Middle East telcos are looking into an ambitious plan to challenge the social networking giant Facebook as well as other Western-based Internet titans, by creating an online-platform to tap and serve the Arab region. Gulf operators, along with affiliate companies are proposing the social media project, to diversify sources for revenue.
Middle Eastern telecommunications firms spend on the construction of expensive communications networks to meet increased data traffic brought by the proliferation of mobile applications, only to earn from what they charge in the access of these networks. All the while, Internet platforms like Facebook take up the largest shares in the revenue from traffic. This frustration is seen by analysts as the compelling force behind the plans to enter into the online platform industry.
However, the plan faces huge challenges - both technically and financially. Many online ventures by telecom firms in other parts of the globe had been unsuccessful. Google, Facebook, even Apple and Twitter are established companies with the technological-know-how. Challenging them appears to be a daunting task. Still, backers of the project believe that telcos in the Arab states can take advantage of the region’s common language, spoken by a staggering 350 million people.
The online platform will offer not only a new social media avenue but also an online space for shopping, and the purchasing of digital content. Other analysts are skeptical operators can make the transition to digital media and Internet services. Internet behemoths are already meeting the demand. Based on statistics from social media reports, almost 45.2 million users in the Middle East are already on Facebook.
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