From Deserts to Glass Skyscrapers and Smart Cities: The Middle East and Africa Offer Growing Availability of Managed IP Service

J. Stradling

Summary Bullets:

  • Several very large global providers have both subsidiary presences and extensive partnerships in place to serve the MEA region.
  • ‘Smart city’ projects and verticals such as finance, construction, oil and gas offer growth potential.

Have you ever wanted to open a new presence in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) but baulked at the potential challenges and pitfalls in this diverse region?  In some cases, a satellite link might be the only option to connect, say, a research lab deep in East Africa.  In contrast, an information super-highway backed by very fast networks and sophisticated business and IT applications is available in new ‘smart cities’ in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  The availability of QoS-backed connectivity and managed end-to-end IP service is growing in MEA, as global carriers are focusing considerable attention on the region due the potential for revenue growth, which far exceeds growth rates in more saturated and mature markets elsewhere (for example, Western Europe and North America).  Regional providers (such as MTN, Neotel, Gulf Bridge International, Gateway Business Africa, STC, Qtel and Zain) all have solid roadmaps and international partners that they are leveraging to provide international MPLS, backed by QoS and professional services.

Meanwhile, global telcos such as Tata Communications, NTT Communications, Interoute, BT, Orange Business Services, Verizon and PCCW Global offer service based on a mixture of in-country, wholly owned PoPs for on-net connectivity as well as interconnections and partnerships to boost on-the-ground support and local access.  Examples of recent initiatives by global providers include: a BT partnership with Qtel in Qatar, signed in May 2012, to put in place a co-hosted and interconnected local PoP (BT has a similar agreement with STC in Saudi); and the agreement between PCCW of Hong Kong and Kuwait-headquartered Zain Group (a pan-Middle Eastern mobile provider with 6,000 staff) in August 2012 to provide joint international telecommunications services, including Ethernet, IP, fibre and satellite transmission, to multinationals.  Verizon has been active in-region, expanding the reach of its flagship IP VPN service, Private IP, by leveraging its regional partner Gateway Business Africa as well as investing in its own infrastructure.  Verizon’s professional consulting services can help customers in the region design and implement tailored networking solutions according to their requirements.  Orange Business Services already has five regional offices and a global service centre in Cairo, Egypt, with 2,000 regional staff and Orange R&D labs in Cairo and Amman, Jordan.  Tata Communications has made delivering connectivity in some of the more challenging regions in MEA one of its specialties, and it has shareholder status in South African telecom company Neotel, as well as operations in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya.  The range of choice among regional and international telecom providers is growing.  This momentum is contributing to a more connected MEA region and opening new business possibilities through the backing of robust network and IT services.  Now is as good a time as ever to check out connectivity in any targeted MEA countries and commence dialogue with the service providers mentioned here, as well as others, to evaluate an important emerging market.

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