The Middle East is no different from the rest of the world when it comes to digital media and broadband demand as the young and tech savvy are big consumers of content. Driving this usage pattern is demographics as an estimated 50% of the population is under the age of 30.
Until the focus on broadband by mobile operators strong competition was lacking in many of the region’s broadband markets due to non existent or immature network access regulatory or unfavourable economics to support development of a Greenfield operator to engage in extensive infrastructure-based competition. However a number of countries, particularly in the Gulf, did commence building sophisticated broadband access infrastructure. Examples include Qatar’s national broadband network and the FttH network deployment undertaken by UAE’s Etisalat.
Underpinning mobile broadband growth is the need by mobile operators to develop new revenue growth opportunities as mobile voice markets reach maturity. In many instances the downlink speeds advertised by the mobile operators which have deployed HSPA or LTE networks is higher that offered by competing fixed broadband offerings.
The Middle East’s growing Internet user base is driving demand for Arabic content, with entertainment content a key area of focus for end users. The lack of Arabic language support by some content providers and the need to translate existing content into Arabic has led to a number of initiatives to create the necessary content. In some instances entrepreneurs have instead targeted content offerings towards Middle Eastern Diaspora communities in Europe or the United States, where affordable broadband allows consumption of high bandwidth content such as streaming Video-on-Demand.
ICANN’s move to allow non-Latin script to be used in web addresses has allowed further localisation of content, increasing accessibility.
Typical subscription and advertising-based revenue models in the digital media market face a number of challenges in the Middle East; including the lack of reliable measuring system for media as well as underdeveloped e-commerce and online payment infrastructure.
In the broadcasting space, telecom operators are emulating their global counterparts by launching IPTV offerings, which in many instances face tough competition from the region’s flourishing Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite TV sector and a number of Middle East-based VoD platforms.
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