Interview: Osman Sultan

What are some of the main challenges facing ICT service providers in the sector?

OSMAN SULTAN: The ICT sector is moving towards a more challenging environment and we are facing increased competition from non-traditional players all over the world. The margins on connectivity are going to be under more pressure, and investment in the sector will need to be increased in order to meet all the technological requirements of the “smarter” world. The main challenge for any telecoms company is to figure out how to have sustainable economic equations moving forward. First, there is the traditional business of connectivity, in which the name of the game is efficiency. In other words, we must find more efficient ways of doing what we do, such as developing more efficient methods for customers to interact with companies. There are certainly new ways to further engage customers and ensure they receive a better overall experience, and this should also be translated into a more efficient cost equation for the company. On the other hand, we must find new businesses beyond connectivity. This means emphasising tools such as remote management services, cybersecurity, machine-to-machine operations, using software or platform as a service, launching new applications adapted to the market, and monetising and analysing big data.

How are data centres located in Dubai set to improve the attractiveness of the sector?

SULTAN: The biggest requirement of our digital era is becoming the pressing need for more data storage space. We need it not only for basic ICT growth, but also for the benefit of the customers who keep growing year-on-year and are demanding faster connectivity and more developed services. As part of the holistic ICT services that are provided in the market, this will certainly benefit enterprises, but it will also benefit customers, particularly when it comes to cloud and related services that are growing. In no other place can you currently find the same amount of top to bottom initiatives in digitalisation and smart cities as the ones provided by the Dubai Smart Government initiatives. Dubai has already started to become a digital hub for this part of the world and we have to be ready for the next step.

What opportunities will cloud services open up for consumers and businesses?

SULTAN: This trend will open up the various opportunities of the digital world. Everything we touch as individuals, groups, corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and governments will be transformed, with our children already doing things differently thanks to the fast evolution of technology. The most important aspect is that this enlarged, comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, multi-layered and multi-dimensional ecosystem will be fertile ground for innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Once the ecosystem is fully in place we can start coming up with new ideas in order to solve daily issues, such as renting a car or using a cab, which people are already doing on their smartphones. Dubai is at the centre of this type of creativity and innovation, not only in the region, but also on a broader scale.

Given the saturation of the domestic market, is overseas investment the best way to grow?

SULTAN: Not necessarily. We as du, for example, are a mono-country operator and believe that it remains a better opportunity for us to invest in the UAE and to reap the benefits of the country being a hub. So we have clearly indicated that we will not be going through the standard telecoms model into other geographies. Nevertheless, there might be opportunities to invest abroad, but our first focus will be to strengthen our presence in our national market. We will then consider internationalising if this will support and strengthen our position in our home market.