Corroborating the Need for Advancing ICT Infrastructure in the SAMENA Region

Corroborating the Need for Advancing ICT Infrastructure in the SAMENA Region

By Bocar A. BA, CEO of SAMENA Telecommunications Council

The world’s remaining 47% population is still unconnected Migration to IPv6 and IPv6+ will prove to be absolutely essential for removing connectivity constraints and bandwidth bottlenecks.

Digital transformation enabled by mobility, cloud and broadband technologies is taking place in almost every industry, reinforcing the need for us to re-think ICT infrastructure development. SAMENA Telecommunications Council is tri-regional (South Asia/ Middle East/ North Africa) not-for-profit industry association spanning more than 25 countries. In our growing, hyper-connected world, about to experience fifth-generation communications technologies, the Telecoms Industry holds an ever more important position as the key enabler of innovation and convenience. The Industry’s enabling role has become very visible in multiple dimensions of the society’s progress toward digital development and digital inclusion; an imperative that has now been extensively defined by regional governments through their ICT visions.

The digital ecosystem is complex and, with the fourth industrial revolution in play, it is constantly evolving at a fast pace. Seen from a 50,000 foot layer, these are the forces that are driving digital transformation within and all around the Telecom/ICT landscape.

  • IoT ecosystem is getting developed, and COVID has played its role in it.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) have become among the most familiar of terms (and images) as well as ICT policy catalysts all around the world.
  • Internet traffic is seeing an exponential rise, contributed in part by the use of Social Media platforms.
  • And it all comes down to a realization that we need to future-proof our connectivity, for which we need Fiber. As the demand for the Internet of Things increases and the amount of HD content including videos and a large amount of data generated and transmitted rises, it is becoming more and more evident that the need for bandwidth and speed will increase too.

    Many countries in the region now have well-defined national ICT visions and plans are being implemented to infuse ICTs across the board into each dimension of the national economy. These visions are already proving that countries that take ICT policy measures soon than later, secure for themselves and their citizens a better future. Some notable regional national visions are the UAE Vision 2021, the Saudi Vision 2030, Bahrain 2030, and Kuwait Vision 2035, among others.

    Implications and necessities of digital transformation

    It’s crucial to recognize and acknowledge the implications and necessities of digital transformation. Let’s look at and agree on the ground realities and challenges.

    • The world's population is close to 7.7 billion people, and the remaining 47% population is still unconnected. “Connecting the unconnected” is a challenge.
    • COVID-19 has accelerated hyper-connectedness such as human and machine online presence, causing huge data pressures on wireline infrastructure. The economic contraction currently being seen due to COVID demands ICTs to play a greater role in the recovery process and in ensuring sustainability of the socio-economic order.
    • Depletion of the pool of unallocated IPv4 addresses is on the rise. Almost forty years after the IP version 4 protocol came into practice, our systems, goals, global agenda, and ways of working all have transformed.
    • Global aims for sustainable development are complex and require accelerated pace of fulfillment over the next 10 years.
    • Therefore, questions we need to ask ourselves, what could be the ICT-driven ways to deal with these ground realities and challenges? How to fill the gaps in ICT infrastructure?

      Considerations for digital inclusion and sustainable digital economy

      As a priority, we need to accelerate investment in ICT infrastructure and advance higher-speed, reliable wireline infrastructure based on Fiber. Data integrity, reliable long-distance transmission, and higher bandwidths are the hallmarks of fiber networks. Optical fiber has played a vital role in making possible the remarkable growth in global communications that has taken place in the last 25 years. For the coming decades, Fiber will again be instrumental in delivering innovation in many sectors that now increasingly rely on ICTs and collaborate with telecom operators, supporting new technologies. Fiber will make Ultra-fast broadband and IoT and advanced smart technologies possible, and will be necessary for achieving the Digital Inclusion and Global Digital Connectivity imperatives.

      We need to embark on a collaborated journey to IPv6 adoption to address hyper-connectedness related requirements, and stimulate further acceleration with IPv6 enhanced innovations (also known as IPv6+). As IPv4 exhaustion becomes more and more imminent, network operators across the globe are taking a closer look at transitioning to IPv6. IPv6 has a capacity of 2 ^ 128 addresses and thus will help materialize our dream of having billions of devices connected. The forecasts that point to billions of devices being connected, in fact, really points to the necessity of having IPv6 in place. IPv6 permits broader access, supports business growth, and opens the door to new services.

      Given that significant positive impact on the implementation of digital transformation in the region will be driven by advanced Physical networks and next-gen IP Protocols, several considerations are to be mindful:

      For the Public Sector. Digital transformation must be understood clearly. Along with incentivizing Fiber deployment, governments should play their role in driving adoption of IPv6. Policymakers and regulators should incentivize investments and help future-proof both Physical Infrastructure and Cloud Infrastructure investments.

      For the Private Sector. Build consensus on approaches to develop ICT infrastructure in non-economical zones and to implement IPv6 as smoothly as possible. Driven with the collaboration of government entities and TRAs, fiber deployment can be accelerated, and transition towards IPv6 can be catalyzed. New funding models may be necessary to fund Fiber deployment and IPv6 transition.

      For moving to the next phase and stimulate innovations, IPv6 and IPv6+, with its promise of automated and committed next-gen networking, will prove to be absolutely essential in removing connectivity and bandwidth bottlenecks, while allowing for further stimulation of digital innovation across industries and how those industries elevate the end-user experience.