As more telcos in the Middle East and Africa prepare to launch IPTV services, and others move past phase 1 of their deployment, the region's pay-TV industry appears to be undergoing a considerable change. While IPTV and cable TV remain youthful platforms in the MEA region at present, many telcos are investing substantial amounts in their broadband networks, in line with government drives to keep ahead of the ICT curve, and regulatory barriers are starting to fall and content production values to increase. According to a recent report from the Arab Advisors Group, there were six countries in the MENA region offering IPTV services as of May 2009 (Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and the UAE), compared to four service providers in three countries in August 2007. There are also thought to be ongoing or planned projects by service providers and/or governments in seven other countries in the region which would enable the future launch of IPTV — Bahrain, Egypt*, Kuwait, Oman, Tunisia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia**.
Another recent report from Informa Telecoms & Media states that while IPTV is at present a "minor" platform in the MENA region, it is growing quickly, assisted by a number of factors: an ongoing overhaul of outdated media legislation, a youthful demographic skew in many countries, which minimizes the barriers to new technologies being accepted, and the rise of devoted media zones such as Dubai Media City, which is having a favourable effect on content production values in the region. To this we can add the readiness of many telcos to invest in their broadband networks: UAE telco Etisalat meanwhile was recently reported as nearing completion of its city-wide FTTH network in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, fellow UAE telco du recently concluded an AED 100mn (US$ 27.23mn) investment in upgrading its IP-based core network, enabling the telco to offer some of the fastest Internet speeds in the Middle East, as well as HD IPTV services.
As these and other developments pick up speed and weight, the IPTV Forum Middle East & Africa event will once again tackle the big issues facing the region's IPTV industry, as well as giving regional players the chance to learn from each other and from other IPTV operators from further afield. This year's IPTV Forum MEA will be held in Dubai's Jumeirah Hotel once again, on November 15th to 16th. The exhibition will be free to attend for all visitors, while delegates from Asia and Africa will also gain free entry to the conference sessions. There will additionally be a focus on the Indian IPTV market on Day 2 (November 16th) of the event, featuring speakers from Indian IPTV operators such as MTNL and Bharti Airtel, and from the IPTV India Forum.