How many mobile subscribers will there be in the Middle East in five years' time? 350 million, according to a new report that says growth in the use of data service will be driven by countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Research firm Informa Telecoms & Media noted that the Middle East is one of the world's "most exciting" markets for mobile operators, with much of the forecast growth coming from the deployment of advanced network technologies and services. As has happened in markets in Western Europe, access to mobile broadband networks coupled with greater availability and lower pricing for Smartphones and netbooks. As new broadband networks open up more bandwidth to users, so more data traffic will be consumed by services such as video, mobile Instant Messaging and email.
Blackberry usage is already widespread across the region, and although it doesn't require 3G network support if users are only checking push email services, it does pave the way for higher bandwidth location-based and multimedia services. The latest version of the iPhone offers Arabic text support, another factor expected to boost the demand for data services, which will grow much more rapidly than voice services in terms of revenue.
Both of these handsets have been prime-movers in other markets, causing some headaches for operators and vendors as they try to keep up with the growing demand for data bandwidth and develop new pricing models and fair usage policies that support interactive, real-time services. Nevertheless, revenue from data services is expected to blossom from US$6.88 billion in 2009 to $13.82 billion by 2014.
I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.