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Telecom Review virtual panel discusses instrumental role of wholesale industry in navigating the crisisWritten on Wednesday, 22 July 2020 13:28
Telecom Review, the leading global telecoms news platform, held a virtual panel on 21 July, attended by 346 participants, to discuss the latest and most pressing issues in the wholesale and capacity space. Telecom Review mobilized an impressively unique panel with representatives from Etisalat, MTN GlobalConnect, PCCW Global, Tata Communications, SES, Orange and GBI.
Following the success of its previous virtual events, the panel titled, ‘Capacity and data traffic: Enabling a seamless experience’, was held at 16:00 UAE time on July 21st.
The session was moderated by Founder of Telecom Review and CEO of Trace Media, Toni Eid, and the panelists included: Ali Amiri, Group Chief Carrier & Wholesale Officer at Etisalat; Frederic Schepens, CEO of MTN GlobalConnect; Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global; Vaneet Mehta, AVP & Region Head- MECAA at Tata Communications; Elias Zaccack, EVP of Global Sales at SES; Cengiz Oztelcan, CEO of GBI and Emmanual Rochas, CEO, International Carriers at Orange.
The globally renowned panelists discussed the management of the sheer amount of data which was generated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the cloud in ensuring a seamless remote experience and the challenges that COVID-19 posed to the wholesale industry.
Ali Amiri, Group Chief Carrier & Wholesale Officer at Etisalat, said, "Organizations were less concerned about security and remote working because of cloud readiness. Everyone has to be cloud equipped and this showed during the pandemic. This was really quite important that people could connect from anywhere and from any device.”
Frederic Schepens, CEO of MTN GlobalConnect, stated, “When COVID-19 hit our operations, we already had more backups and strengthened networks. In certain markets, we saw 30-35% growth. Voice also increased because people were calling each other to make sure everyone was OK. As an industry, we can do a lot of good to make sure we support all these changes with a reliable, robust infrastructure and also ensure that we facilitate the digitization process.”
Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, said, “The one thing that I’m certain of as a result of COVID-19 is that I’m not certain of anything. The situation has made forecasting an art form. We need to consider as many possibilities as may exist. We don’t know when this issue will be resolved or how governments will deal with it. COVID-19 has demonstrated that anything that is driving new age automation is necessary.”
On the business Impact of COVID 19, Vaneet Mehta, Region Head, Tata Communications, mentioned, “In terms of wholesale segment, we had growth in data traffic, on account of OTT content consumption. But the enterprise segment saw decision making getting delayed.”
Vaneet, was still bullish on the enterprise segment, in markets like Saudi Arabia, UAE and certain select countries of Africa. He also touched upon the recent news of the recent Tata Communications local telecom license in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Elias Zaccack, EVP of Global Sales at SES, said, “Without dismissing the severity of COVID-19, we are seeing is a lot of opportunities. One of those opportunities is digitization. A lot of countries are moving a lot faster to digitization. What we have realized is just how essential satellites are to the global infrastructure.”
“For many years we’ve been talking about digitalization, we also learnt that most governments are nowhere near being digital especially during the lockdown. We suffered a lot of time wastage in terms of organizing basic processes. Also, security is currently in the back burner because people are just trying to be connected. It’s a good time for us to think about this, but the market will demand better security eventually,” commented Cengiz Oztelcan, CEO of GBI.
Emmanual Rochas, CEO, International Carriers at Orange, said, “This crisis has been dramatic in terms of human impact. It also had a massive impact on our international wholesale business. We have experienced a very strong shift in usage in terms of our businesses. Our networks have either been emptied or overloaded. We have seen an increase in domestic voice whilst international voice suffered. We had a very strong increase in public networks due to increase in consumption of entertainment.”
The Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, the Chairman of the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) and the Chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone attended a partnership signing ceremony between AOI and Benya Capital.
The ceremony was also attended by Jonathan R. Cohen, Ambassador of the United States of America to Egypt and representatives of Corning Incorporated via video conference.
At the ceremony, Benya Capital, a leader in telecom and technology solutions and technology infrastructure in Egypt and the region, previously known as Fiber Misr for Communications Information Technology, signed a binding MoU with The Arab Organization for Industrialization, to build the largest fiber optic cable factory in Egypt, Africa and the Arab region with a total investment of more than 1 billion Egyptian pounds at the Suez Canal Economic Zone.
