Under the patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri, represented by the Minister of Telecommunications of Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Jamal Jarrah, the 8th edition of Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit co-hosted by Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom, was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut on the 20th of April. The event put a spotlight on Lebanon and the role that technology can play in revamping a nation full of potential.
Telecom and ICT VIPs took part at the event, notably the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Yasser El Kady; the CEO and Chairman of Alfa, Mr. Marwan Hayek; Vice Chairman Group CEO of Zain Group, Mr. Bader Nasser El Kharafi; the CEO of touch (managed by Zain Group), Mr. Emre Gurkan; and the CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Mr. Osman Sultan; Mr. Jawad Abbassi, Head of MENA, GSMA; Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Etisalat; Ghazi Atallah, CEO, NXN; Jay Srage, President, MEA and East Europe, Qualcomm; as well as many other CEOs of international and local telecom companies.
Highly distinguished guests took part in several panels that focused on the importance of 5G and its impact on societies and how it will change the telecommunications sector and the level of speed, efficiency, and network capacities. Other panels tackled IoT’s impact on our daily lives, how to promote smart cities, and the operators’ and governments’ role in this transformative process.
In the framework of the Summit, co-host Alfa announced a great accomplishment in cooperation with Nokia. The operator undertook a live demo of its 4G+ network and achieved a speed of 950Mb p/second, which is the highest record achieved in Lebanon to date.
Mr. Toni Eid, CEO of Trace Media International and founder of Telecom Review, gave a welcoming speech, highlighting that Telecom Review is the largest telecom media in the world and covers 80 percent of the telecom and ICT audience. In addition, Mr. Eid praised the success achieved at the Telecom Review Summit, noting that the Summit would witness the commitment of the Lebanese government towards the telecoms sector, which will lead to a digital economy that brings prosperity to the country.
Mr. Eid extended his heartfelt thanks to H.E. Jamal Jarrah and his team, the co-host, Alfa, and Mr. Bader Nasser Al Kharafi, in addition to all the sponsors for bringing their support to the event. H.E. Jamal Jarrah stated that holding the Summit at this particular period shows that Lebanon is on the right track.
“We are gathering here today for the 8th edition of Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit in a friendly professional environment where we will witness the Lebanese government’s commitments towards the telecom sector, which will lead to a digital economy that brings prosperity to the country,” said Mr. Eid. “In addition, all of us will join very important debates and lectures with our Leaders who came from several countries with their experience and expertise which we will all share, as our Summit is always about sharing ideas, knowledge and opinions in order to help shape the future together.”
H.E. Jamal Jarrah said the telecoms industry is not only rapidly evolving, but also evolving daily in several fields. He noted that the Ministry of Telecommunications has the support of the President of the Council of Ministers and is determined to deploy tireless efforts to achieve its vision for the sector while taking into account the great Lebanese human capacities.
When asked about his opinion about the summit H.E said: “It’s essential to hold this summit in Lebanon and the most important thing is the remarkable level of participation from all over the region. This summit has offered to Lebanon new dimensions, ideas and opinions that will benefit the country and the telecoms sector.”
On another side, Mr. Hayek tackled Alfa’s greatest achievements since its establishment in 1994. He said: “We have made headway through our leading technological projects and the innovative services, which have helped us to transform from a traditional operator to a digital one, leading the IoT revolution in Lebanon and the region.”
“This role was reflected through the accomplishments that the company has achieved since its establishment,” Mr. Hayek added. “In fact, we were the first company to launch GSM mobile service in Lebanon, 3G+ in 2011, 4G in 2013, and today 4G+ has become a reality, covering more than 92 percent of the population on Alfa’s network, and soon we will reach 5G.”
Mr. Hayek said Alfa has become a digital operator aiming at providing the best services to the Lebanese people at the level of the internet speed and other services that address the citizens’ needs. He also talked about unprecedented records achieved by the company in terms of smartphone penetration that reached 88 percent which is equivalent to the percentage reached in most developed countries. He added that more that 75 percent of Alfa’s 2 million subscribers are data consumers and 30 percent of them use LTE devices.
