Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa
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How Wireless Internet is Changing Across the Middle East

Wireless internet is a service that people in the United States, Europe, and Asia often take for granted. Even some places in Africa and the Middle East are so well-connected that they fail to remember that other countries aren’t. Luckily, steps are taken each day to make information more accessible in the region.

 

The Importance of Broadband for Social and Economic Development

 

An increasing number of experts believe that wireless internet one of the most important general-purpose technologies. Wireless internet services impact towns, cities, states and entire nations across the world and can affect everything from industrial production to transportation. In addition, broadband is important for the creation of jobs in previously underdeveloped areas. Human development relies greatly on access to wireless internet as well. The more areas have access to the internet and to other parts of the world via digital resources, the more communities can compete in scientific and technological fields on a global stage.

 

Why Broadband Policies Are a Necessity

 

As nearly all the 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region now have broadband, the area has found it necessary to adopt broadband policies. These plans differ across the region based on the existing and upcoming broadband infrastructure. Other possible factors include the degree of competition in the current market, the population’s income levels, and government finances, including public funding. Regardless of the factors, though, broadband policies are crucial and cannot simply take a “one size fits all” approach. Each plan must be well-formulated to fit its specific region. Emphasizing each region allows the proper governmental authorities to introduce adequate policies for market development.

 

These policies are of extra importance to the region’s poorest residents. For example, a household in Morocco that has an income bracket in the lowest 40 percent would have to pay about 33 percent of its disposable income to afford wireless internet. Other countries in the MENA region have it even worse. Tunisian households would spend more than 40 percent of their disposable income. In many countries in the area, nearly 60 percent of the population still struggles to afford broadband service. Broadband policies should focus on these areas, creating a backbone for market development that creates access and competitive pricing the first priority.

 

Accelerating the Development of Broadband Infrastructure

 

Accelerating development widely depends on people having their voices heard. Ehsan Bayat, founder of Afghan Wireless, has been working in Afghanistan, for example. He has the goal of connecting Afghanis not only to each other, but to the rest of the world. In addition to providing services, Bayat’s company already employs more than 100,000 people both directly and indirectly.

 

People like Bayat have been working for years to bring better broadband infrastructure to the MENA region, but there is still much work to be done. The region’s governments must create policies that promote competition, and therefore competitive pricing, in broadband across the affected countries. National Regulatory Authorities must be strengthened, which includes regulating access to underwater cable lending stations, interconnection regulation, and regulation of leased lines, among others.

 

The authorities must also introduce new models of infrastructure supply. New infrastructure comes in several varieties. The passive infrastructure payback layer includes ducts, trenches, and dark fiber. Electronics are the active infrastructure layer, and content and services are the service layer. Each has a payback period of just a few months to up to 15 years.

 

While lots of work is still necessary to create a broadband infrastructure that is on par with Asia, Europe, or even the United States, the Middle Eastern countries are well on their way to creating access across the board. Ehsan Bayat and other proponents of information for all will make sure of it.

 

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February 11, 2018