Displaying items by tag: interview
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei was in defiant mood during an exclusive interview with the BBC in which he declared that the world cannot do without Huawei and its cutting-edge technology and innovations.
Huawei has been subjected to intense scrutiny and scathing criticism as the US continues its efforts to blacklist the Chinese vendor from participating in the rollout of 5G networks on a global scale.
The Huawei CEO claims Huawei has become the victim of a politically motivated campaign by the US as part of its ongoing trade war with China. He blasted the US for attempting to blacklist the company but vowed that the US will not stop Huawei and insisted that the world needs its ‘advanced technology’
Zhengfei told the BBC, “There's no way the US can crush us. The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced."
He also denounced the arrest of his daughter and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada in December, but said he was confident that the courts will find exonerate her after she was accused of violating trade sanctions with Iran.
There is now a growing resistance towards the US campaign against Huawei with many operators in Europe voicing their concerns that a blanket ban on the Chinese vendor would not only be costly, but would also significantly delay the deployment of 5G networks on the continent.
In addition to this, the UK government has said it can mitigate the risk from using Huawei equipment in the buildout of its 5G networks, which suggests they will not ban Huawei like Australia and New Zealand. However, New Zealand look set to backtrack on that decision following the resistance in Europe.
Zhengfei fired a parting shot at the US during his BBC interview by saying the US doesn’t represent the world.
He said, “If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. America doesn't represent the world. Even if they persuade some more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always downsize and become smaller."
Headquartered in Paris, Eutelsat Communications, established in 1977, is one of the leading global satellite operators. Eutelsat Asia CEO, Jean-Francois Fenech, spoke to Active Telecoms about the company’s ubiquitous satellite coverage, expansion into Asia Pacific, and how Eutelsat satellites are poised to develop Africa’s broadband market in partnership with Facebook.
Eutelsat provides capacity on 39 satellites to clients that include broadcasters, pay-TV operators, video, data and internet service providers, enterprises, and government agencies. The upcoming edition to Eutelsat’s fleet will be a high-capacity satellite due to be launched in 2017 to 172° East, providing continuity and expansion capacity for satellite services in Asia Pacific.
The Eutelsat 172B is a triple mission satellite with three distinct payloads: a C-band payload delivering increased power and broader coverage to enhance the service provided to customers via the existing Eutelsat 172A and tap into new growth markets in Southeast Asia; a regular Ku-band payload which will double capacity at 172° East and connect five improved service areas: North Pacific, North East Asia, South East Pacific, South West Pacific and South Pacific; and a High Throughput Ku-band payload designed for in-flight broadband with multiple user spots optimised to serve densely-used Asian and trans-Pacific flight paths.
“This will provide continuity and expansion at an orbital position which is already a prime gateway for satellite services in Asia Pacific,” said Jean-Francois. “We wanted to expand capacity and also improve some of the performance of the previous satellite in terms of coverage and technical features.
“We have designed a payload on board Eutelsat 172B which will cover all the North Pacific rim,” Jean-Francois added. “It has been designed specifically for in-flight connectivity, delivering broadband connectivity to commercial airlines. Panasonic, one of the fastest providers of in-flight entertainment and communications, has already booked most of the available capacity designed for this application. It is going to be a game-changer for the type of services that will be brought to aircraft.”
Panasonic Avionics Corporation signed a long-term agreement with Eutelsat, which will make it the anchor client for the satellite's High Throughput payload for broadband services and a user of its regular Ku-band capacity for live TV.
The capacity booked will transform the range of services Panasonic Avionics Corporation already delivers to commercial airlines through Eutelsat 172A, positioning it as a key provider of passenger connectivity and entertainment.
Eutelsat unveiled its plans at CommunicAsia2016 in Singapore for significantly scaling up its presence in Asia Pacific. Other important partners Eutelsat is working with in the region include Singapore-based telecom operator Singtel, which “has selected some capacity on the other main satellite we have in the region, Eutelsat 70-B to support network connectivity in Southeast Asia,” said Jean-Francois. “This satellite has premium coverage of Southeast Asia.”
Jean-Francois said Eutelsat’s current focus on Asia Pacific is mainly about providing data services, which is a strength Eutelsat has with its two satellites that operate over the region. A key development Eutelsat would like to pursue in the future is to expand this activity into the video business and address opportunities in the broadband segment.
In line with its Asia Pacific operations, Jean-Francois also spoke about Eutelsat’s maritime connectivity services. SpeedCast, a global network and satellite communications service provider, is a user of Eutelsat’s maritime services.
“Whether it is in Asia or elsewhere in the world, one of the advantages of Eutelsat is that we can always find solutions for connecting a vessel,” said Jean-Francois. “We are working hard to enrich the type of offer that our partners can provide. For instance, not just to be provider of connectivity, but a provider of entertainment solutions to vessels.
An admirable initiative with Facebook
Internet access in Africa is limited by a lower penetration rate when compared to the rest of the world. Internet penetration was only 28.6 percent in 2015 compared to the world average of 46.4 percent, according to Internet World Stats. In an effort to expand connectivity in Africa, Eutelsat, in partnership with Facebook, is using its satellite capabilities to connect the unconnected.
In October 2015, Eutelsat and Facebook announced that they would partner on a new initiative that will leverage satellite technologies to get more Africans online. Under a multi-year agreement with Spacecom, the two companies will utilize the entire broadband payload on the future AMOS-6 satellite and will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways, and terminals.
