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A State of Cloud #065 – Will Iran be the new Digital ruler of the Middle East ? Article


Marco van den Akker

Marco van den Akker

By  Marco van den Akker, Cloud Evangelist, A State of Cloud

When we talk about the Middle East, we first think of Saudi Arabia or Dubai (part of the UAE) as leading country in digitization. When it comes to security we are aware that the majority of the companies have their roots in Israel. To use their own words; Israel is constantly under attack, so we have learned how to defend ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Israel as much as I love any other country in the Middle East. Israel have brought us many good things, in several ways, Sport (Krav Maga) as well Technology or Fruit and maintain a historical ancient cultural heritage. But it’s also the country which in my mind has played the aggressor role to maintain their current status. At the West Bank and Palestine, you have also many good IT companies with a drive to make a move from the medieval to the current technology era.

“Iran has rolled out a very promising road map for the future when it comes to moving into the digital era”

For many years, we hadn’t seen anything from Iran, until a couple of years ago, when the smartest people in the world came together and said to each other, ‘We should stop fighting, start talking.’ And the economic sanctions on Iran have being lifted. Up to that moment, we thought that Iran was a country where nothing is possible and the religious police are key. And of course this is still true, but it is also true that Iran has rolled out a very promising road map for the future when it comes to moving into the digital era.

Iran – statistics in millions

  • Population = 78
  • Households = 19
  • Fixed phone lines = 28
  • Fixed Broadband lines = 8
  • Fixed Broadband penetration = 29%
  • Mobile subs = 103
  • Mobile Broadband subs = 12
  • Mobile Broadband penetration = 15%

Examples of previous/present challenges in the Middle Eastern market

  • Sanctions related – payments, importation of equipment, collaboration with foreign companies
  • Implied cap on connection speed – 256 Kbps
  • No procurement ability to purchase IRUs only Leases
  • Slowing down the internet with heavy web filtering, VPNs
  • Most popular applications are banned – facebook, youtube etc
  • Internal backbone limitations
  • Fragmented fixed telecom sector – 34 regional fixed telecoms
  • Religion vs technology – 3G being against moral standards
  • Building an independent internet network (not connected to the global internet)

Developments creating opportunities

  • Regulator becoming more active
  • New 3G players – mobile broadband expansion
  • Fixed consolidation – new FCP licenses
  • MVNO licenses to be issue – international players are invited
  • Development of the backbone and the international connectivity market
  • Initiatives supporting service innovation – CDN, Internet hub

The West and the South Route from Iran

Traffic destined for Europe is balanced between the West route (through Turkey/Russia) and the Subsea South Route

Transit opportunity – balancing the traffic flows

As we have seen, there is a lot of opportunity for Telco’s in that slipstream we could encourage Cloud Providers (IaaS) to open locations to service this new market.

Share your thoughts on the above in the comment section below, or tweet me at @Marcozelf to discuss this further.

note: A big thank to IvanSkenderoski of Salience Consulting for sharing his graphics to support this episode.


About the author, Marco van den Akker is Cloud Evangelist at A State of CloudA State of Cloud is published every Monday. A State of Cloud is the view of the author, but feel free to comment on the topics or contribute your view on it. Please find overview of the latest posts at  


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