Interview: Osman Sultan
In what ways can telecoms companies in the UAE cooperate with the ICT sector to better leverage their consumer information and data assets?
OSMAN SULTAN: The government has developed initiatives to keep the ICT sector at the forefront of the economic agenda, such as e-government and m-government initiatives, as well as through strategic projects such as FedNet, in which UAE telecom operators have a vital role to play. This has opened up numerous prospects for the ICT sector, including telecom operators, to better leverage consumer information and data assets through high-speed fixed and mobile broadband networks. We can expect to see further development and cooperation with sectors such as health, education, financial services and advertising, as connectivity will empower their businesses.
How can telecoms companies tap into the opportunities provided by super-fast mobile networks?
SULTAN: We will see more investment in infrastructure, such as 4G mobile networks, fibre-to-the-home and converged systems. Operators globally are moving towards providing complementary digital services by leveraging existing capabilities and customer feedback through partnerships or in-house development. Digital services have presented more substantial opportunities for local and foreign entities to partner with UAE telecoms companies. I would also anticipate more investment over the coming years in areas such as managed services, cloud services and the various technologies that will help develop UAE’s growing “smart city” environment.
As telecoms companies adapt to the changing climate, what are the most important aspects of the regulator's new strategic development plan?
SULTAN: Network-sharing with the UAE’s incumbent telecoms operator has come into being over the past year, starting with voice and broadband. Moreover, by late 2015 this will also be extended to cover television streamed over the internet, or IP television. This more competitive environment will lead to increased infrastructure development, in turn benefitting the economy as a whole. Most importantly, however, we will be providing customers with a choice of providers for their connectivity services. Customers will benefit from innovative products, services and content, and there will be an increase in the penetration of fixed services. The UAE regulator has provided both operators with a licence to offer voice over IP services.
With regional operators adopting a more asset-light model, what other transitions to outsourcing do you expect to see over the coming years?
SULTAN: In large-scale markets with volume-based business models, it makes sense for operators to offload their assets and lease network capacity from vendors. However, this is not the case for our company, as we operate on a small-scale, single-country model. Given the telecoms sector’s challenging market dynamics, all operators prioritise activities that are closest to their core operations. Activities that need to be outsourced are generally based on these assessments, which also lead to generating more cost efficiency. Non-core activities, such as IT support and contact centres, will be the prime candidates for outsourcing.
As local operators enter the cloud services market, what kind of opportunities will this open up for consumer and enterprise businesses?
SULTAN: Cloud services represent a new revenue stream for telecom operators, while offering consumers and enterprise businesses a reduction in their operational costs. Indeed, there are a range of significant opportunities in the fields of integration and the bundling of services, such as combining basic fixed and mobile connectivity, communication services (voice and data) and cloud applications. Moreover, operators can provide business cloud services with simple pricing models and value-added options, including analytics and managed services, to better meet customer needs.
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