In providing reach to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Eutelsat and Facebook will each be equipped to pursue their ambition to accelerate data connectivity for the many users deprived of the economic and social benefits of the internet. This initiative will be followed by a Eutelsat standalone satellite to be launched in 2019 that will enable Eutelsat to broaden its African footprint for broadband services.
“In Africa, we have joined forces with Facebook in order to provide internet connectivity solutions in places where there is no infrastructure,” said Jean-Francois. “This is strong evidence that everybody in the internet industry understands that there will be no worldwide connectivity without satellite.”
Scheduled for start of service in 2017, the Ka-band payload on the AMOS-6 geostationary satellite is configured with high gain spot beams covering large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. The capacity is optimized for community and Direct-to-User internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment.
According to the terms of the agreement, the capacity will be shared between Eutelsat and Facebook. Using state of the art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.
In a Facebook post in October 2015, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said: “I'm excited to announce our first project to deliver internet from space. As part of our Internet.org efforts to connect the world, we're partnering with Eutelsat to launch a satellite into orbit that will connect millions of people.”
“This is a token of trust of Eutelsat by Facebook,” said Jean-Francois. “It derives from our multi-year experience of developing and leveraging satellite technology to deliver DSL-like broadband services. Eutelsat has over five years of experience in providing internet access to consumers and businesses beyond range of terrestrial networks. With our European-focused KA-SAT satellite, every household, irrespective of its location, can be immediately connected to a service delivering 22 Mbps downstream and 6 Mbps upstream – at prices comparable to ADSL.”
The successful partnership between Eutelsat and Facebook raises the question: could this concept work for other, less connected areas? Jean-Francois said Eutelsat has already replicated payloads designed for broadband services in other parts of the world.
Launched into space from French Guiana in May, the Eutelsat 65 West A is connecting the most populated areas of Latin America for Hughes, an EchoStar company, and the Mexican company Stargroup, allowing users beyond range of terrestrial infrastructure access to the internet. Moreover, 13,000km away from Latina America, Jean-Francois also highlighted Eutelsat’s satellite coverage over European parts of Russia, complementing the coverage of KA-SAT.
Like any global operation, Eutelsat faces challenges in a changing market. But Jean-Francois believes that the “reinvention of the satellite industry” as he calls it, is a good opportunity for Eutelsat to extend its reach in the satellite market.
“We are adding value to the satellite industry by expanding the reach and capability of satellite,” said Jean-Francois. “In the medium term we will keep building our core video business where we have industry-leading experience, and in the longer term we are preparing to capture opportunities in fixed broadband and mobile connectivity. So watch this space!”
Marc Halbfinger, PCCW Global CEO, was present at this year’s BroadcastAsia event held in conjunction with CommunicAsia and EnterpriseIT in Singapore. Speaking to Active Telecoms, he discussed PCCW Global’s international activities, and its unique role in enabling service providers and content providers with flexible approaches to capital infrastructure and quality of service (QoS).
Hong Kong-based PCCW Global offers the latest video, voice and data solutions to multi-national enterprises and communication service providers. With a portfolio spanning cloud computing, security services, network, unified communications and media, PCCW Global has developed into a leading provider for best in class performance based on leading edge, next-generation network design, and software management tools that facilitate flexible usage.
Speaking about the company’s involvement at the BroadcastAsia event, Marc said that PCCW Global has showcased at CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia for many years. Even when service providers have chosen not to attend in the past, Marc said his company always felt that the event is an important forum to attend. He said: “It is nice to see resurgence this year of application providers in this media-anchored environment.”
“We think it is a critical junction point for buyers of new technology, and there are certainly many people here at this years’ show looking at new technology, particularly surrounding OTT media, where we believe we have value and an advantage because of our history in this space in Hong Kong and around the world since 2003,” said Marc. “We continue to make various investments in this space that have assisted to raise our profile and to assure that we have a meaningful portfolio to anyone interested in providing content services. For us, this is a natural place to be every year.”
PCCW Global holds a strong presence in Asia. Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as South Korea and Japan, have emerged as leaders of digital advancement in Asia, and PCCW Global has built strong ties with these technology and finance leading markets.
Marc believes that the undersea cable capacity bridge between Singapore and Hong Kong acts as the gateway between Southeast Asia and North Asia. He said that when you look at any network infrastructure that is developed regionally, you will often see a three-point infrastructure capability that will focus on Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, and PCCW Global has always invested significantly in these locations to make sure that its network resilience in Asia (whether north, south, east, or west) is being provisioned correctly.
“Our core network connectivity out of Singapore is very similar to that of Hong Kong; in fact, we have a license here in Singapore, whereby we are able to offer a range of services,” said Marc, adding: “We do a large amount of work assisting media players, service providers, and network infrastructure for players in Southeast Asian countries. I think for us, Singapore is one of the natural locations for us to be on a regular basis.”
Solutions for media and OTTs
When asked about PCCW Global’s role with Over-The-Top services (OTTs), Marc said you first have to define an OTT. He defines OTTs as applications, content, or any type of element that is attractive to an end-user delivered freely through a variable fee that is sitting on top of the capitalized fixed-network that is usually built by service providers. He said PCCW Global invests in core infrastructure, but also develops software-based tools to provide its end-users (whether consumers, content providers, service providers, or enterprisers) with the applications that get delivered over it. “Arguably, we are both a service provider and an OTT player,” he said.
