|Abu Dhabi Telecoms CEO Summit 2012 Highlights|
The 4th edition of Abu Dhabi Telecoms CEO Summit 2012 saw a remarkable gathering for CEO’s and telecom leaders who discussed the future of the telecoms sector. The summit gathered major decision makers and player in the sector, who discussed a wide range of topics focusing on the telecom sector highlighting the opportunities and challenges faced by the telecom sector today. Chaired and Moderated by Toni Eid, Publisher and Editor in Chief of Telecom Review, the summit concluded successfully in ADNEC.
The summit was inaugurated by an opening speech of H.E. Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy, in which he welcomed the participants in the event and highlighted the steps taken by the UAE in implementing the directives of the UAE visionary leadership, aiming to develop the telecommunications sector. He noted the UAE’s aspiration to maintain the regional leading position it enjoys in relation with the ICT sector and its endeavor to achieve a leading status globally as well.
Connectivity Without Boarders
H.E. Majed Al Mesmar, TRA Deputy Director General delivered a keynote speech titled: “Connectivity Without Boarders” in which he spoke of the growing importance of the telecommunication sector and how it links regions, countries and the entire world, bypassing all obstacles, and linguistic and cultural barriers. He also mentioned the importance of continuing efforts to keep pace with the latest developments in this field through collaborative work and cooperation. Al Mesmar stressed that the concrete links between telecommunication sector on one hand, and business and economy sectors on the other, are the main reason for economic progress in today’s world.
Al Mesmar also pointed out that operators need soon to provide connectivity with prices determined by users dropping a futuristic vision that by 2020 the user will demand 1 GB per day at the price of 1 US dollars.
Unlocking ICT Potential
Etisalat reaffirmed its commitment to catalyze the UAE's rapid growth and achieve national development goals through a coordinated response to ICT. At the summit, Etisalat shared its blueprint for a modern economy with a think-tank of regional decision-makers. "Etisalat believes in the potential of ICT and we are working with our customers locally and globally to realize it. Our mission is to extend our customer's reach, not just by providing access to voice and SMS services or an advanced broadband infrastructure; we are continuously looking for new ways in which we can add value," said Speaking Matthew Willsher, Chief Marketing Officer at Etisalat.
On the socio-economic benefits of ICT, Willsher highlighted, "ICT growth and development has a direct impact on local economies through job creation and boosting GDP. On our part, Etisalat has deployed socially responsible and economically beneficial ICT solutions in the UAE. These include award-winning solutions such as Etisalat's Mobile Commerce, Managed Services, Enterprise Mobility solutions and many more. We are investing and we continue to invest billions of dollars into our infrastructure to provide government, businesses and customers the most sophisticated array of services."
"Creating an institutional framework for ICT will positively impact socio-economic development; however, to realize the true potential of ICT, governments, policymakers and the telecommunications industry jointly have to play transformational roles in defining the ICT policy and evolving to a new governance model," added Willsher.
The UAE is currently ranked 30th in the Network Readiness Index published annually by the World Economic Forum. The index measures a country's ability to exploit ICT opportunities based on analysis of market, political, the regulatory and infrastructure environment and how they are optimized to benefit from an ICT-enabled future.
Being Connected: The Journey from Vital Need to Basic Human Right
Osman Sultan, CEO of du, gave an energetic speech about the importance of being connected and how information access became a basic human right urging operators from across the region to cooperate to catch the digital revolution. “The next name of the game is regional basis,” said Sultan.
Addressing the challenges faced by operators, Sultan said that telecom operators need to claim part of the new revenue streams alongside OTT players, protect their investments and the strong current relevance of their brands while having a relevant voice in the new fast changing digital space.
“Telecom operators are in the front line of the heavy investments needed to accommodate new customer behavior. New revenue streams are emerging but telecom operators are not in the front line of these revenue streams,” noted Sultan.
Sultan believes that the next phase is everything mobile and telecom operators can leverage on some of their current strong assets. These include: operators are the main driving force in the mobile space; they have the billing capabilities and comprehensive reach through distribution capabilities.
The Excitement of the Inflection Point between the Broadband Avalanche and Traditional Telecoms
Ross Cormack, CEO of Nawras, highlighted the company’s role in delivering broadband in the Sultanate while addressing the challenges and opportunities ahead.
In line with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s economic vision for 2020, Nawras now provides a combination of state-of-the-art transmission and WiMAX technologies to serve 87% of households with home broadband. During the last year alone, daily data traffic on Nawras broadband increased by 18 times which underlines the extent of coverage and enthusiastic customer response.
