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Collaboration and synchronization are paving the way for an expected surge in fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections. This expansion of FTTH connections is not only meeting the growing demand for bandwidth-intensive applications but also laying the groundwork for future digital innovation and economic growth. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Dr. Alaa Mousa, CEO at EarthLink Telecommunications and President of Fiber Connect Council MENA, shared his insights on this matter.

Mission of Fiber Connect Council MENA

Fiber Connect Council MENA is a sister organization of SAMENA Council. “We are working together to have the full fiber connectivity needed by other technologies such as 5G, 6G, and others,” stated Dr. Mousa. “We are working together to use technology to enrich the quality of people’s lives in the region.”

Dr. Mousa noted that MENA is an important region in the world, and with this in mind, they aim to have a closer cooperation to “align things together” between the two councils. Regarding the Fiber Connect Council MENA's objectives, he highlighted their focus on addressing “the requirements of the increased demand on bandwidth and capacities from the mobile industry.” Having said that, Dr. Mousa expressed his optimism, stating that “the region is going in the right way,” as they continue to harmonize efforts and promote collaboration.

At present, there are five countries in the region that are growing very fast in terms of fiber connectivity: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Algeria. Dr. Mousa outlined that the Fiber Connect Council MENA is “expecting more than 10 million household connections during 2024, only from these five countries.”

He mentioned that each country in the region has special challenges and needs in the fiber area but “alignment between them is very important.”

Rising Demand for Fiber Connectivity

In today's world, it's evident that there is a proliferation of new technologies and applications. Dr. Mousa cited that “5G, and the upcoming 6G, is opening the doors for real-time systems.” Indeed, digital transformation is progressing rapidly throughout the region.

The executive also cited other verticals, such as augmented reality (AR), which is now integrated with AI technologies, and video streaming. “This put all operators under pressure of requesting more and more capacities,” he pointed out. “That's why the fiber infrastructure is a vital part of the technology today.”

According to the latest figures, there was a worldwide increase of over 20% in fiber demand last year, and Dr. Mousa, speaking on behalf of the council, believes that this trend will persist. “That's why we need more capacities [and] more robust fiber networks to support these technologies and fulfill these requirements.”

A Testament to Fiber Success: UAE and Iraq

When asked about the role of fiber connectivity in response to national visions, Dr. Mousa highlighted that “there is a real need for aligning things between the countries of the region.” He specifically focused on two countries: The UAE and Iraq.

As the CEO of EarthLink, the largest operator in Iraq, he explained that they “need more and more capacities,” and there is a “huge demand to deploy new fiber networks.”

Dr. Mousa emphasized that Iraq is currently in the process of building its fiber network and infrastructure to reach every single home. Additionally, he highlighted Iraq's strategic position as a bridge between the Gulf region and Europe, facilitated by terrestrial transit links. “This puts Iraq in a special place regarding the transit traffic,” added Dr. Mousa.

In comparison, regarding the fiber connectivity to end users, the UAE stands as a world leader with more than 99% FTTH penetration in the country. The UAE also acts as a hub for international traffic. “Both countries can work together to be the bridge between Gulf countries and have the traffic capacities from the Far East, to Europe through UAE, Iraq, and Turkey on the terrestrial link.”

Following the success of delivering fiber connectivity to every single home in the UAE, EarthLink has established a strong partnership with e& UAE. This collaboration extends to a joint venture with the e& Academy, aimed at leveraging the successful experience of delivering FTTH services in the UAE for mutual benefit.

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