The Middle East’s rapidly expanding youth population represents the biggest growth opportunity for its telecoms companies. But it also presents one of their biggest challenges.
Young people are driving the rise in demand for high capacity data content on mobile phones, such as internet, video and games. The current mobile phone networks lack the capacity to cope with this demand.
Those aged 15-24 access the internet on their mobile phones more than six times a week
and spend on average 76 minutes a day consuming data.
A solution is long-term evolution (LTE), the latest technological advancement in mobile phone networks, which provides high-speed mobile broadband capability. Middle East telecom firms are set to be among the first to launch it. But the upgrade will be expensive and not everyone can afford it.
Unsurprisingly, the wealthy GCC states have made the strongest commitment to LTE. Saudi Arabia’s Mobily and the UAE’s Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) are set to be the first to launch the service commercially in the region.
The two countries have the highest usage of mobile internet in the region, followed closely by Jordan. The problem for Jordan is that its mobile firms lack the capital needed to upgrade to LTE.
This is another manifestation of the growing economic divide between wealthy oil producing states of the GCC and their poorer counterparts. While the rich states will gain a competitive advantage from having access to high speed mobile broadband services, the poor states will face yet another barrier to their economic competitiveness.