“In the enterprise space, companies that are providing hosting services or any type of storage service online, or cloud-based infrastructure, are considered the enterprise-focused cloud-based OTTs,” said the CEO. “We work with these cloud providers cooperatively, and at the same time we provide services which may appear similar to them, but we are focused on assuring that not only can we provide the cloud-based application which might be referred to as OTT, but also provide the capitalized fixed infrastructure that assures the content will be delivered with measurable quality of service (QoS).”
Marc stressed the importance of quality of service. He said that delivering quality, end-to-end, is something that OTTs may not see as a core offering, and that is something that he feels is necessary to do. “We can be both OTT, and also QoS (Quality of Service),” he said.
PCCW Global has a range of services under the umbrella name of ‘Global Media’, which Marc said ranges from transcoding capability of content, to CDN delivery of infrastructure, content management systems, software tools that are necessary for the business-support systems of the revenue line for OTT content, operations support systems that are necessary for anything that has to happen in the editing of content, digital rights management, and most of the IT tools that sit on top of traditional network infrastructure capability as these move on more software optimized environments.
“We believe it is significant to facilitate a mobile operator or any other service provider, to enter the OTT space knowing that we can provide them every component that is necessary from beginning to end in delivering a set of monetizing content services,” said Marc. “At the same time, if a content provider such as a linear television channel in New Zealand, or the United States, or the Middle East, wanted to offer their linear broadcast services direct to an end-user (over-the-top) we are able to facilitate them to do that as well.”
He said that one of the major challenges of content providers today is that they have the content and own the rights to it, but may not have yet ascertained how they can get that content over-the-top efficiently and direct to an end-user, because they often don’t have the IT tools necessary to bill a customer directly, or may not have the analytics to measure which users are watching what content and under what conditions. PCCW Global can facilitate broadcast channels to go over-the-top of any network in any location around the world, provided the company has the rights capable to do it.
“Software tools, hardware development, and global transport: we are able to do all of this, and we are able to do it as a holistic offering, or as sometimes might be preferred to breakdown those components into their sub-layers, which we are able to do as well,” said Marc. “Sometimes you’ll find a service provider or a content provider that doesn’t really need the transcoding capability, but they need the IT tools to be able to bill a customer that they have never dealt with before in a distant market. We help content providers become service providers, and also help service providers enter the game of delivering content.”
Basically, it’s PCCW Global’s job to facilitate companies who want to build a brand beyond their local capability, and to give them all of the toolsets, including IT, hardware, and infrastructure to get to where they want to be.
International projects and future aspirations
Covering a wide range of services, PCCW Global has ventured out into various projects this year, including collaboration with Keppel Data Centers Holding, and singing an international MoU to contribute to develop the Africa-1 subsea cable system.
PCCW Global’s announced collaboration with Keppel to develop an International Carrier Exchange in Hong Kong was shared in April. Marc says the collaboration works because PCCW Global brings a “certain customer knowledge that combines familiarity with the data center space,” adding, “Keppel are a well-known name both at the wholesale level and retail level of building very power-efficient data centers that are attractive to large-scale users.”
“Keppel today are distributed globally, and interestingly enough, despite their Asia pedigree, they had not really invested in the Hong Kong area,” Marc added. “We felt that the relationship with them both from an infrastructure management and a joint relationship around commercial sales and delivery made sense for both of us. We visit them often and have a history with them in other areas, making it a very natural interaction for us.”
Marc also commented on the international MoU PCCW Global recently signed to connect the Middle East to Africa and Europe by means of collaboration among MTN Group, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Telecom Egypt, and Telkom South Africa, to construct the new Africa-1 subsea cable system. The organizations named in the MoU represent a wealth of experience and expertise in deploying major cable systems, and they are expected to be joined in the consortium by other carriers seeking to contribute to and to share, in Africa-1’s success.
“We felt that it is necessary today to continue building out capacity capability to and from East Africa,” said Marc. “We also see natural connections to the AAE1 system (Asia-Africa-Europe). Our relationships today with both TE and with STC are very positive, and also with the other carriers named in the MoU. The ability to collaborate on what we believe is important infrastructure that would reduce the cost basis of bringing a high performance capacity from all over the world into East African markets is a very important element in our global network development.”
With large-scale projects underway and an ever-increasing profile, looking ahead, Marc said that PCCW Global’s ability to provide applications capabilities to service providers and content providers around the world that sit on top of the company’s physical network infrastructure, that delivers a global transmission backbone, was a sensible way to go, adding that the company is taking steps to also increase its human infrastructure in this space.
Marc concluded by saying: “We are becoming increasingly diverse in assuring that we provide not just the connectivity, but also the IT-based application elements of service that go on top of the connectivity layer, and finding the ways to interface with others who do the same as this is what is so critical today.”
As competition has become fierce in this new digital world, Accenture is operating fiercely from the middle. In an interview with Active Telecoms, Gerardo Canta, Managing Director, Accenture - Leading Communications, Media and Technology
Business talked about the importance of digital economy, focusing on the telco's role and digital transformation, showing its effect on society and the consumer. The following are some of his responses.
What is the new role of the telco in this new, highly connected digital world?
With millions of companies, billions of people and ever increasing numbers of objects connected to each other every second, the growth of digital is resulting in a tremendous amount of disruption for communications service providers (CSPs).
As Accenture research confirms, competition has become fierce, especially from digital giants, as people consider turning to consumer technology companies for broadband, voice and messaging systems as alternatives to CSPs. The traditional operators' business model is under assault, with industry analyst firm Ovum predicting more than US $80 billion USD in operators' revenue is at risk just in 2015.
