By Andy Sambidge
Informa report also says region's internet subscribers set to hit 27m by 2014.
Broadband subscribers in the MENA region are expected to grow by 64 percent in 2009, a new report published on Monday said.Informa Telecoms & Media’s latest MENA Broadband report also forecasts that the region's broadband market will grow from 7.1m subscriptions (as of Q1 2009) to 27m in 2014, representing a further annual growth of nearly 25 percent.
For the past two years the MENA region has boasted the highest broadband subscription growth rates in the world, growing by 66 percent in 2008, the report added.
Mohammed Hamza, senior broadband analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said: “Perceptions about the Middle East and North Africa countries’ ability to foster e-commerce are increasingly becoming outdated.
"Operators across the region are beginning to invest heavily in getting high-speed, high-capacity and cost effective telecoms networks into the region and the current infrastructure is much more advanced than perhaps they have been given credit for."
He said a major change was already under way and technologies such as Fibre-To-The-X (FTTx) had a bright future, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“The prospects for broadband in the MENA region will continue to grow as operators improve infrastructure to make their services more attractive with multi-play offers," added Hamza.
"In addition media companies will begin to respond with more relevant online content aimed specifically at the region," he said.
He claimed that privatisation of government-backed monopolies that have "stifled the growth of fixed-line services for so long is largely off the agenda" and the introduction of competition is already a reality in several markets.
The largest broadband subscription bases in the MENA region are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Algeria, Morocco and Iran.
These six represent 79 percent of the MENA’s total broadband subscriptions - 3.8 million from a total of 4.8 million.
Eight countries in the region had a household penetration of more than 10 percent at the end of 2008 – four exceeded 60 percent and two were greater than 70 percent, the report said.
However, excluding the top four, the average penetration rate across the region was just 8.7 percent.