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Thu 18 Sep 2008 11:28 AM

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Shake-up call to bring broadband to the masses

Cisco chief says tariffs and VoIP ban are holding back Gulf region.

A shake-up is needed in the telecommunications regulatory environment in many GCC countries to make broadband services available to more people, the president for networking firm Cisco Systems in emerging markets has said.

Paul Mountford said the cost of telecommunications tariffs and the banning of Voice over IP (VoIP) in countries, including the UAE, were also barriers holding back the rate of technological development.

He said in many countries in the emerging markets it was only the top five percent of the population that could afford broadband prices.

“Having a regulatory environment that opens broadband out, makes it competitive and brings the prices down and starts to make it work for everyone means the economic output is tremendous – education improves, healthcare improves, public safety improves and productivity improves and you raise the standard of living,” said Mountford.

It follows Cisco’s signing this week of a multi-million dollar deal to establish an internet data centre based in Bahrain to serve as a regional hub for Cisco’s ICT services.

The hub will support the delivery of multiple services and technologies including Cisco’s TelePresence and Unified Communications solutions to company offices in the region.

Mountford said: “We have made a decision to use Bahrain for our connections around the region and to India in which we’ve got a multi-billion dollar investment in.

"We’ve looked around and we’ve made a decision based around this country and the government, the regulatory body here has made it more attractive than some of the countries you would typically think you would go.

"We have more people in Saudi and UAE than here by a long stretch but as a communications hub this is far more attractive in terms of tariffs and Voice over IP, which is still not legal in some countries in the Middle East.”

Cisco announced that it plans to establish an office in the kingdom and will focus on recruiting new talent to address the growing local and regional opportunities.

It said it is also committed to building ICT capabilities through launching education initiatives and accelerating the deployment across the kingdom of Cisco Networking Academy sites, which provide skills training in ICT. At the moment Cisco has 10 networking academies in Bahrain with 350 students.

“These initiatives will strengthen our cooperation with global technology providers through a stronger local presence to grow the ICT industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain and will help pave the way to attract direct foreign investments, a longstanding strategic objective of the government,” said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Atiyat Allah Al Khalifa, minister of cabinet affairs.

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Saeed Ali 11 years ago

I dont think the Gulf needs advice from someone from the US on liberalizing the telecom market. We are all seeing how Wall Street collapsed due to excessive freedom. Allowing Voip will only cause chaos. The UAE is in an economic boom, and the boom has been achieved without cheap broadband and VOIP. Why fix something if it isnt broke?

Naz Hussain 11 years ago

The issue isn't about VOIP, its about the cost of domestic broadband services, which are extortionate in the UAE, when compared to developed countries in the rest of the world, which the UAE chooses to compare itself with when it suits its itself. The banning of VOIP is a side-issue brought about to protect international call revenue.

Paul 11 years ago

You couldn't be more wrong Saeed. Wall Street has not 'collapsed' and even if it had, do you know what's causing it? It's certainly not cheaper broadband. It's banks giving out credit to people who aren't good to pay it back. Unmitigated greed caused by overambition in the real estate market as landlords and property developers rip off tenants and customers in search of greater profit. Now....doesn't that sound VERY familiar?

Colin 11 years ago

Saeed I would be really interested to hear your views on why permitting Voip "will only cause chaos" and why reducing the tarrifs levied on the consumer is also not beneficial....

DG 11 years ago

Of course you don’t need to listen to one of the leading internet companies in the world, I think they know a whole lot more about the internet and it’s effect on global business than you ever will. Did you read the article, go back and read between the lines, these comments are clearly aimed at the UAE trio of Etisalat, Du and the TRA. The UAE was the ‘obvious location’ for this new Data Centre but Bahrain was chosen as better environment for an ‘Internet intensive business’. Bahrain should be congratulated for bagging this multi-billion dollar investment and the TRA should understand that their policies have lost this deal! This is just another example of how the UAE internet tariffs and VoIP block is stifling business development here. This should really ring alarm bells with the TRA. Take note before other ‘internet intensive business’ come to understand that the UAE is not the only option in the Gulf and start to move there too. After all, add to this the high cost of living and rents all affect the bottom line. Mr. Saeed, you need to get your assumptions right, it’s not that ‘it isn’t broke’ it’s only that companies are not aware of the other Gulf options out there, and it’s only a matter of time before they are.

Jasvinder Singh 11 years ago

Saeed, Please open up your mind. Don't think on East-West line........that someone fro western world is commenting/giving advice on regulatory issues here. Accept the fact that money is weighing heavy on authorities mind. If you give a open thought about technological advances that cheap internet has to offer, I am sure it will out weigh everything.

Mpower 11 years ago

You might not take advice, Mr. Saeed but should i remind you that the very technology that you are using today was patented by the Americans. What is happening on the Wall Street is not because of excessive freedom , but excessive greediness which is nakedly visible in every part of the world. However, the unprecedented steps the American govt is taking is going to salvage the financial system of the world. Finally, from your shocking outlook, you wait for disaster to strike and then look for a solution? Thank god you’re not at the helms of control, or we would all be doomed

Calvin 11 years ago

Saeed aside (and may I suggest you open your horizons to see what other countries are doing including Singapore, Hong Kong), really I must applaud VOIP services to be firmly "re"-inaugarated here. VOIP is a necessary medium that promotes international business. Whichever technology helps to lower costs = promote businesses. Period. About time !

Graham Plater 11 years ago

Saeed, please spare us your nonsense about VoIP as a cause of chaos - or do you work for Etisalat? The chaos we should worry about has much more to do with sheer greed and lack of intelligent planning on behalf of the authorities who seem to be firmly convinced that Dubai is the centre of the universe...