H.E. Yasser El Kady, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies of Egypt, added to Mr. Hayek’s delight of having the Telecom Review Summit held in Lebanon, a nation he said that feels “like a home” to him. “I have a very good feeling about being here,” he said. H.E El Kady praised the Telecom Review Summit tagline “It’s All About SMART Networking,” claiming that conversations around technologies such as 4G, 4.5G and 5G are important.
“What is this transformation we are experiencing in the world?” His Excellency asked. “It’s about networking, it’s about smartness, and it’s about how we can change things for the better. Telecommunications technology right now is paramount when it comes to changing the world that we are living in, and it even affects the whole economy. People are talking about smart networking and digitization.”
Today, an important topic is defining how we can accelerate digitization around the world, said H.E. El Kady. He said we need to focus on how to change the delivery of services to be more efficient and smart. The heart of this transformation, he said, is telecommunications from an economical point of view and from a technology point of view.
Echoing H.E. Yasser El Kady’s speech on digitization, Osman Sultan, CEO of UAE-based telecom operator du, presented to the audience “smart headlines for smart conversations”. “Although I operate in a country that today is amongst the highest rates of penetration in mobile telephony, fiber optics, and in internet, the real conversations are not yet taking place.”
“We are in the middle of a digital revolution, but it didn’t start recently,” Mr. Sultan explained. “There has been the industrial wave; when I was a teenager the discussions were different, there were different keywords to be used back then: It was about labor, productivity, and manufacturing. Then we moved towards the communication wave with mobile telephony, followed by the digital wave (the internet, video and cloud) that has radically changed everything. Then we reached the data age where we are now able to combine data with each other; there’s a sensor where everything we touch in our lives such as the car, house, window, elevator, are all generating data.”
When all of these things are connected, said Sultan, by applying analytical data science, you can unleash the power that data can bring. When we are able to know how much a person is spending, where they are living, etc., then we can have dashboard and insights on personal, corporate, city and nation levels to be used for planning for a better city and the revolution of nations, said Sultan.
“This is empowerment, big data and IoT. This is what smart cities will bring. We will reach a time where our kids will not need to drive anymore,” said Sultan, adding that we will have 7 billion drones by 2020 and $12 billion revenue by 2021. It will replace a billion worth of human labor and services, he said. Moreover, “technology will become our new companion and even save our lives, and it will probably replace 50 percent of all jobs by 2030.”
As a final note Mr. Sultan said: “I strongly believe that technology is fundamental and will be a positive transformation to this part of the world where we will have smart technology, smart learning and smart people. So I am calling for all of us to take part in this positive transformation.”
As for Mr. Emre Gurkan, CEO of Touch Lebanon, he has participated in the smart cities panel. “As Zane Group we have been working with smart cities for a long time, now after 3 years we have been very active in this space and as touch we believe in digital transformation that is going to be a significant topic in the next 5 years in Lebanon. From that perspective this panel was a very interesting one, we talked about smart city, smart education, and smart health and how we can enable smart cities as telecom operators.”
When it comes to touch’s plans for the next few years Mr. Gurkan said: “One of the reasons I came to Lebanon is because I believe in Lebanon and I believe in touch as a company. A lot of Lebanese startups are around the world including the Middle East and that’s why Lebanon has the future in terms of human potential and we have a significant education population here. As touch we have an amazing future since we know about digitalization, we have learned it from Zain Group, so my whole objective is to bring all this success and ideas and adapt it to touch and then get the Lebanese society to become digital in the coming 3 to 5 years.”
On another note, Imad Kreidieh, Director General of OGERO, participated in the “Future infrastructure for the digital transformation” panel, in which he talked about the importance of the infrastructure for the ICT sector in the country. When asked about his opinion about the summit, he said: “It’s a very beautiful event and I’m really pleased to be part of it. It is a promising event in terms of ideas exchange between the attendees, which can improve the development of the ICT industry.”
Furthermore, speaking about the progress being made in Lebanon’s tech sector, H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui, Chairman of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, said the organization is “doing a lot of things to prop up the Lebanese ecosystem.”
The UK Lebanon Tech Hub is an international initiative by the Banque Du Liban and the UK government supporting the growth of Lebanon’s knowledge economy. The UK Lebanon Tech Hub’s accelerator program is the first accelerator from the region with a truly global footprint. Each acceleration cycle comprises of two phases: 3 months in Lebanon constituting workshops, mentoring and investment matching, then 3 months of international acceleration, opening the doors to new markets.
