Shake-up call to bring broadband to the masses

Cisco chief says tariffs and VoIP ban are holding back Gulf region.
Shake-up call to bring broadband to the masses
By Tom Arnold
Thu 18 Sep 2008 11:28 AM

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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