Khalid Al Awadhi
The British University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
There has been global recognition of ICT’s contribution to human progress. ICT is identified as an essential component in all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as outlined by the United Nations (UN) (ITU 2021; Lythreatis, El-Kassar & Singh 2022). Despite this, almost half of the people around the world do not have Internet access (Henri 2020, p. 2), leading to the so-called “digital divide”. The challenge of the digital divide has different levels (Lythreatis, El-Kassar & Singh 2022). As it could refer to the absence of connectivity, it could also refer to poor Quality of Service (QoS) (Montenegro & Araral 2020).
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) enjoys globally recognized excellent internet connectivity, and the UAE’s mobile internet is rated one of the best in the world (Alshurideh et al. 2019; Kurdi et al. 2020; Ookla 2021). Nevertheless, there are still some underserved markets in the UAE that require better connectivity solutions (Alshurideh, Al Kurdi & Salloum 2019; Al-Hamad et al. 2021). Looking at the current connectivity options in the UAE, it is recognized that connectivity through satellites is generally not widespread, as connectivity through the current geostationary (GSO) satellites has many disadvantages over standard terrestrial connectivity (Lin et al., 2021; Nuseir et al., 2021). Nowadays, we are witnessing significant growth in non-geostationary (NGSO) satellite communications, with capabilities comparable to terrestrial connectivity resulting from sophisticated technological developments. Looking at the expected significant role of connectivity in rolling out use cases of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), global initiatives started to evolve to provide broadband connectivity through NGSO satellites (Del Portillo, Cameron & Crawley 2019).
This study aims at assessing the acceptance of consumers in the UAE of satellite broadband. Since the advancement in satellite technologies has brought satellite services much closer to the usual services provided by terrestrial service providers, it became inevitable that satellite broadband is to be considered to provide appropriate communication services in underserved markets in the UAE.
To conduct our assessment, we used the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as the theoretical basis of our work. We considered the effect of the primary two independent variables in the model, perceived usefulness (PU) and perceived ease of use (PEU). In addition, we included innovativeness (INN) as a variable based on the literature review and satisfaction with current services (SAT) as another variable based on existing knowledge about the UAE market. Hypotheses were established regarding the effect of the four factors on consumer behavior (BI) towards using satellite broadband. Also, a hypothesis was established regarding the effect of PEU on PU. The hypotheses of the study were as follows, and the conceptual model in this study can be seen in Figure (1).
- H1: Perceived Usefulness will positively influence the UAE population’s intention to use satellite broadband
- H2: Perceived Ease of Use will positively influence the UAE population’s intention to use satellite broadband
- H3: Perceived Ease of Use will positively influence UAE population’s Perceived Usefulness of satellite broadband
- H4: Innovativeness will positively influence the UAE population’s intention to use satellite broadband
- H5: Satisfaction with current services will negatively influence the UAE population’s intention to use satellite broadband
The developed questionnaire included 24 questions related to the model’s constructs, the current service providers, and respondents’ demographics. 146 respondents completed the survey questionnaire.
Accordingly, we constructed the model and tested it using the appropriate tools. All the hypotheses were supported by the conducted test, except the effect of SAT on BI. It was found that the model is acceptable for the assessment of UAE consumer’s acceptance of satellite broadband. From the analysis of survey results and model tests, we could draw recommendations on how to support a smooth introduction of NGSO satellite broadband into the UAE market.
It is recommended that before introducing the services into the UAE market, tailored advertising campaigns should be conducted. In order to demonstrate the usefulness, the campaigns could, for example, focus on how the NGSO broadband services can be used wherever the user is in the UAE, even in remote and rural areas. They could also demonstrate the sufficient connectivity speed and reliability of the service. Also, to demonstrate the ease of use, the campaigns could, for example, focus on how easy it is to set up and install the required user terminals to establish the service. Finally, to demonstrate innovativeness, the campaigns could, as an example, shed more light on the space sector and its importance to the UAE. A good strategy could be to link the NGSO satellite broadband service to the major achievements made in the UAE in the space sector. Also, the campaigns could show the fact that NGSO satellite broadband is considered the latest technological advancement in satellite connectivity.
An attempt was also made to analyze the difference in BI for different genders and age groups. The result of such analysis would assist in identifying the target audience of any advertising campaigns for the new services. The results showed that gender and age group do not significantly affect people’s intention to use the new services. Therefore, it is recommended that any advertising campaign should be general to the UAE population and should not be only targeted to specific gender or age group.
It is recognized that the current services and performance of existing service providers in the UAE have been previously criticized (Salama 2020). However, this study showed that our hypothesis for the relation between satisfaction with current services and the UAE population’s intention to use satellite broadband is not supported. Therefore, it is expected that attempts to improve satisfaction with existing services will not affect introducing the new services.
Finally, it is recommended that future research expand the acceptance model by looking at other variables that could affect people’s intention to use the service. Also, future research could be done after introducing the service into the UAE market to introduce the actual system use into the model and conduct a chronological study to link it with the existing model.
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Khalid Al Awadhi
The British University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Khalid Alawadhi received the B.Sc degree from the American University in Sharjah in 2003, and the M.Sc degree from the University of Leeds in 2004. He is currently working at the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he held various positions in spectrum management and international affairs. He is currently responsible for regulating broadcasting and space radio services.
He is involved with the work of the International Telecommunications Union, participating at various study group meetings and all the World Radio Conferences since 2007. He became the Chairman of the UAE National Committee for World Radiocommunication Conferences since 2015. He is a member of the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG), heading the UAE delegation and holding various chairmanship positions related to Space Services.
He was the Chapter Rapporteur for Chapter 5 “Satellite Regulatory Issues” of WRC-15, and then the Chairman of Committee 5 during WRC-15. Khalid was the Chairman of the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM19) for the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19). He is currently continuing a Professional DBA program at the British University in Dubai.
 A full version of this article has been published in the International Journal of Data and Network Science 6 (2022). 1459–1470