In this highly connected world, we believe that CSPs have a unique opportunity to transform themselves into Integrated digital service providers (IDSP), and to play a central role in the digital economy not only as enablers of core services, but also as active players in the new ecosystem.
There are several pieces of evidence to support our vision of the telco as the enabler of the digital economy. CSPs aiming at transforming themselves into IDSPs can immediately leverage existing assets: strong and trusted brands, unique location and proximity to their clients, established billing relationships, robust network infrastructures and a large quantity of customer and usage data, to mention just a few.
CSPs can also leverage their customers' proximity as a trusted provider to consumers and enterprises, a tremendous asset that can play a major role in differentiating them from competition in the new digital world. CSPs also have an opportunity to be a growth driver in the digital economy, leading the way in bringing new services to market by introducing existing customers to new propositions enabled by digital technologies.
As an example of this, in our recent study 'Everyone's a Screenager, Now What?', we found that telecom operators are already in the leading position as trusted providers among organizations that consumers would consider using for the provision of connected devices and services. This is a tremendous competitive advantage in a new digital world where players and rules have significantly changed.
What is the key to telcos thriving in a digital economy?
In order to thrive in the digital era, operators must re-imagine their core businesses and find ways to turn the disruption to their advantage. Their objective should be to become IDSPs; operators investing in their infrastructure capabilities, operations and offerings to pursue digital as a business, both internally in terms of their own infrastructures, and externally in terms of what they are able to offer their customers, be they consumers, enterprises or governments.
Becoming an IDSP will enable a CSP to provide a superior customer experience and offer a new set of customized and innovative services and solutions. As an example, CSPs could become the "digital home integrator" for the consumer market, while becoming the "M2M enabler", "smart city provider" or "IT one-stop-shop" for the enterprises and governments. By turning their attentions to the potential of digital, playing on their traditional strengths and improving them to be relevant in the digital world, a CSP could act as a sophisticated ICT aggregator, managing a complex ecosystem of partnership with the ambition to be the hub of a person or an organization's digital future.
One of the key elements of the transformation to becoming an IDSP is a state-of-the art and agile network infrastructure. The growth and demand for digital services is creating tremendous disruption for CSPs as their customers, particularly the enterprise segment, demand ever-increasing capacity, service velocity, quality and differentiation.
To address the requirements of the new digital customer in a cost-effective and efficient manner while reducing time to revenue, high-performing CSPs are moving away from reliance on purpose-built hardware for network functions. They are instead creating a new digital network of the future-underpinned by the cloud, software-defined network (SDN) tools, and network functional virtualization (NFV)-that will be a flexible business enabler, providing an opportunity for CSPs to win against the digital giants and to be a disrupter, rather than the disrupted.
Moreover, differentiating network capabilities, capacities and solutions are a means to attract premium revenue. As an example of creating this differentiation, one CSP has established an evolved multimedia broadcast multicast service (eMBMS) video network to cost-effectively deliver mobile TV from one broadcast signal to many mobile phone subscribers at once.
Are there any rules or guidelines for modern Telcos to embark a successful digital transformation?
Accenture is supporting significant numbers of clients across all industries as they embark on digital transformation initiatives. These include developing strategies to address the evolving habits, behaviors and expectations of the new digital customer, evident in both consumers and enterprises.
This wave of change is particularly visible in the communication industry. There are typically three main dimensions along which CSPs are transforming: digitalization of customer interactions, development of new digital products and services and digitalization of internal operations and processes.
Delivering a seamless customer experience by creating digital and delightful customer journeys across all channels is a critical success factor. The digital transformation should also include implementation of the necessary technology enablers, such as an accelerated adoption of multi-speed IT, and be supported by a well-articulated change management program across all the components of the organization. A key focus area is talent strategy, as people will play a central role in mastering new technologies and enabling the sophisticated business models required to succeed in the digital era.
Typically, the main challenges faced by CSPs are in the execution of digital transformation, rather than in designing it. Identifying the right operating model to govern and implement the transformation while managing the "business as usual" is the most critical and complex success factor. Several options are possible, from establishing digital transformation internal committees, to creating centralized and independent digital centers of excellence across business units, up to developing and spinning off a new digital company. Generally speaking, there is not a common answer that fits all organizations. It depends on the DNA of an organization itself, the company culture and also the partners selected for the digital transformation journey.
What, if any, fears are CIOs and CMOs facing on their journey of digital transformation?
CMOs and CIOs agree that getting marketing IT right is a crucial part of their organization's customer-focused digital transformation. But they are challenged with executing on their strategies. The Accenture study, "Cutting Across the CMO-CIO Divide", shows that many senior marketers and IT leaders have encountered problems in implementing marketing solutions or IT projects that focus on marketing effectiveness. They feel that technology in their organization is still siloed and cumbersome.
As a result, we're seeing many organizations struggling to craft cross-channel and multi-channel experiences that are relevant and delightful for their customers. In the four years of leading this research, we've never seen CMOs and CIOs as interested in working together as they are now. We believe that establishing a joint vision with a focus around service design and customer experience can help overcome current issues. Operating models should be revised to integrate customer-focused skills throughout the company, and marketing models and budgets should be aligned with the new ecosystem of marketing services.
Acting on these recommendations allows companies to achieve the ultimate goal of marketing and IT collaboration: enduring customer relevance at scale through a customer-focused digital transformation.
Do you think the rapid change of technology is good for the consumer?
There is no doubt that the technological advances being made today are going to be, and are already proving to be, good for consumers. People want services that are customized for them, available on demand and at the simple touch of a button, and the adoption of new digitally-enabled services and products will help make this a reality.
