What is telecommunication’s contribution to GDP in the UAE?
AL GHANIM: The telecommunications sector is contributing around 5.3% to the GDP of the UAE. It has been increasing over the past few years, it was at 4.1% 3 years ago and now it is 5.3%. It is really significant and it is an important element. There has been and continue to be a huge investment in this sector. We have the latest technology and we are very proud of that. Today we have strong fiber connectivity; we have almost 70% house run, which is connected to fiber. We have HSPA+, which is the advanced version of the 3G network and is almost everywhere in the country. We have LTE, which supports more than 100mbps and is available in the country right now and is going to be launched to the mass market soon. So this is all good news for the country. At the same time, the country is looking for more advancement and more speed in the internet; this is a new domain, which we have been seeing growth, which we have not seen before. There is huge growth in data and the customers are really hungry for more data.
What new innovations are in the pipeline?
AL GHANIM: One of the major projects we are looking forward to in the UAE is the internet exchange. This is something that is not only going to serve the UAE, but is going to serve the entire region. Today internet traffic is heavy between the US and Europe, and also Asia has been picking up very quickly. Asia is going to be one of the continents that is going to have huge internet traffic that might even exceed the US and Europe. In this part of the world, and I am talking about the Middle East and Africa, we lack internet exchanges or nodes, and hopefully we will have one in the UAE that will connect the region. If you ask me what the internet exchange is going to bring to the region, it is more speed. If we have the content delivery networks available in the UAE and big companies like Yahoo!, Google, and so on and so forth, this is going to make the internet faster. Today, the way it happens, when people browse the internet, the data is fished from either Europe, the US, or Asia. Down the road, hopefully next year, we are going to have it from the region so I do not have to go through Europe or the US in order to get my email or to get my webpage, I can do it locally in the region and that is going to bring tremendous speed. That is going to create more innovation because the delay is going to be much shorter. It is also going to create more local content and this is important because we lack Arabic content on the net. Today, the amount of Arab content is minute and that is a shame because have very rich heritage. So hopefully we will have more Arabic content for the UAE and for the region available.
One of the major projects we are looking forward to in the UAE is the internet exchange. This is something that is not only going to serve the UAE, but is going to serve the entire region.