The UK Lebanon Tech Hub started with capacity building, acceleration of startups and building success stories, but now it’s going further into research and development (R&D) with an international centre, said H.E. Sehnaoui. “We started this year with three R&D projects collaborating with three major Lebanese universities and major universities in the UK. It’s a very promising R&D work that is being done and this is with the help of the British government who provide the funds.”
H.E. Sehnaoui said the Lebanese government needs to “improve its act” in terms of having proper governance to implement proper infrastructure to improve its technology sector. “I think we are currently on the right path with the new government,” he said. “The main challenge of Lebanon is not the local market – it’s being able to be a hub for the Lebanese entrepreneurs, inventors, startups and companies to branch out throughout the region and the world. This is a challenge that I think we are winning.”
Sharing H.E. Sehnaoui’s commitment to Lebanon and its future, Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory at UAE-based telecom operator Etisalat, said that given Lebanon’s rich resources and human capital in entrepreneurship, it would “be a shame if Lebanon did not really give its youth and entrepreneurs” the telecom platform from which they can launch their businesses.
In order to do that, he said, Lebanon needs to be thinking about how to put in place a dynamic that constantly innovates in terms of technologies that allows people to realize their full potential. This involves moving from the current generation to a more advanced generation of technology, which requires not only expanding and spending on the networks, but also a vision and the proper policies and regulation.
“It is these regulations that are lacking today,” said Dr. Shehadi. “5G has been one of the topics discussed today, but 5G is not just another technology that vendors can sell to telcos – 5G is a whole ecosystem which allows all the stakeholders in this space to come together on one network to exchange services, etc. This means that if the regulations are not there, you will not achieve the full potential.
Dr. Shehadi concluded saying: “My main interest in being here today is to make sure that Lebanon advances in terms of putting in place the right vision, the right policies, and the right regulations to enable continuous improvement.”
Lebanon-born Ghazi Atallah, CEO of NXN (formerly neXgen) shared in the valuable discussions about the role that technology can play in making Lebanon a smarter, more agile economy. “We have many interesting opportunities here in Lebanon especially with the municipalities in the cities. Our role is to help cities transform to become smarter,” said Ghazi.
“There are many opportunities here in the various dimensions of the cities. We have evolved to become a smart city service provider and the reason why we rebranded is to highlight to our customers and people in the industry that we have evolved from being a consulting organization to becoming a full-fledged service provider where we build, operate and run smart city services on behalf of our customers. We are now able to deliver smart city as a service – not just design it – but actually build it and run it.”
Ghazi highlighted the fact that every city in the world has its challenges, and Beirut and the various municipalities in Lebanon are no exception. “I think the smartest thing to do to transform a city is to actually focus on your own challenges - there is no such thing as a smart city for everyone,” said Ghazi. “The challenges in Lebanon are around environment, transportation and logistics, so that should be the focus and the emphasis of any smart city initiative that takes place in Lebanon.”
A gala dinner at Casino Mehanna followed the Summit, where Merit Awards and certificates were presented to distinguished ICT Leaders as a token of appreciation. At the end some lucky guests won Huawei P10 smartphones in an entertaining raffle draw.
His Excellency Jamal Jarrah, the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, and Mr. Toni Eid, founder of Trace Media International and CEO of Telecom Review, presented the awards.
Telecom Review Leader’s Summit 8th Edition Merit Awards:
- Mr. Bader Nasser Al Kharafi, Vice Chairman and Group CEO, Zain Group, won the Leadership Award for significant investment and contribution to the development of the Telecom and ICT Industry in MEA
- Mr. Osman Sultan, CEO, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), won the award for Best Brand Maker
- Mr. Ghazi Atallah, CEO, NXN, won the Leadership Award for significant contribution to the development of Smart Cities in MEA
- Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Etisalat International, won the award for Best Achievement for Regulation & Standardization
- Mr. Jay Srage, President, Qualcomm International Inc., Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, won the award for Best Management for Bridging Innovation
- Lebanese telecom operator Alfa won a special Appreciation Awardfor co-hosting the 8th edition of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit