Interview: Osman Sultan
What should be prioritised for the UAE to improve its telecommunications infrastructure and close the gap between itself and OECD countries?
OSMAN SULTAN: Good quality communications infrastructure is a key component to achieve an optimal sustainable development of a country and to improve the competitiveness of a nation. The existence of strong broadband networks is increasingly recognised as fundamental to economic and social development.
With respect to the National Broadband Networks of Australia and Qatar, both countries continue to invest sizeable public funds to address important communications market limitations. Further judicious investments will be made by both governments and global operators into the foreseeable future to ensure the agendas of these nations are addressed through an improved telecommunications infrastructure.
In most OECD countries, governments are increasingly supportive toward market-led innovation and investment in the communications sector. A healthy communications infrastructure initiates efficiency of all sectors in the economy, and new investment potentially improves innovation and research growth.
To what extent will mobile operators have to rely on internet-based, value-added data services and applications for revenues?
SULTAN: Even though penetration is extremely high in the mobile bracket, population and GDP growth will continue to be important growth drivers. Operators worldwide are experiencing tremendous mobile data growth. The explosion of mobile data has created new demand that will be partially offset by loss of revenue in the voice segment. Household consumption is also expected continue to rise, providing continued impetus and to the sector. Managed services or data centres, cloud services and multiple-connected devices are expected to be future avenues for growth among the current telecoms and ICT players. There are challenges, but we are confident about the significant potential for the future.
How do you respond to those that claim increased competition and shared infrastructure should be encouraged to reduce the cost of telecoms?
SULTAN: Liberalisation of a country’s telecoms industry can facilitate economic growth, and the sharing of infrastructure among telecoms operators has to all intents and purposes become a key lever in fostering competition and optimising investments.
Infrastructure sharing provides a big opportunity for revenues among network operators. It facilitates the development of non-facility-based operators, such as Mobile Virtual Network Operators and next-generation service providers, increasing competition in a regulated and sustainable manner.
New entrants tend to build their own networks; infrastructure sharing limits duplication, which leads to overall reductions in network investments and other capital expenditures. Infrastructure sharing redirects the focus from network deployment to innovation, better customer service and better product offerings. This model of working is a medium to reduce costs, and allows operators to focus more on improving the quality of service provided and overall customer experience.
How can the IT industry strengthen further development of the health sector?
SULTAN: Health services such as Smart Health and the 24-7 Physician Helpline, launched in mid-2011 and April 2012, respectively, continue to deliver tangible value to the current health care delivery system. The UAE is facing a sharp rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in addition to growing customer expectations, high health care costs and greater expectations for wellness and education. The existence of round-the-clock physician helplines and access to high-quality health care, chronic disease management projects and mobile health apps can help address these issues while also improve patient satisfaction and care. We are strongly positioned to strengthen our current commitment and to meet the challenges of the future.
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