At Accenture, we believe that what we are living is not just a change in technology. Technology is the enabler, but consumers are changing expectations, habits and values. The whole economy is moving towards digital, which will benefit the whole ecosystem. Consumers are getting more tailored services, companies have tremendous opportunities to streamline their processes and boost their propositions, and governments can be in direct contact with and supportive of every single citizen.
Smart cities are one example of this change having a positive effect, but there are other disruptive innovations in the consumer realm that provide day to day benefits, such as connected health offerings (remotely being able to access medical advice, for example), and personalized content streaming services, or even connected fashion and digitally enabled clothes!
Companies and governments are keen to share the benefits of technology with people who want it as quickly as infrastructures and regulations will allow, and the speed of progress is often impacted by increased demand once consumers realize what it is possible to achieve.
Do you think the change will realistically benefit everyone in society?
Internet of things technologies such as those that enable smart cities can improve the use and experiences of physical spaces where we live and work; their potential is not only about improving the lives of individuals, but businesses, the environment, city operations and any number of other activities. For example, we are already seeing smart buildings that enable lower energy usage, and police using sensor and video analytics to help predict crowd behavior, coordinate resources and respond to incidents.
The Internet of things will have endless applications that could benefit everyone in society. For example, Accenture is part of a consortium called City Digital, which is developing and testing urban infrastructure solutions in Chicago to develop transformative improvements in cities across the world.
At the moment, we're working with them on an underground infrastructure mapping pilot, which focuses on developing a platform to enable virtual mapping and coordination to help monitor underground structures, like water pipes, gas lines, power and electrical systems, subway structures and telecommunications cabling. The goal is to overcome inefficiencies and costs created by the reliance on antiquated systems to plan and execute underground projects.
The pilot will also better coordinate underground permitting and activities, reduce redundant digging operations and accidental interruptions of service, improving the accuracy of utility information and optimizing the way this information is obtained. With services like this, every inhabitant of an area can benefit from improved utilities, enhanced security and fewer disruptions.
How does Accenture fit into this rapidly evolving landscape of digital transformation?
Accenture is a global organization of more than 358,000 people, serving clients in more than 120 countries and one of the benefits that our clients enjoy is being able to leverage our global expertise, but maintaining a local presence and strong local team is also very important to us.
We will continue to make significant investments in research and new technology with our team of digital experts. We are dedicated to enable digital transformation for businesses across industries as well as governments and to develop and nurture local talent to enable the region's best and brightest, cultivating valuable careers and contributing to their countries' agendas.
Active Telecoms recently visited with Adel Bazerghi President of BCE Nexxia, A Bell Canada Company, and Senior Vice President of Bell Canada Wholesale. This is such a growing market that we felt readers would appreciate hearing Adel’s insights into this business.
He brings more than 30 years of telecommunications experience and expertise to his new role. In this capacity, Adel is focused on driving growth for wholesale telecommunications services in Canada, the US and internationally through new market opportunities and strengthened relationships with clients and partners.
Since joining Bell Canada in 2001, Adel has led technology and product development in mobile voice and data services. In his previous position as Bell Mobility’s Senior Vice President, Products and Pricing, he was instrumental in driving Bell Canada’s leadership in wireless services. In addition to his present BCE Nexxia / Bell Wholesale role, Adel serves as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Bell Business Markets. Adel is recognized for his deep business knowledge and outstanding technological expertise in both wireline and wireless services.
The following are some of the questions and answers from our discussion:
Adel, can you please tell us about Bell Canada’s wholesale operations?
Bell Canada is the country's largest telecommunications company and our wholesale customers represent a full range of service providers, including national and international inter-exchange carriers, local exchange carriers, wireless service providers, resellers and Internet Service Providers.
We have a highly focused and knowledgeable wholesale team that is dedicated to helping our customers grow their markets and expand their reach into Canada from key US meet me points as well as across Canada from within the country.
In the US and internationally, we supply services to our customers through BCE Nexxia, our US-based subsidiary. As part of Bell Canada, we offer our customers access to Canada’s most expansive coast to coast to coast network, connecting the largest number of enterprise locations across the country.
Our customers have access to a full range of IP broadband services, voice and SIP solutions as well as hosting services. We also provide access to a team of technical experts for “hands and feet” deployment and maintenance of network equipment.
We also partner with leading vendors to provide network equipment to our customers. Our goal is to provide a one-stop shop to our customers for all of their connectivity, hosting and professional services and network equipment needs. This is an important value add for our customers as they can quickly expand their network reach into and across Canada with minimal upfront capital expenditures while relying on the reliability of the Bell Canada network and the expertise of a highly skilled 24/7 help desk support team.
Can you tell us about the North America network?
Bell Canada has a North American fiber-optic network with route and Point-of-Presence redundancy to ensure secure and reliable connectivity services to our customers. Our availability on our core network is 99.999%, with no single point of failure and multiple diversity options. We offer, by far, the most fiber to buildings in Canada, with over 5.5 million kilometers of fiber along 75,000 kilometers of routes in Canada and links to more than 33 carrier hotels and data centers in North America.
Our US meet me points are located in Seattle, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and Ashburn, Virginia. They serve as convenient, cost-effective gateways into Canada and provide cross connection into each location.
What are the network expansion plans for North America?
Bell Canada will continue to focus and expand our fiber network and we have plans to further expand our Ethernet footprint across Canada. We will also continue to enhance our IP VPN and Wavelength services to meet the evolving needs of the marketplace.
