Middle East Communication Revolution Goes Mobile

As the global communications revolution makes inroads into the Middle East, the region's enthusiasm for mobile phones, digital technology and the internet is expected to make 2008 the year of mobile operating systems, according to industry observers.

Over the past three decades, the most impressive of advances in the Middle East has been in communications. Today, for example, the United Arab Emirates has what is rated as being one of the most advanced communications systems in the world.

It is against this background that MECOM 2008, the 2nd Middle East Communications Exhibition and Conference takes place from 26-28 May at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the heart of one of the world's most important markets.

MECOM is held under the patronage of HH General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and is officially supported by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE.

While the UAE is a regional pioneer, the telecoms revolution is having a major impact in usually conservative Saudi Arabia. For example, a new survey by the Arab Advisors Group reports that more than one-third of internet users in Saudi Arabia use WiFi hotspots to log on. Additionally, 46% report accessing the Internet while at work, 36% using internet cafes and 23% accessing from home.

The survey also reveals that the vast majority of Internet users in Saudi Arabia are using Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail for their personal email service rather than regional email providers which have less than a 10% share.

"It is clear that communications infrastructures and services are playing an essential role in both the modernisation and social development of nations across the region, " said David Hirst, Exhibition and Conference Director for MECOM organisers IIR Middle East.

"Information and communications technologies are revolutionising every aspect of our lives. Coupled with new competition in the market, this is making the Middle East one of the most lucrative in the world."

The MECOM organisers previously revealed that the GCC countries are expected to spend up to a staggering US$375 billion on the expansion of telecommunications and related infrastructure over the next decade.

It is in the field of mobile operating systems that the region could see major challenges in 2008. Internationally, Symbian, Linux, Research in Motion and Microsoft's Windows Mobile make up the bulk of smartphone software. Now Apple has introduced the iPhone, which runs its own brand of software and Google has announced its Android mobile operating system platform will come out this year.

Google's Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt says Android will "help shape a new computing environment that will change the way people access and share information in the future."

"The entrance of these new operating systems is expected to bring about fundamental changes for the regional mobile industry as well as presenting major challenges for application developers, " said Hirst.

"The Middle East offers a range of business opportunities and scope for advanced communications systems. Abu Dhabi, as the federal capital of the UAE, is committed to developing one of the most modern infrastructures in the world and to becoming a leader in the development of the wider international communications community.

"In addition, the telecommunications in Saudi Arabia sector has moved from being an entirely government owned and regulated single-operator sector to a competitive, multi-operator market.

"MECOM is attended by some of the most influential decision makers in the telecommunications industry and provides facilitated interaction between high quality exhibitors, visitors and the big ICT and telecom players in the region."

MECOM, the region's premier dedicated exhibition for the telecommunications industry, will showcase the best in hardware, software and services. Alongside the exhibition, a series of MECOM 2008 conferences and seminars will host ministries and telecom providers, communications organisations, cable, satellite and network buyers, manufacturers, end users, businessmen, entrepreneurs, importers, distributors, contractors and service companies.

High level speakers from the industry will address critical issues confronting the Middle East market and provide a forum in which international and regional communications industry can debate topics at the heart of one of the world's most important markets.

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