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Global telecommunications report confirms UAE’s regional lead in Internet penetration

United Arab Emirates: Sunday, September 28 - 2003 @ 09:49

The figure is a marked increase over previous findings in 2001, when the ITU reported a penetration rate of 28% throughout the country.

The study, conducted in 2002 throughout the GCC, Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the UK, also found that the UAE now has a total of 1,117,600 users, the second highest number on the region.

Although Saudi Arabia has more actual users, at 1,600,000, the penetration of the population is just 6.9% because of its high population.

Whilst the number of actual subscribers in the UAE is 300,000, the report highlighted that the high penetration rate is due to the country having highest number of Internet users to PCs among any of the regions surveyed, at 2.6 users to every PC. Further penetration growth, therefore, is very much dependent on the proliferation of Internet enabled devices.

“These figures are further evidence that the Internet is permeating every sector of the country,” commented Maroua Naim, General Manager, EIM. “The main barrier we now face is increasing PC penetration among the population, which currently stands at just 13.6%. As these figures from the ITU were illustrate almost every PC in the UAE is connected to the Net.”

A major component in the annual increase of subscribers within the country can be attributed to dial-up subscribers, the most basic form of connection. Over the coming years, EIM expects many of these subscribers to migrate to high-speed broadband Internet.

Since December 2001, high-speed Al Shamil connections for domestic users have risen almost 150%, from 8000 to over 19,500 in June 2003. The high-speed BusinessOne subscriptions for the SME market, meanwhile, have also rocketed by over 300% from 900 in 2001 to over 4,100 today.

In order to complete high-speed coverage of the country, which currently stands at 95%, EIM is developing a range of wireless technologies, from hotpots (Wi-Fi) to fixed wireless solutions. Once in place, every computer in the Emirates will have access to a broadband connection, completing EIM’s objective of 100% coverage.

Another contributing factor to the UAE’s success is the reductions in price since the Internet was launched in 1995. Since then, the cost of dial-up registration has fallen 90%, from AED15 per hour to just AED1.8 today. Costs for Businesses were also revised with the re-launch of five new packages for small to medium sized businesses to fit differing budgets and requirements. Finally corporate customers received significant savings in April 2002 when the costs of leased lines were slashed by up to 60%.

To ensure that the increase in subscribers is supported, EIM has been investing heavily in the country’s infrastructure. By the end of 2003, 11 international links, known as STM1 lines, and a number of bilateral peering links to regional and international networks, will link the country to the major Internet hubs in Asia, Europe and the United States. The domestic network, meanwhile, has also been receiving extensive upgrades, with state-of-the-art networking systems now in place to ensure the smooth delivery of broadband and narrow band to customers throughout the Emirates.

“We are progressing on every front in terms of Internet development,” added Naim. “At the forefront of all these efforts is our customer service drive. We now have over 60 dedicated Internet helpdesk staff that operate 24x7x365 via phone, e-mail or SMS. The waiting time for customers on the phone has been reduced from over 2 minutes in 2000 to under 30 seconds today. In every decision we make today, customer service has become an integral part of development, marketing and long-term customer retention.”

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Sunday, September 28- 2003 @ 9:49 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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