Please tell our readers about your use and growth of Ethernet connectivity?
Ethernet is a key component of our wholesale business. Over the years, we have made significant investments to our Carrier Ethernet service to extend our reach in both Canada and the US.
Our solution is certified by the Metro Ethernet Forum, and we have made aggressive expansions to our footprint in Canada through our fiber-build access strategy. This strategy effectively helps us expand our on-net presence and is allowing us to further extend our national reach from coast to coast to coast.
This year we expanded our Ethernet service to the east with the privatization of Bell Aliant in Atlantic Canada. This acquisition allows us to offer our partners seamless Ethernet service in the east and the west.
We also continue to focus on our network capabilities in the US. We have established Ethernet-enabled points of presence in multiple locations on the east and west coasts of the US, including Seattle, Chicago, New York and Ashburn, Virginia. The meet me points serve as convenient gateways into Canada.
Please tell us about your Canadian Network differentiators?
Our fiber network is second to none. It is the most extensive network in Canada and one of the most advanced, spanning coast to coast to coast. We offer cost-effective services in both metro areas and in the most remote regions of Canada, allowing customers to seamlessly connect their locations across the country.
The Bell network offers low-latency, point-to-point access and supports mission-critical applications. The Bell network supports approximately 80 percent of all network traffic in Canada and reaches 99% of people and businesses across the country.
Bell Canada is known as the “trusted solution provider” in Canada. Can you please tell us more?
In addition to the benefits of our network, featuring an expansive, secure and redundant footprint, we are proud of the various teams at Bell that are dedicated to supporting our wholesale customers.
We work in a consultative manner with our customers to ensure we understand their business objectives and meet their stringent requirements. Our Sales teams along with our customer sales engineers develop solutions tailored to meet the specific business needs of our customers. Our technical support team is certified to the most stringent industry standards and is available 24/7.
We offer a wide range of flexible bandwidth choices with multiple classes as well as innovative diversity options. Moreover, we offer customers competitive service level agreements and various redundancy packages so that they can focus on growing their markets while we focus on their network requirements.
When customers work with Bell, they have peace of mind in working with a company with a track record spanning more than 135 years of providing secure, reliable network services backed by a highly skilled team.
Adel, can you please tell us about your future plans for the wholesale group?
The wholesale business is competitive and changing. In 2016 and beyond, we are expanding our efforts and focusing on new high bandwidth, low latency market opportunities including over the top providers, the gaming industry and other industry segments.
This will require us to look at our business model and find new ways to organize ourselves to meet the business needs of these new customers.
We may evolve as a business, but what has brought us success will remain constant – our robust and redundant network, our various dedicated teams and the investments we make in our networks and services.
Chief Human Resource Officer of Reliance Communications (Enterprise) and Global Cloud Xchange discusses her new roleWritten on Tuesday, 05 April 2016 05:36
Gina Haspilaire believes that her career is not a matter of trying to fit in, or trying to become what you are not. It’s a matter of doing your best, knowing where you fit and pursuing your goals with passion.
Gina is Chief Human Resource Officer of Reliance Communications (Enterprise) and Global Cloud Xchange, responsible for the company’s HR, Corporate Affairs and Facilities management. Ms. Haspilaire joins the company with more than 25 years of experience in general management, global strategy, business development, sales and marketing, HR and customer services. Most recently, she was Vice President of Sales for the Americas (Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil) at HENKEL, Adhesive Technologies. She also served more than 10 years as Vice President & Managing Director, Enterprise Sales for Pacnet where she covered the Americas and Europe, ranking her business unit in the company’s top 3 for 9 consecutive years.
Active Telecoms recently visited with Gina to give our readers a perspective of her new position and her career.
Would you please tell us more about you, your life, education and background?
I was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti. My parents immigrated to America during my pre-school days. Both parents worked, yet my mom was also expected to be the “perfect homemaker” as our cultural background dictates that women were subservient to men.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the midst of the women’s liberation movement in the ‘70s – at the young age of 12, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” song had a huge impact on me… it has inspired me to be strong, be focused, be determined, be persistent.
From age 8 to 17, I spent every summer in Haiti as my parents wanted us to grow up bi-culturally and have strong cultural values. While I have fabulous memories of learning to drive on dirt roads; midnight sneak-outs for street foods; and travels through the spectacular nature forests of Haiti, I also felt the stress that a male-chauvinistic culture had on women, and the rebellious nature in me kicked in... For example, “women should not drive” –yet I got my license at 17! When my auto mechanic father realized I was not going to “fall in line” – he decided to teach me how to keep safe on the road…teaching me to fix and maintain my car.
At Midwood High School in Flatbush, NY, I was considered a star athlete in track-and-fields and qualified for a semi-professional team, I was also active on the cheerleading squad. My focus was to work hard and succeed both academically and athletically in order to be “noticed.” The reward came when I made the 1980 Olympic try out times for the 200 yard dash!
I graduated from St, John’ s University, BS Mathematics and Computer Science at age 21 and began teaching HS in NYC Department of Education in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn (Bushwick HS) and then Queens (August Martin HS). I also worked evenings in the collections department for Chase Visa.
A side note – I married my college sweetheart in my junior year. My father called it “marrying potential” – which is why I mostly love hiring that way in my current job.
In my second year of teaching, I realized I could not pay off my loan earning $14,000 a year so landed a job with AT&T at a job fair. Starting in junior technical positions including writing code in C on Unix OS and other special projects, eventually working my way into becoming a Sales Engineer and later into the corporate office working on the AT&T Network team where I was able to get sponsorship to pursue my MBA from Columbia University.