The agreement reaffirms Egypt’s directive and reflects AOI’s strategy to increase local manufacturing, embed the latest technologies and reduce import in cooperation with international expertise.
Arab Organization for Industrialization Chairman Lieutenant General Abdelmonem Eltarras, reaffirmed President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s mandate to increase local production, transfer and embed the latest technologies and reduce imports. This will lead to increasing the local products’ added value and digitize massive national development projects.
Lieutenant General Eltarras also added that Egypt has taken the first tangible steps towards achieving its digital transformation plan. He reaffirmed that the organization is eager to support Egypt’s strategy to digitize, incorporate smart solutions and reinforce telecom solutions locally and across Africa in accordance with global standards.
Lieutenant General Eltarras added that this will be achieved by participating in building secure and high-speed telecom lines for large digital projects.
He also highlighted that this industrial structure will also provide employment opportunities for young engineers and technicians, in addition to training opportunities on the latest technologies in line with the fourth industrial revolution.
Through this partnership, AOI targets the establishment of a national industry that meets local demand for advanced technological infrastructure for the communications networks. The latter will enable the development of smart cities in Egypt and present an export opportunity to the region and Africa. He also highlighted that the organization is supporting the government’s preventative measures against COVID-19 by producing sterilization units.
Commenting on this partnership, Benya Capital Chairman and CEO Ahmed Mekky said, “This is the first partnership of its kind in Egypt to achieve smart digitalization for mega digital projects. We aim to develop the technological infrastructure in all development projects, as well as relevant information technology services and solutions. The fiber optic industry is considered the cornerstone for launching cost-efficient digital transformation projects, which is particularly important when launching mega national projects at new cities and establishing technological infrastructure and smart applications.”
“Experimental production of the factory is set to start during 2021 Q3, utilizing up to four million kilometers of optical fibers annually. This capacity is set to increase successively according to the company’s expansion plan and enabling Egypt’s transformation to one of the most important hubs for data storage and transmission,” he added.
Corning Incorporated, one of the world’s leading innovators in optical fiber, cable, and connectivity solutions, will support the project as a strategic supplier of optical fiber. This collaboration will provide Benya Capital with world-leading innovation and reliable supply based on Corning’s global manufacturing capabilities.
Corning invented the first low-loss optical fiber, which ultimately transformed the way the world creates, shares, and consumes information.
Richard Nevins, division vice president, Optical Fiber Commercial Operations, Corning Incorporated, commented, “We are honored to have been selected as a strategic supplier for this exciting investment by Benya Capital. This will ensure the new factory will be able to provide cables with the most advanced and innovative fibers, with security of supply to meet the growing demands of Egypt and surrounding regions ensured by Corning’s global capacity footprint.”
The Minister of Trade and Industry Mrs. Neveen Gamea, affirmed the government's keenness to take advantage of the tremendous manufacturing capabilities of the Arab Organization for Industrialization to expand the Egyptian industrial base, deepen local manufacturing and increase the added value of Egyptian products to the local and global markets, which contributes to achieving the Ministry's vision of increasing dependence on the national industry In meeting the needs of the local market to replace imports and reduce the trade deficit.
Mrs. Gamea pointed out that the signing of this agreement comes to confirm the main and pivotal role that the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) plays in introducing the latest production technologies and the highest quality standards for the Egyptian industry, stressing that AOI is a key partner of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in implementing the national plan to deepen local manufacturing as well as provide local products that match the Egyptian specifications, and has gained local acceptance and global popularity.
Eng. Yehia Zaki, Chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, affirmed that the project is the largest in southern part of the economic zone at Ein Sokhna. The cooperation with AOI will enable achieving sustainable development, attract local investments and support the government’s vision for the economic zone as a global logistics center. This also falls within the framework agreement signed by both parties last month to establish industrial parks at the economic zone.
Zaki also praised the efforts exerted by the Arab Organization for Industrialization to increase domestic production and embed the latest technologies to support local investments and the government plans to reform local industries.