Due to its central location, the Middle East has long been an important digital corridor for traffic passing between Europe and Asia. More recently, it’s emerged as an important digital traffic destination in its own right. In particular, the Dubai metro has all the hallmarks of a growing digital hub: a highly connected population, a government that prioritizes digital innovation and investments from some of the biggest names in the technology industry.
The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study published by Equinix, forecasts that interconnection bandwidth in Dubai will grow at a five-year CAGR of 50%, a clear sign that the metro’s rapid digital development will continue in the years to come. In fact, the GXI found that Dubai will be the fastest-growing digital metro in the EMEA region, and among the fastest-growing in the world.
It’s not hard to see where this demand comes from: global enterprises are excited about the digital opportunities the Middle East presents, and Dubai is the ideal place for them to start capitalizing on those opportunities.
Dubai is a digital success story, but the best is yet to come
Both the federal government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the emirate government of Dubai have made it a priority to diversify away from an oil-based economy, and they’re investing heavily in the latest digital technologies to help make that happen. Between 2022 and 2031, the UAE intends to double the percentage of its national GDP driven by the digital economy. This would mean creating a digital sector worth more than $100 billion annually.
With the government setting such ambitious goals—and backing up those goals with financial support—it’s no surprise to see digital growth in Dubai across a number of different use cases.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has one of the fastest-growing gaming markets in the world. Gaming revenue in the MENA-3 countries—the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—is forecast to reach $2.79 billion by 2026, up 56% from 2022. Analysts expect that this growth will ultimately see the region become a leading global esports market, alongside places like Singapore and China.
Connected vehicles/smart transportation
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been pioneers in deploying autonomous taxis, commonly known as robotaxis. Abu Dhabi’s successful robotaxi pilot in 2021 was the first of its kind in the Middle East. Dubai has announced its own robotaxi trials for 2023 and plans to have 4,000 autonomous vehicles on the roads by 2030.
The UAE launched its Strategy for Artificial Intelligence back in 2017, making AI a central component of its digital economy plans. More recently, the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), in partnership with Microsoft and Digital Dubai, released a comprehensive study to identify the opportunities and challenges to AI adoption in Dubai, and what role it will play in the emirate’s digital future.
The Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to attract more than 1,000 companies working in blockchain and the metaverse, ultimately creating more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030. The government is backing these goals with contributions to support research and development and education in areas such as AR/VR and digital twins.
According to the GXI 2023 from Equinix, Dubai is forecast to grow interconnection bandwidth at a five-year CAGR of 50%, making it among the fastest-growing digital metros in the world.
Equinix is the digital infrastructure partner Dubai needs
In spite of the impressive digital growth already happening in the city today, it’s clear that Dubai needs world-class infrastructure before it can fulfil its potential as a world-class hub for digital innovation.
Like most other metros in the Middle East, Dubai has traditionally been reliant on Europe for its digital bandwidth delivery. Having to regularly move traffic back and forth over hundreds of miles contributes to higher latency and makes it more difficult to keep up with high demand for bandwidth. For this reason, developing more digital infrastructure on the ground in Dubai and other Middle Eastern metros has become a top priority for local leaders and foreign investors alike.
New subsea cable landings are a great first step. Major global projects like 2Africa Pearls and intra-regional ones like the Oman Emirates Gateway (OEG) are scheduled to land in and around Dubai in the near future. This will help provide additional capacity and increase connectivity to the rest of the world. However, there still needs to be infrastructure investment on land—in carrier-neutral colocation, peering, interconnection and more—to help Dubai take its digital transformation to the next level.
Equinix was early to recognize Dubai’s digital potential, and we’ve been consistently investing here for more than a decade now. We opened our first Equinix IBX® data center in Dubai in 2012. This facility, Equinix DX1, was the first carrier-neutral colocation data center in the Middle East. As the home of the UAE Internet Exchange (UAE-IX), DX1 plays an essential role is supporting digital ecosystems in the region by interconnecting network service providers, internet service providers, content and digital media providers, cloud service providers and more.
His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE, today met with Charles Meyers, President and CEO of Equinix
The launch of DX3 represents the next step in our partnership
Today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of Equinix DX3, our third IBX data center in Dubai, with an investment of over $60 million to build the first phase. Once complete, it will be the largest Equinix data center in the Middle East, at 23,000 square feet, and the most interconnected. As local and international businesses continue to explore innovation opportunities in Dubai, DX3 will be there to give them the digital infrastructure they need to be successful.
The Dubai market is such an important one for Equinix that our CEO Charles Meyers travelled here last week to personally announce the new DX3 data center.
The decision to launch a new data center in Dubai was an easy one for us to make. Due to high demand from existing Equinix customers such as Arab Financial Services (AFS), we had quite simply run out of capacity in our DX1 and DX2 data centers in Dubai. We knew we needed to grow our presence to keep up with the digital growth happening in Dubai and throughout the Middle East. DX3 will ultimately be our sixth Equinix IBX data center in the Middle East, joining existing facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, as well as the previously announced Equinix SN1 data center in Salalah.
Platform Equinix® is the only global digital infrastructure platform with a presence in the UAE and Oman. We know the Middle East well, and we understand it can be a complex place to do business, particularly for multinational companies that aren’t accustomed to the region. In addition to providing the digital infrastructure our customers need in Dubai, we’ve also made it our mission to help them overcome this complexity. This means that setting up a digital presence in Dubai can feel quick and easy—just as it would anywhere else on Platform Equinix’s global footprint.
Equinix Fabric brings software-defined interconnection to Dubai
At Equinix, we’re also proud to host the only interconnection platform in the Middle East. In March, we announced the launch of Equinix Fabric® in Dubai. This means it’s now easier than ever before for businesses in the Middle East to interconnect their digital infrastructure across the globe.
Equinix Fabric is our software-defined interconnection service. In addition to Dubai, it’s currently available in 50+ metros worldwide. This means that digital businesses can now start from Dubai and gain remote access to their distributed data centers and hundreds of different service providers, no matter where in the world those providers are located. They can set or change virtual connections on Equinix Fabric with a few simple clicks, giving them the flexibility and agility to simplify hybrid multicloud networking and keep up with a rapidly changing world.
To learn more about Equinix Fabric and how it supports interconnected distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems worldwide, read our guide today.
Also, visit the Dubai metro page to learn more about our Equinix IBX data centers in Dubai.
 Interconnection bandwidth is a measure, calculated in bits/sec, of the capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic between two parties, inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.
 Erika Masako Welch, “10 Things to Know About Dubai’s Digital Economy Ambitions,” Entrepreneur Middle East, October 28, 2022.
 “Successful robotaxi trial puts Abu Dhabi ahead of Dubai,” GlobalFleet, February 15, 2022.
 “Hamdan bin Mohammed launches Dubai Metaverse Strategy,” Emirates News Agency, July 18, 2022.
 Kevin Salvadori, “2Africa Pearls subsea cable connects Africa, Europe, and Asia to bring affordable, high-speed internet to 3 billion people,” Engineering at Meta, September 21, 2021.
 Paul Lipscombe, “Omantel and Du announce Oman Emirates Gateway subsea cable,” Data Center Dynamics, March 15, 2023.
 “AFS relocates its UAE data center operations to Equinix Dubai International Business Exchange,” Zawya, August 23, 2022.