While pursuing my MBA, I also took care of my 2 young sons, in addition to working full time at AT&T, rotating through Finance, Corporate Affairs and Network Sales – which rounded out my exposure on how to run a company. My husband was a saint in making this possible!
At AT&T, I eventually worked through the ranks to run the company’s New York City financial sector Midmarket Network sales segment, building and successfully growing a recognized #1 ranking sales team.
Following a promotion as Assistant VP of Business Customer Service, I decided to leave the company to join Heidrick and Struggles as a Principal focused on executive search engagements in the technology sector.
Two years later, I was recruited back to telecoms as Head of USA and Europe for Asia Netcom (which later became Pacnet, and now part of Telstra). Over the next 11 years, I built business opportunities for the company, consistently delivering double-digit growth across the market segments and winning corporate recognition for my team’s achievements on top global accounts.
I left Pacnet in 2013 to join Henkel’s Industrial business. New to this industry, I was heading Sales for the Americas Electronics Business until I was once again recruited back to the telecoms sector.
With my diverse portfolio of cross-cultural, cross-industry and cross-business segment experience, in 2015, I came into my current role as Chief Human Resources Officer for Reliance Communications (Enterprise) and Global Cloud Xchange.
Women today have more remarkable presence in the telecoms sector. Can you share with us some details about your journey in telecom, including your current position?
When I started my career, women did not have much of a presence in the business work, especially in the telecoms and technology sector. In fact the most notable ones are now running for President or are well known CEOs. My journey was special. I had a lot of great mentors and guidance and solid training from my employers. The in-depth training I received at the workplace rarely exists in today’s telecom sector due to budget cuts.
For women to move forward in our industry, networking trumps all! I learned this from my childhood experiences in Haiti but proved true even in larger environments…it’s not only what you know but who you know. People don’t buy from who they know but from who they know can get things done.
This is why politics have to be set aside and we just need to focus on making a difference and contributing, regardless of gender or cultural differences.
Do you see more a powerful presence for women in ICT and Telecom in the future?
While the presence of women in ICT and telecoms has indeed grown over the years, I see more and more opportunities for us to break through the “glass ceiling” to secure senior roles – it is about working hard and building a trusted network of colleagues across the industry. In my opinion, while more women are in fact advancing in the sector, what’s lacking is the acknowledgement of these women. At Reliance Communications (Enterprise) & Global Cloud Xchange, for example – out of the 6 C-Suite Senior Executives, 50% are women, including our General Counsel and CMO.
From my years in the industry, I find that women who land senior roles are those who have diverse, global backgrounds and experience. The majority are at least bi-lingual or tri-lingual and have worked assignments in at least 2-3 different countries. In this respect, I believe the US is behind many other countries in developing the global mindset and skills needed for women to succeed in the next generation of ICT and Telecom where all opportunities are global…all virtual…all diverse across global cultures…
How can women empower their roles in telecom?
Just do you! In other words, be yourself and focus on building practical skills and have the basic understanding that we live in a “glocal” (global + local) world where technology is opening up new doors and opportunities that we can embark on – regardless of gender! Women have a huge advantage –it’s our “gut!” Our make-up is to be more nurturing and willing to teach and most of us lead with our hearts.
While men are capable of playing the game (they’re taught to be this way from boyhood sports), women are capable of delivering the results (they’re taught to be this way from childhood girl activities).
It’s all about building the confidence to know that we must be true to ourselves… it’s not a matter of trying to fit in, or trying to become what you are not. It’s a matter of doing your best, knowing where you fit and pursuing your goals with passion. It’s also about the ability to keep moving forward in the midst of challenges and perhaps rejection along the way. For women, we must remain confident that “your turn will come.” That confidence is in our gut!
You have to not only know and understand what to do but how to do it. This gives you the advantage especially when it comes to leading. Leading by example in my opinion is how women can best empower their roles across industries. We also have to be willing to take risk and step out of our comfort zones – change industries, change functional roles, do something, anything that you have never tackled before but know you have the raw skills to do. Challenge yourselves.
How do you manage your work and personal life?
The two co-exist, there is no other way. My life is my work and my work is my life! You have to love what you do and know that if you are focused on something personal today, tomorrow or the day after whatever you need to deliver professionally will still be there. That confidence and faith will make it such that you are in control of managing balance in your life.
Make sure your company understands this so that the flexibility necessary exists. Your family and significant other must also be brought into this balance.
I focus on the “How” and truly believe that at the end of the day this is what makes up the tool set that one requires to consistently be successful, personally and professionally. At least that’s what’s been the key to my success.
What are your future plans and projects?
I’m a teacher at heart and love to develop people. I plan to continue to do that for as long as my professional career allows. I also love the Arts – so more than less will make me happier.
With the wealth of experience I have accumulated, I hope to serve on more Boards. I have a lot to offer strategically to a variety of telecom and non-telecom causes because of where I come from.
I also want to spend more time influencing change in the causes that I believe in and that are important to me, the poor, the environment, Haiti, healthcare, cancer research and treatments, healthcare for the elderly, food for the poor, education, animals, etc.
I want to be able to leave a legacy professionally as well as personally. I want to teach young people and influence generations to come. I am most inspired when I have the opportunity to help develop potential to reality – young talent to ace performers and future leaders.
To know that I had just a little bit to do with someone else’s success makes it all worthwhile! Truly, I am a teacher at heart!
