GCC leads Middle East fibre transformation

In the Middle East and North Africa, there are 5.2 million fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) or fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) subscribers, up 30 percent compared to September 2020

he GCC is taking the lead in regional fibre transformation, panellists at the Fiber Connect MENA conference said on Thursday.

“It’s clear the GCC is taking the lead in the region in fibre transformation,” Roland Montagne principal analyst broadband & FTTx, IDATE DigiWorld said at the event held in Dubai. He added that fibre isn’t only connecting homes, but it’s also connecting other industries.

In the Middle East and North Africa, there are 5.2 million fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) or fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) subscribers, up 30 percent compared to September 2020. Additionally, the region has hit 11 million homes passed, meaning they are now able to receive fibre services, which is up 26 percent from September 2020, Montagne said.


“In [the Middle East], fibre to the home is the preferred way,” Montagne said

In the UAE, there has been significant fibre rollout across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and operators are switching to 5G across the Gulf country, said Shibu Vahid, director of public network business at R&M Middle East Turkey & Africa.

“Since 2020, we’ve been working on increasing the fibre footprint, and operators are switching to 5G across the UAE,” he said.


Across the Gulf, adoption is picking up. In Saudi, telecom firm stc is connecting 71 new cities to its 5G network. However, on the consumer side, Vahid said there is a need for more use cases yet.

“Building a 5G ecosystem isn’t easy,” he said. But it is coming fast, and it has the potential to transform e-sports, enhanced video entertainment, in-vehicle entertainment, real-time interactive and immersive video, as well as immersive shopping. Even the core pillars of a city have the ability to be transformed – from water management, agriculture, transportation systems, e-health (which boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic), and oil and gas.

“All are 5G targets,” Montagne said. “5G will be a key factor for the promotion of fibre deployments and will therefore boost investments from public and private players.”


Like the rise of 5G, the rise of fibre has also been rapid.

The early 2000s were the early days of fibre, said Lucas Cruces, sales manager Middle East, Prysmian Group. Then, came the era where fibre began to be deployed to homes.

“Now with 5G, we’re in the ubiquity era – fibre will be everywhere,” Cruces said.

The rise of fibre and 5G means the cities of tomorrow are being shaped by these technological developments.

“Smart cities and smart homes will change our life,” said Dr. Hussam Almasri, smart cities opts and apps committee, Fiber Connect Council MENA. “Smart cities use ICT to improve our quality of life and ensure current and future needs are met in social, economic and environmental aspects.”

Beyond cities, the demand for fibre-based broadband infrastructure has been spurred by a parallel demand for more data from consumers and businesses.

“We see more and more data being transferred and that trend will continue,” Cruces said.

The demand for fibre is there, and it’s increasingly being deployed, but there are still challenges.

“For us, the challenge is now in the infrastructure,” Cruces said.

However, efforts are underway to develop the infrastructure networks across the region. One such case is the joint effort between Alliance International Management (AIM) and the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) who have signed a deal to provide digital infrastructure services in the Middle East using GCCIA fibre optic terrestrial cable system.

The terrestrial fibre cable which spans 1,400 km, will be managed by Alliance Networks giving the company full control and manageability. Additionally, the cable will be interconnected with other regional submarine cables giving access to onward connectivity to Europe and Asia and major regional landing stations.

“The decade long digital creation cycle is here. We’re all going to be very busy. We need faster network rollout, tech that allows that, deep fiberisation – like we have in Expo 2020 Dubai – fibre to service outages, and we need to reduce the cost of network build out,” said Seldon Benjamin, principal solutions architect, STL Technology MEA.

Ultimately, fibre and 5G go hand in hand. And the respective markets are expected to skyrocket over the next few years, proving lucrative opportunities for investors, tech companies and entrepreneurs.

“5G won’t work without fibre,” said Dr. Suleiman Al Hedaithy, a member of the board of directors of the Fiber Connect Council MENA. “And a lot of IoT (Internet of Things) applications won’t work without fibre.”


 Fujairah FZ Fujairah 4442 ,Dubai

     United Arab Emirates

[email protected]


Subscribe our newsletter to get the best stories into your inbox