x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

New hub to boost internet speed

Next year's launch of an internet exchange in the UAE is set to improve the region's relatively poor broadband speeds.

ABU DHABI // The UAE plans to build an internet exchange that could speed up web connections across the Middle East.

Much of the region's internet traffic is routed via Europe, the US and Asia, one reason for the average broadband connection falling well below the global average.

Such rerouting takes "a fraction of a second, but it makes a big difference", Mohamed Al Ghanim, the director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said yesterday.

The regional exchange in the UAE is in the final stages of planning and should launch next year, Mr Al Ghanim said.

The UAE has the region's fastest broadband connectivity, with an average download speed of 3.92 megabits per second (Mbps).

But connections are much slower in countries such as Lebanon, where the average is just 0.3Mbps. The average speed in the Middle East is 1.63Mbps, against a global average of 2.1Mbps, according to a report in July by the internet specialist Akamai Technologies.

Commentators said an internet exchange in the UAE would also reduce the impact on broadband connections when there is a fault in international networks. There have been several instances of service disruption caused by severed undersea cables.

"It should speed up things here," said Dino Wilkinson, a communications specialist and partner at the law firm Norton Rose Middle East.

"Here in the UAE, if we want to go on to the internet, our pages will come from the UK, US or Asia. And so they have much further to travel.

"Speed is one issue, but also you're multiplying the number of problems that could occur."

Mr Wilkinson said it was difficult to estimate the cost of building an internet exchange, but it would constitute a "significant investment".