Interview: Saleh Abdullah Al Abdooli

In what ways is commercial 5G expected to accelerate digital transformations across the private and public sectors, and improve consumer experiences?

SALEH ABDULLAH AL ABDOOLI: Etisalat has demonstrated strong commitment to sustaining its technological leadership by investing in emerging and next-generation technologies. Investment in 5G technologies has gained recognition because it is considered a major precursor to the next generation of broadband service and the internet of things (IoT), both of which are growing exponentially. In addition, 5G will provide opportunities for economic growth and massive developments in the areas of ICT infrastructure, education, employment, transportation and more. We had a successful launch of the first 5G fixed broadband experience in the region, with a commercial network being deployed in several locations within the UAE. These initiatives set global benchmarks in supporting UAE’s Vision 2021, which identified digital technology as one of its top-seven national priorities going forward.

Our main objectives with 5G deployment are to generate incremental revenue via new users, adding value for shareholders and delivering a leading customer experience. Expo 2020 is a testimony to our efforts, as it is our first major commercial 5G customer in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. This signals a new era of digital connectivity and acknowledges 5G’s potential. It will deliver faster speeds and be a critical building block towards economic competitiveness for the UAE. The availability of 5G service will provide high data rates with ultra-low latency, far exceeding the current 4G. It will also provide unlimited access to all kinds of applications and services and will drive innovation, efficiency and productivity to a wide range of business and industrial sectors of the UAE.

For the enterprise segment, we are mainly focusing on IoT opportunities, and for consumers, we are reviewing the evolution of an increasing number of opportunity areas, including augmented reality and video reality gaming, 4K streaming, smart homes and high-quality content downloading.

How will future investment support rising data consumption and modernise existing networks?

AL ABDOOLI: The UAE ranks number one in digital adoption among Middle Eastern countries, and in the past few years we have evolved into an ICT service provider by enabling an ecosystem with an advanced network and futuristic solutions. Our vision to drive the digital future to empower societies is focused on making this future a reality by facilitating innovation and creativity, and bringing technologies of the future to all of our customers. Our infrastructure plays a key supporting role in the country’s ambitions to get digitally competitive and usher in digital transformation.

Today, the UAE leads the global ICT competitive index mainly due to continuous development and increased adoption of digital strategies in its projects and initiatives. For instance, blockchain technology transforms the way services are delivered, and workplaces can become completely paperless. Over 50% of the UAE’s federal transactions could be powered by blockchain by 2021. Similarly, artificial intelligence will have a major impact on our way of living: connectivity of people and things will be ubiquitous, and use of robots and digital personal assistants will be commonplace. As part of our digital strategy, we must invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Our partnership with government-supported accelerator programmes shows that we will work closely with the next generation by providing them with the means to create and innovate. Etisalat is also working with entrepreneurs to increase customer adoption of digital self-care channels which will enhance customer experience and reduce calls to our customer care centres. Artificial intelligence will be the biggest game changer in business, and is estimated to contribute around $96bn to the UAE economy by 2030, representing nearly 13.6% of its projected GDP.