“Our vision for Nawras mirrors that of Oman. High quality communications is important in serving modern society and since we first launched our services in 2005, we have strived to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers by providing pleasingly different services and an extensive range of flexible plans to suit different lifestyles and usage requirements,” said Cormack. “Customer experience is paramount.”
In 2007, the company was the first to introduce 3G technology to the Sultanate and earlier this year was the first in Oman to demonstrate 4G LTE technology to the general public. Nawras has equipped the Muscat Grand Mall – part of the new Tilal Complex in Muscat - with a full fiber network and is providing a super-fast fiber-based broadband service to the new commercial outlets and offices in the complex which is planned to be one of the biggest integrated real estate developments in the country.
Building the Connected Economy
A key highlight for this years' edition was the participation of Dr. Anne Bouverot, Director General of GSMA, which represents the interests of nearly 800 mobile operators across 219 countries.
Bouverot talked about 'Building the Connected Economy', discussing the drivers of the connected economy and how they will impact the lives of consumers and businesses in the Middle East and Africa. The mobile communications industry is creating a "Connected Economy" across the globe, both directly through network investment, job creation and contributions to public funding and also by transforming adjacent industries such as education, healthcare, payments, transportation and utilities.
“Mobile is the way people will experience the internet,” noted Bouverot urging operators to work together on one platform.
According to Bouverot, by 2015 the mobile industry will be responsible for revenues of 1.9 trillion US dollars and employment of 9.8 million jobs and “we are just beginning,” she said. According to the World Bank, a 10% increase in mobile penetration will drive 0.6% increase of GDP in developed countries and 0.8% increase in developing countries.
“To create jobs and diversify their economies, governments across the MENA region should prioritize the release of harmonized spectrum for LTE services,” added Bouverot.
MSS in the MENA Region
Samer Halawi, CEO of Thuraya talked about Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) in the GSM space pointing out that satellite operators don’t compete with GSM operators. Thuraya is the only company that provides dual mode capabilities for its customers. “Thuraya is a special MSS operator,” he said.
Speaking of competition, Halawi said that innovation is key to compete in a changing environment emphasizing on the importance of listening to what the market is requiring.
Rabih Dabboussi, Director, Service Providers Segment & Systems Engineering of Cisco, talked about the telecom strategies enabling the Zetabyte Era. “The third platform for IT industry growth is emerging, will drive the bulk of IT industry growth. Million of new apps and services will be built on this emerging platform. These apps and services will be built on innovative mash-ups of cloud, mobile devices, mobile apps, social technologies and more,” said Dabboussi.
“By 2016, nearly 71% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video,” he added, pointing out that the mobile operators’ three-fold challenge are: increase revenue, reduce costs and improve customer experience.
CEO Panel: The Biggest Challenges Facing Operators in the MENA Region
The ‘CEO Panel’ was the highlight for the event and threw light on some of the biggest challenges faced by telecom operators. Leading CEOs from the region joined the panel to discuss these challenges.
The mobile industry is developing at a fast pace forcing the whole telecom ecosystem to keep up or get out of the game. The complexity of the telecom ecosystem is putting big challenges on the operators’ shoulders. The CEO panel looked at the critical challenges facing the telecom operators in terms of increasing revenues.
“Challenge is there, competition is there and operators should accept the change. Live with it and get benefit from it. Ride the wave of change,” said Eid.
The golden era for telcos is slowly fading as they face increasing pressure from OTT players like Viber, WhatsApp Google, Skype, Tango, Facebook and Apple. Operators’ ultimate fear is to become a dumb pipe watching their revenues slip. So they are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that apparently free OTT services have on their businesses.
Over-the-top mobile VoIP applications are gaining traction among smartphone users and these companies are supplying customers with sophisticated web-based features that are competing with operators’ services.
Dr. Eesa Bastaki, CEO of ICT Fund, said that customers are becoming more and more sophisticated and advised telecom operators to reduce tariffs.
Dr. Bouverot said that more data bundles are needed.
“Customer is driving the evolution of the industry today,” said Cormack, pointing out that the industry had a very defensive approach towards OTT and which is not necessary.
Sultan suggested that layers of prices should be in store. Just like airline tariffs, the user should pay the level of service he requires.
Hassan Kabbani, Advisor to the Chairman of Oger Group, Oger Telecom, said that operators need to change their business models. “We should not be stopping the technology but driving it and doing it in the right way and be the one to offer it to customers. Operators should change their business models and offer packages based on space,” he said.
Panelists agreed that OTT are in need for operators’ assets because operators still have the know-how, call centers, the billing system. They all agreed that the solution is not blocking OTT services but providing new services with innovative angles and provide different billing bundles.