Telecoms & ITC
Gulf telecoms operators to slash roaming rates by 50%
Gulf telecoms operators are due to slash mobile phone roaming charges to consumers by at least 50 percent from Feb 1, an official of the Gulf Cooperation Council said Monday. Telecoms operators attending a meeting in Riyadh earlier this month committed themselves to lower retail prices, Abdullah al-Shibli, GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs, said in a statement. The statement did not give details of the new rates but said the decision would “reduce rates of international roaming between the GCC countries by more than 50 percent from current prices". The names of the telecoms operators impacted by the ruling were not released. Gulf telecom regulators have long campaigned for a reduction in roaming charges in a bid to bring costs in line with those seen in developed markets. Analysts said authorities had previously tried to implement a MENA-wide rate reduction scheme, but this had failed in the face of diverging regional agendas. “About three or four years ago there was an attempt to regulate roaming tariffs at an Arab world level,” said Matthew Reed, a telecoms analyst with consultancy Informa. “This was inspired by the EU, where there have been various interventions on roaming. But although the plan was endorsed, it was no enforced. There wasn’t the political will.” The GCC cuts, led by Bahrain’s mobile phone regulator, were regarded as the next best option, he said. To date, two cuts have been agreed, despite opposition from phone operators who are facing declining profits in their domestic markets. “The operators are actually not very happy about this,” said Reed. “They have been trying to lobby against it. Regulators try and persuade operators by saying that when cuts are introduced the usage will go up, but operators argue that the revenues are important to help them invest, and that usage doesn’t go up with lower rates. “There is a bit of a battle going on between the regulators and the operators.”
Source: Arabian Business
Saudi PC penetration to top 30%
Personal computer (PC) penetration in Saudi Arabia is expected to surpass 30 per cent by 2015, with a rapidly growing population to act as a major market driver. Saudi computer hardware sales for 2011 – including PCs, notebooks, and accessories – are believed to have touched almost $2 billion. Also on the uptrend is the local software sector, with last year’s sales reaching $666 million. The segment is expected to achieve a compounded annual growth rate of 9 per cent through the next three years, said a report from the organizers of Gitex Saudi Arabia. The current Saudi population is estimated at 26.1 million and could swell to 30 million by 2017. Over 60 per cent of Saudis are below the age of 30, many of whom are drawn to the latest gadgets and technologies, it said. Meanwhile, local businesses continue to adopt advanced tools to capitalize on the Kingdom’s status as the Gulf’s largest economy. These factors have greatly contributed to the country’s emergence as the region’s biggest ICT market, it said. Business and consumer prospects in the kingdom will be featured at the upcoming Gitex Saudi Arabia 2012. Running from May 21 to 24, 2012 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, Gitex Saudi Arabia 2012 will be divided into two parts: a Business Section and a Consumer Section. The Business Section, Saudi Communications 2012 - The 14th International Telecommunications Exhibition, is a business-to-business platform targeting companies, organizations and investors from the public and private sectors. The Consumer Section, on the other hand, showcases a diverse range of education, media and personal gadgets – from PCs and laptops to mobile phones and multimedia devices – for tech-savvy consumers. “Last year Gitex Saudi Arabia accommodated 430 exhibitors from 16 countries to the KSA and drew in 50,000 visitors. By dividing the 2012 show into two segments, we can better cater to the specific needs of our business and consumer patrons. We thus expect an even higher footfall this year as we generate greater excitement and interest across our target audiences,” said a representative of Riyadh Exhibitions Company. Gitex Saudi Arabia 2012 will be held under the patronage of the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Source: TradeArabia News Service
Etisalat eyes $2 billion syndicated loan
The UAE's largest telecommunications company Etisalat is seeking a syndicated loan of up to $2 billion for general corporate purposes, bankers close to the deal said. It is expected to carry a three-year tenor, but this is subject to change, the bankers added. Etisalat was not immediately available to comment. Etisalat may restructure its operations to cut costs, the company said on Monday, as it tries to arrest falling profits.
