The communications sector plays an active role in accelerating economic and social development in developing countries. It reduces production costs by making information rapidly available. This also helps improve marketing operations and reduces the need for physical transmission, thus easing transportation and communication congestion. It also produces other positive social effects. The Arab Fund gave the joint communications projects great importance in the eighties, with the aim to create good international communications networks.
First: The Arab Fund's Contributions
Up to the seventies, communications among Arab countries were only possible via low-grade high frequency networks, or through the International Space Network of the International Organization (INTELSAT), which was mostly routed indirectly through Europe or the United States, due to the lack of or limited number of communications links among the neighboring Arab States. Therefore, the Arab Fund, since its inception, has worked with the International Telecommunication Union, both financially and technically, to establish an integrated plan for the Arab Communications in 1976, and has designed a practical program to implement this plan. The Arab Fund participated in financing most of the projects included in this plan, as well as, some other projects which were not included, however subsequently, emerged as a result to the increasing usage of telephones and other communications, accompanied by the increase in the economic and social convergence among Arab states. The Arab Fund also participated in the three types of media that are used in international communications, namely: ground networks (microwave lines or ground cables), satellite networks (Arab sat) and marine cable networks, which are connected by copper links or fiber-optics. Figure (1) shows the Arab Fund's contributions in the joint communications projects, compared to its total contributions in the development of the communications sector. This figure shows how the contributions reached their highest value towards the end of the seventies and early eighties, in addition to the Arab Fund's financing to the communications sector, since 1989 onwards, which was limited to financing regional communication projects.
The Arab Fund's contributions was targeted the following main areas:
1. Providing technical assistance to finance the studies carried out by the International Telecommunication Union, to develop strategies for enhancing the communications sector in most Arab countries.
2. Providing technical assistance for planning and organizing frequency bands in the Gulf States, which reduces any possible interference of radio signals in different countries.
3. Contributing towards financing ground stations in ten Arab countries, and linking them with the Arab satellite "Arab sat."
4. Contributing towards financing several projects regarding microwave networks, as well as, marine and ground cables, to connect the communications networks covering Arab countries.
5. Using ground wires containing fiber-optic cables, to link the electrical networks, in order to take advantage of these cables to transfer international telephone traffic among the associated Arab states.
The projects financed by the Arab Fund, have led to the increase in telephone traffic and improved communications services among Arab countries. Most of these projects are still in service and represent the backbone of international communications in the Arab World.
The Arab Fund's Participations in the Joint Communications Projects Covering the Arab Countries During the Period (1974-2008)
Second : Examples of Communication Projects
The Arab Fund contributed to the financing of communications network covering Arab countries. The network consists of seven projects. The first project aims to link communications network covering Morocco and Algeria, and a central cable extending from Rabat - Morocco to Tlemcen - Algeria. The project was completed in 1978.
The second project aims to link communications network covering Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, by a central cable between Al-Qaem - Iraq and Tadmur - Syria. It also includes a microwave link-network, extending from Amman - Jordan to the Jordanian- Egyptian borders and the Jordanian - Saudi borders. The project was completed in 1984.
The third project aims to link communications network covering Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, by a microwave network, extending from Hargeisa - Somalia to Djibouti, across Taiz and Aden in Yemen, reaching the Yemeni-Saudi borders, with the capacity of 1920 telephone channels. The project, which was completed in 1986, has strengthened the international communications network covering these countries.
The fourth project aims to link communications network covering Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, by a network of grand cable with the capacity of 8100 telephone circuits, and a microwave network with the capacity of 2880 telephone circuits, extending from Tlemcen - Algeria to the capital of Tunisia, across Gabes to the Tunisian-Libyan border. The project was completed in 1986, linking the Arab Maghreb countries with a modern communications network, and improving the standard of communication services among these countries.
The fifth project aims to link communications network covering the Arab countries via the Arab satellite (Arab sat), by establishing ground stations in Mauritania, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. The project was completed in 1987, linking the 10 mentioned Arab countries to a satellite communications network, complementary to the ground communications network, to be used when the former is out of order.
The sixth project aims to link communications network covering Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, by a submarine cable extending from Manama to Doha throughout Dubai. The project was completed n 1989.
The final project aims to link communications network covering various countries (14 countries), among which are seven Arab countries, including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Yemen and Syria. The project consists of two cables, one made of copper that works on an analogue system, while the other is made of fiber-optics that works on a digital system and runs throughout the mentioned countries. The project was completed in 1995, and achieved a major development in the volume and quality of international telephone communications among the countries connected by the submarine cables.