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19 July 2021

How are MENA OTTs facing CDN and payment gateway challenges?

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During the BroadcastPro Tech Summit that streamed live over two days, between 14-15 June 2021, one panel under the title “OTT – The Technical Journey to Enhance the User experience” discussed CDNs and payment gateways for OTT platforms.

Panelists Salloum El Dahdaah, CEO White Peaks Solutions, Bachir Boumediene, Director Streaming & IPTV – Telcosm Partnerships MENA, OSN, Barry Mehdizadeh, CTO Mawarid Media & Communications Group, and moderator Suhail Ahmed, CEO One Diversified FZ LLC shared insights and explained their strategies to bypass several hinders OTT platforms face in this perspective. 

Barry Mehdizadeh noted that addressing the CDNs topic in our part of the world is drastically different from other regions given that connectivity issues still prevail. AWS and Azure are setting up their pops in the Middle East which is a much-needed step in solving OTTs problems. As for the payment gateway issue, Barry said they built a mediation layer. A full layer they can connect to different B2B or B2C solutions to cover different gateways from credit card to DCB.

Elaborating on the payment topic, Bachir Boumediene explained that the most prominent challenge in MENA is collection. Cash mostly drives the economy in the region and the ability to enable digital payment is still not at the required level. “At OSN we addressed this challenge just like most of the players by widening the type of interconnections used. Aside from Google, Apple stores, and credit cards we are looking at collaborating with telecoms. We are also starting to experiment with vouchers especially when it comes to B2B partners in the market”, he noted.

On the CDN part, Bachir highlighted that the business case is not extensively established internally yet. He added that for players extremely vested in their Ramadan season with high peaks of consumption, a CDN might be a plausible tool to manage the load concentrated at a very specific time of the year. However, the reality of the MENA market is in fact that there are two markets. The GCC ahead of everyone else in terms of structure and connectivity and the emerging countries where massive opportunities await but with great connectivity issues playing against the user experience. For OSN the primary market is GCC and the CDN is not a challenge there.

For Salloum El Dahdaah, CEO of White Peaks Solutions, the real challenge in the region is mentality rather than technology. “We all know how to make an endpoint and achieve a good quality of service. However, we are still treating the internet as a luxury commodity. For instance, a 10 G port in Europe would cost us around 1.5K $/month whereas in the region the the price of the 2mbps ip transit without the fees of datacenters and logistics costs around 25$”, he noted.

Mr. El Dahdaah explained that his company established a turnaround by using the multiCDN approach via installing different pops integrated with tier1 CDNs. “A week ago one of the biggest CDN providers in the world was down and took down many prominent websites. The same happened a year ago with another major providers who went down for 8 hours. Even giant platforms face tech issues and downtime. Hence, what we like to see in the region is an IX. There is an IX in the UAE but not a native GCC IX, i.e. one IX to access all of the GCC ISPs. When we reach that point we will be able to provide excellent quality of service with reduced cost for CDN providers, users, and OTT platforms”, Salloum highlighted.

The wrap-up of the discussion was with Suhail Ahmed who confirmed that a cash-on-delivery model similar to what retail and e-commerce platforms use, is pivotal to the success of any payment gateway solution in the region. 

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