By Mark Sutton
Demand for broadband and increased competition will bring new service packages to MENA users says Booz Allen Hamilton
Growing demand for broadband will drive new models of service in the Middle East and North Africa, according to a report from Booz Allen Hamilton.
Broadband uptake will continue to show double and triple digit growth across the region, the analyst company says, but in turn broadband service providers will need to develop new offerings to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Rates of broadband penetration remain low in the MENA region, at around 1% of total population, but Hilal Halaoui, principal with Booz Allen Hamilton, said that rapid growth is expected.
"The region's number of broadband subscribers is expected to more than double over the next three years, largely because of the increasing availability of broadband access channels, reductions in cost, and the enormous demand for broadband content. In 2006, the number of broadband subscribers in the region experienced double- and triple-digit growth rates," said Halaoui.
Increased uptake of broadband and market liberalization will mean that operators face will face increased competition, and will not just rely on speed of connection and price to sell broadband services, according to the report. Operators will instead turn to packages and services to differentiate themselves. Pay-as-you-go; guaranteed connectivity for demanding customer such as gamers or VoIP users; and value-added packages with multiple email addresses, web site hosting and content partnerships, are all examples of how operators might extend their services.
Operators would also need to enhance their customer services to deal with not just a larger customer base, but a broader, less tech-savvy customer base and perhaps look at systems such as remote management of customer premises equipment (CPE) to handle service provision.
"The broadband environment is changing, and operators will face challenges in finding the right answers to complex service differentiation questions - in selecting the most favourable network technology options, and in building the optimal customer service model going forward," said Ghassan Hasbani, vice principal with the company.
"Offering high-speed Internet access will become an essential qualifier for any operator in the market, causing prices to rapidly decrease. Operators will likely shift marketing emphasis away from speed and price, and begin differentiating services from their competitors', based on other elements," he added.