increasingly, mobile usage is more data intensive as consumers use smartphones, tablets etc. This significantly increases the requirement for international capacity," says Mr Mekky.
But, according to Richard Hurst, a senior analyst at the research company Ovum, the basic drivers for developing markets are traditional mobile communications services.
"The telecoms opportunity in the emerging markets of Asia, Middle East and Africa is driven by the pent up demand for basic services, such as voice and messaging," says Mr Hurst.
In countries such as India, there is a mushrooming demand for all kinds of mobile communications. People who have never had fixed line phones or personal computers can now surf the internet from their smartphones.
While many developing world consumers cannot yet afford smartphones, this is set to change rapidly.
The first smartphones were considerably more expensive than ordinary mobile handsets with devices such as Apple's iPhone being bought only by the wealthier consumers.
But, with western companies such as Apple now facing growing competition from Asian manufacturers, prices of smartphones are set to continue falling to a level where they will effectively replace traditional mobile phones.
"Mobile usage in India is increasing and this is driving up international capacity requirements from India, the GBI cable will help to address this increasing demand," says Mr Mekky.
Companies such as GBI which provide the cabling and basic infrastructure to support data-heavy traffic over the internet are effectively redrawing the world map.
Just as roads and sea lanes once dictated a location's relative economic prosperity, so mobile communications infrastructure and the global flow of data traffic over the internet will potentially put the UAE at the heart of the international mobile communications industry.
Geographers regard the Middle East as being at the centre of the globe. As developing markets such as India and China evolve, the UAE is set to become a global telecoms hub. Not only will Asian markets develop more sophisticated and wide-reaching communications services, they will also become increasingly prosperous in comparison with the relatively stagnant economies of the West.
This seismic economic shift means that telecoms companies are increasingly altering their strategies to take account of the fact that a growing proportion of data traffic will be flowing eastwards rather towards the United States.
According to industry estimates, at the moment roughly 90 per cent of internet traffic flows west. The new undersea cable link to Mumbai, for example, will facilitate the flow of data eastwards.
"GBI is committed to extending the reach of our network and Asia is a key market, one that is growing very fast, reflecting the GDP growth there," says Mr Mekky.
The telecoms industry believes that the communications infrastructure being developed today will underpin future development of potentially huge markets such as India, China and South East Asia.
"Further elements of the telecoms opportunity revolve around the increased availability of international capacity from the various submarine cables systems being introduced in Africa and the Middle East," says Mr Hurst.
GBI's cabling connects Mumbai to all the countries of the Arabian Gulf (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE). The network also connects to Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, Marseilles and London. GBI now intends to extend its international network to more countries.
"From India, initially the market we would want to reach is South East Asia [Singapore and Malaysia] as that is a hub for Asian and trans Pacific traffic. From there we could then assess opportunities to connect to China," says Mr Mekky.
However, as well as providing an opportunity for Middle Eastern mobile telecoms operators to expand into new markets, the region's new role as a communications hub will also allow for increased competition within the Middle East.
Mr Mekky said: "With the large population of people from India living and working in the Gulf and the GBI cable system connecting to all Gulf countries, this means that Indian mobile operators have better connectivity to the Gulf region."
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