March 17, 2021—The RIPE NCC previously published a series of Internet country reports on Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Southeast Europe, and Central Asia. The latest report produced by the RIPE NCC in this series examines the Internet landscape in eight countries in the Gulf region, focussing on the Internet landscape in the GCC countries, Yemen and Iraq, as part of an ongoing effort to support Internet development through our service region by making our data and insights available to local technical communities and decision-makers.
The report gives a detailed outlook on the market development, infrastructure, and Internet routing within the region as well as the available Internet address resources in the following countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The analyses and results are based on data collected by the RIPE NCC measurements tools and a few external data sources.
Growth in Local Internet Registries (LIRs)
The report shows that Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and even Kuwait have shown significant growth over the past decade in establishing local networks. The report indicates that Iraq overtook the GCC countries with the most Local Internet Registries (LIRs). On the other hand, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Yemen have experienced far less growth, with some even decreasing their number of LIRs.
The number of private networks (ASNs) in a given country is one indication of market maturity. These networks encourage interconnection, offer security and increase resiliency in the market. As more service providers enter the domestic market, this will drive down costs and increase innovation – all of which support the long-term health of the local Internet ecosystem.
Demand for connectivity and depletion of IPv4
Mobile Internet connectivity has had a faster growth and penetration rate than fixed broadband in the Gulf, given the region's high reliance on mobile access. The region has some of the highest mobile subscriptions per capita in the world in many of the Gulf countries.
As more and more organizations scrambled to get access to internet networks, demand for IPv4 in the region increased with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and other countries acquiring more IPv4 addresses from the secondary market. Saudi Arabia is the most dominant of the Gulf countries in the transfer market followed by the United Arab Emirates, the report indicates.
Need for IPv6 deployment
Despite IPv4's dwindling availability and its increasing cost on the secondary market, many countries in the Gulf region continue to struggle with IPv6 deployment. Although Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have substantially increased their IPv6 holdings in recent years, there are vast differences when it comes to actual deployment rates. The UAE leads the region in IPv6 deployment followed by Saudi Arabia.
Dependency on International Internet exchange points (IXPs)
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of Internet exchange points (IXPs) in the Gulf region with Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates each having at least one operational IXP.
While some Gulf countries lead the world in indicators such as mobile penetration and Internet speeds, the region lags far behind, with most traffic being sent far outside the region. Providers in the Gulf region prefer International IXPs such as in Amsterdam and Frankfurt, with traffic being sent across distant locations rather than making use of regional IXPs. These detours generally increase costs for the network operator and, more importantly, the additional distance travelled unnecessarily increases the risk of disruptions.
Protecting data and networks
Routing security could be greatly improved in the region by adopting the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), a digital certificate that helps network operators make more secure routing decisions.
The report calls mobile operators and Internet service providers to certify their Internet number resources and share best current operational practices around routing security in general in order to better safeguard the Internet and reduce the risk of hack. There is a need for open diverse markets that allow for greater connectivity, multiple access points, and increased choice in service providers.