UAE Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Pay Up to 5 Times More for Broadband Access Than Their Global Peers

Sunday, November 15, 2015
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The embrace of the Smart City concept is a key cornerstone of the UAE’s national development policy. Strong government commitment has been made to the use of Information and communications technology (ICT) to transform life and work in the UAE in fundamental ways. These investments in human capital and ICT infrastructure are expected to generate sustainable economic growth as well as lead to a higher quality of life.

Developing an affordable, high-speed communications network as an infrastructure backbone to enable smart cities has long been an objective of the UAE government. In 2006, the General Policy for the Telecommunications Sector in the State of the United Arab Emirates set out the goal of providing universal, affordable access to ICT services. Though the UAE has not set specific targets for ICT access and use at the national level or specific targets for gender equity, evidence suggests that the UAE is targeting 100% access for all individuals. Based on a recent household survey conducted by the UAE Telecom Regulatory Authority, 99% of UAE nationals have mobile phones, 95% of households have computers, and 84% of households have an internet connection. These statistics point towards a universally high level of ICT access and use in the UAE with sufficient resources and will to achieve full national ICT penetration.

Broadband Affordability is An Emerging Policy Imperative

While nearly universal internet access has been achieved, an additional imperative for public leaders remains ensuring affordability. This challenge is particularly critical in enabling entrepreneurship and ensuring the global competitiveness of the nation’s small and medium-sized businesses. In a global comparison of the prices of entry-level fiber broadband packages for small and medium-sized businesses, Tahseen Consulting’s analysis shows that UAE businesses are being charged significantly more than small and medium-sized businesses globally.

Global Comparison of Entry-level Fiber Broadband Packages for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Doing Business RankingCountryCompanyPackageDownload SpeedCost per monthData Limit
1SingaporeSingteleVolve for SMEs30 Mbps$69.70Unlimited
2New ZealandSparkBasic Business12 Mbps$52.11200 GB
3DenmarkTDCTDC BizBase15 Mbps$43.06Unlimited
4KoreaSK BroadbandOptical LAN100 Mbps$28.62Unlimited
5Hong KongHong Kong Telecom@Work Broadband30 Mbps$38.45100 GB
6UKBritish TelecomBT Infinity Unlimited38 Mbps$48.16Unlimited
7United StatesComcastStarter16 Mbps$69.95Unlimited
8SwedenTeliaTelia Office10 Mbps$57.21Unlimited
9NorwayTelenorBroadband Enterprise6 Mbps$40.27Unlimited
10FinlandSoneraSmall BusinessUp to 200 Mbps$37.60Unlimited

An analysis of entry-level fiber broadband packages for small and medium-sized businesses in the top 10 highest ranking countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking shows that the average price per megabyte of download speed is $3.61 (excluding Korea and Finland which have national broadband policies that have promoted extremely fast broadband access at prices that are far cheaper than global comparators). At an average price per megabyte of download speed of approximately $18, the common entry-level fiber broadband packages offered in the UAE to small and medium-sized businesses cost 5 times more than similar packages offered in the leading countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking. Businesses in the UAE also pay up to 2 times more than similar broadband packages offered to residential consumers.

Making Broadband More Affordable for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

The price of broadband access for small and medium-sized businesses is critical to realizing the UAE’s smart city ambitions as well as enabling the nation’s entrepreneurs to compete effectively on a global scale. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), increased competition is an effective mechanism to lower prices. ITU research shows that   duopolies lead to limited price competition which can reduce prices, but markets with more than three licensed operators experience the greatest falls in prices. Policy makers can also address affordability by regular monitoring, price regulation, and tiered services that ensure the revenue maximization objectives of telecom operators are aligned with broader national development strategies. Based on an international benchmark average price per megabyte of download speed of $3.61, implied monthly fees for entry-level broadband services for small and medium-sized businesses which would align the UAE with the most business friendly countries globally are shown below.

Implied Monthly Fee Schedule for Entry-Level Broadband Packages for Small and Medium-sized Businesses Based on International Benchmarks

Download/Upload SpeedImplied Monthly Fee (AED)
10Mbps/2MbpsAED 132.49
12 Mbps/3 MbpsAED 158.98
20Mbps/5MbpsAED 264.97
24 Mbps/6 MbpsAED 317.97
40Mbps/10MbpsAED 529.95
50 Mbps/12 MbpsAED 662.44
60Mbps/15MbpsAED 794.92
72 Mbps/20 MbpsAED 953.91
100 Mbps/25 MbpsAED 1,324.87

What’s At Stake

There are a growing number of SMEs using ICT to establish and grow their businesses. The UAE is the home to several ICT-based startups in the fields of internet search, employment, group buying, payment gateways, online retail, and real estate. While national studies such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor have quantified the approximate rate of entrepreneurship and employment impact in the UAE, they have not focused specifically on the additionally of ICT-based businesses on economic growth and employment generation.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that the UAE has one of the lowest rates of total entrepreneurship activity of innovation-driven economies, and only 2.3% of new ventures are medium-tech or high technology ventures. Only 14% of entrepreneurial ventures created more than 20 jobs. These rather incomplete statistics suggest that the majority of firms in the UAE do not leverage ICT as the basis for their businesses, and the low number of such technology-driven ventures may not have a significant impact on employment creation without more focused government support. A good place to start is increasing affordability of entry level broadband packages to support the nation’s emerging entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Sources for Pricing Information
Singtel (Singapore): https://smemobile.bizportal.singtel.com/business/broadband/index.jsf
Spark (New Zealand): http://www.spark.co.nz/business/shop/internet/plans-and-pricing.html
TDC (Denmark): https://erhverv.tdc.dk/loesninger/internetabonnementer
Comcast (United States): http://business.comcast.com/internet/business-internet/plans-pricing
SK Telecom (South Korea): https://biz.skbroadband.com/data/data/Page.do?retUrl=/data/data/OpticLan
Hong Kong (Hong Kong Telecom): http://www.biz.netvigator.com/eng/bc_at_work_broadband_services.php
United Kingdom (British Telecom): http://business.bt.com/broadband-and-internet/fibre-broadband/
Sweden (Telia): http://www.telia.se/foretag/losningar/produkter/telia-kontor?intcmp=foretag-telia-kontor-host2015
Norway (Telenor): http://www.telenor.no/bedrift/bredband/
Finland (Sonera): https://www.sonera.fi/yrityksille/tuotteet+ja+palvelut/internetyhteys+toimistoon/yritysinternet/
UAE (DU): http://www.du.ae/smallbusiness/fixed/broadband/broadband-professionals
UAE (Etisalat): http://www.etisalat.ae/en/business/products-and-services/products/internetdata/business-super-overview.jsp

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