Internet is a MENA stable: 2,300% increase over past decade
Dubai, UAE February 22 2012: Many regional markets are experiencing a staggering increase in internet usage, up from 7.8 million to 187 million users in the last decade, according to Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO of the world's largest custom market research organization, TNS MENA. "Over the past ten years, internet use in the greater MENA region is up 2,300 per cent. I am seeing this as one of many indications that consumer brands must change the way they do business." Hamilton-Clark shared that the recently-published TNS Digital Life global program looks at how consumers in 60 countries behave online. "The statistics show that 90 per cent of region-based consumers conduct research across all categories using the internet before purchase. They also indicate that e-commerce is set to grow in the region," he said. He also stressed that as online engagement grows, consumer brands must be ready to manage a full spectrum of customer services, from assisting pre-purchase research, through to product selection, purchase, delivery, as well as a slick after-sales service. "The internet affords infinitive opportunities and we urge marketers to fast appreciate this or face being left behind. Indeed, online and mobile shopping looks set to play an even bigger role as support channels, software and devices continue to develop," Hamilton-Clark observed. He also noted that hosting loyalty schemes online provides brands with a great opportunity to become more creative in the way they hook and keep a customer, as well as manage the relationship. However, he warned the research suggests that consumers often feel that brand voice lacks luster, with some unsure whether to trust what is being said. "One of the keys to leadership in the digital space is the provision of timely, relevant information at the right touch points. Indeed, before stepping online, it is wise to go back-to-basics and consider the consumer experience beyond the core product," he said. Turning to the UAE, many residents spend an average of 15 hours per week online, including three hours on social networking sites. Users are also active in video streaming, knowledge-based activities and gaming. Hamilton-Clark said that this represents enormous opportunities if used intelligently and diligently by marketers and the media. "Digital is fast becoming a primary media channel, with search engine ads currently influencing 20 per cent of product selection made by regional consumers." However, there is still the need to incorporate offline marketing strategies to drive traffic online in the first place. An integrated approach is needed and campaigns should include on-and off-line tactics," he concluded.
GCC adopting latest IT standards & technologies
IT departments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Oman - have been adopting some of the best known standards, practices and technologies in IT operations, according to Gartner, Inc. "GCC as a region has adopted many best practices, including established best practices and standards like ISO 27001, ISO 20000, ITIL, CMM and COBIT," said Biswajeet Mahapatra, research director at Gartner. "Most organizations are aware of the benefits they can derive by adopting these standards and are eager to adhere to these best practices. Gartner analysts will discuss critical business, technology and leadership strategies at the 2nd Annual Gartner Middle East CIO Leadership Forum 2012 to be held in Dubai, UAE on Feb. 27-28, 2012 at the Raffles. The primary reasons for adoption are improvements of existing processes and adherence to best practices worldwide, and not for the certificate. This is [important] because the entire objective becomes a process improvement exercise and not a mere certificate process, which becomes relevant only during the audit period." GCC companies that traditionally have not been mindful of cost have become more cost conscious and are looking at ways to calculate the ROI of their investments in IT. Outsourcing has become a common practice without regard to its effectiveness, but the focus has shifted toward ensuring that outsourcing is the right strategy. Virtualization is a commonly adopted practice in most of the large enterprises in this region. "Many companies have completed their virtualization and outsourcing initiatives, and are now looking for new technologies and delivery systems. Cloud appears to be a viable option for most of them, although the primary reasons vary from organization to organization," said Mahapatra. Public cloud will take a few more years to evolve and get widely accepted, however some very large enterprises have already started experimenting with private clouds. Very large enterprises have started porting noncritical applications and testing their environments for cloud readiness. Private cloud adoption by large enterprises is expected to grow rapidly during the next couple of years. "Cloud is looked upon as a solution that is not less expensive, but that makes the environment more agile. This proves that CIOs in this region are aware of the actual benefits of cloud and have been vigilant and planning well before going in for large-scale cloud adoption," he said. In a related development, Virtualization will be a major growth factor in 2012, Gulf Business Machines (GBM), the region's leading IT solutions provider, said Tuesday. GBM, which recently held its annual Kick-Off meeting in Dubai, has identified Virtualization as being the top driver of demand for its business this year as its customers are expected to continue their focus on improving cost and operational efficiencies. Virtualization results in an immediate increase in effectiveness/productivity of IT infrastructure, translating into significant cost savings, estimated to be as much as 20 percent to 50 percent. Additionally, virtualization also provides flexibility and speed to deploy infrastructure to meet the dynamic needs of today's business.
Source: The Saudi Gazette