Sami Boustany, CEO of Yahlive, sat down with Active Telecoms to discuss Yahlive's latest offerings and what's happening in the region.
Can you tell me a little bit about what Yahlive is currently doing in the North Africa region?
In 2015, Yahlive partnered with Al Sahli Media Group to launch a bouquet of over 40 channels in Arabic and French to the greater Maghreb region. Viewers across Northern Africa have access to the new free to air channels, 20 of which are only available exclusively through Yahlive.
Our viewers in the Arabian Maghreb are very important to us, and building on the success of the first bouquet of channels, we are currently preparing to reveal another handpicked bundle to deliver a comprehensive range of premium television channels to viewers.
Will this be similar to what you have done in other regions before?
Across all regions, we remain committed to positively impacting the lives of people. We strongly believe in catering to our viewers' needs, and to that end, we have invested our efforts in developing technologies and garnering strategic partnerships to provide our viewers with free-to-air content that they can relate to and enjoy.
In Algeria, we maintained the free-to-air model, which means that viewers only need to invest in one small and affordable satellite from the market, and then call their local dish installer to set up their dish.
Once this is complete, viewers in North Africa can enjoy Yahlive's exclusive channels in addition to the other channels that we broadcast across the MENA region.
How do you go about researching what kind of channels the people want from each different region?
We are committed to offering customers and viewers what they want and where they are. We are constantly working on improving our services by closely studying individual markets and seeking innovative technology to deliver the best quality.
As we provide coverage in many different markets and regions, we carefully source and consult with local partners to tailor our offerings based on the cultural preferences of each market. In addition, we regularly commission research using global research company, IPSOS, to survey viewing habits of our target communities across our coverage areas. This activity allows us to gauge feedback on our existing channels and tailor our upcoming offerings to ensure viewers enjoy diverse bouquets of channels.
Which market have you grown the fastest in so far?
Yahlive delivers a comprehensive range of premium television channels to viewers via three powerful beams strategically covering the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest Asia and Europe.
The west beam targets the greater Arab Maghreb region, specifically Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, where we successfully launched 40 channels at one go, marking that region as a fast growth area for Yahlive with huge potential.
The east beam targets the Middle East and Southwest Asia, which is a hotspot for the Farsi speaking community and one of the strongest in the region for our established channels.
In 2015, IPSOS published results of a survey into the viewing habits of the Farsi speaking community. The survey findings highlighted that more than 25 million Farsi speakers are watching Yahlive, with over 16 million of those viewers watching at home. Yahlive ranked above its local competitors in all main satisfaction metrics, including the highest retention ratio, highest mean satisfaction score, highest mean recommendation score and lowest switching intention.
We've also progressed well with the Afghani and the Kurdish communities. Historically, the Afghan market has had low penetration in terms of satellite usage as most of the content they receive is through analogue terrestrial systems; we see a huge opportunity for growth in that market.
We will soon receive the findings of a new study to gain further insight on viewership rates and market growth.
Is there a lot of demand?
We have witnessed increasing demand due to satellite TV's increased ability to offer viewers variety, quality and reliability of content throughout the year – with virtually no interruption.
In the past, channels in the region were delivered through signals scattered across many satellites, which resulted in weaker signals for viewers. Through Yahlive's beams, viewers are assured of more reliable technical strength, improved quality satellite signals and excellent reception, even in markets with poor infrastructure. Several countries in the Middle East have switched completely to satellite TV, even bypassing the digital terrestrial. It's quite a simple model. Any person under the footprint can access the channel and they don't need a physical link or an internet connection.
Is the internet and Netflix a threat or competition to Yahlive?
Habits at home are certainly changing, with more and more users shifting from linear to on-demand content. However, I can say with confidence that the former two don't act as direct competition to Yahlive due to the nature of the territories that we serve, most of which don't have very solid ground infrastructure.
Content generators, producers and distributors will continue to demand and require satellite as a backbone. Until our region develops better infrastructure across all areas, satellite will remain a key enabler for delivering the right data to the right people, all of the time. For example, Europe is still witnessing an increase in satellite broadcasting, despite its relatively established infrastructure. In the UK, Sky's subscribers are increasing and so are HD Plus' subscribers in Germany.
Finally, market figures show that viewers are still purchasing dishes, which reflects continued interest and belief in linear TV.
Yahlive experienced 70% growth in 2015. What do you attribute this success to?
Overall, we listened closely to what the market needed rather than just go with the typical choice. The easiest option would be to go with an already developed market, but the harder choice was to create a new one. However, with that also comes a potential high return. When the stakes are high you either lose a lot or win a lot, and in our case, we won a lot. We chose our markets, we chose the communities and we listened to the communities through our partners. Typically, when we tackle a new language or community, we like to have local partners from that community and we learn a lot from them. Also, specifically in 2015, we added two new bouquets of channels targeted to the Arabian Maghreb (North African) and the Balkan communities.
What kind of growth are you expecting for 2016?
We will be developing our existing markets. The North African market is a high priority for us; a new baby that needs nurturing. We need to continue to focus on our Farsi market. The potential that we see is much bigger than today, but with the Farsi and Kurdish and Afghani, we are confident that for the next few years we will be the only hotspot globally for these communities.
Our focus remains on ensuring that we continue to reach new communities with targeted television content, expand our broadcaster partnership relationships and evolve our existing channels portfolio.
How do you go about building your viewership?
We simply focus on delivering premium content that people will want to watch. We're very selective because we don't want to put a channel that goes outside of the norm of a certain culture or a certain community. Everybody is worthy to be on the channel and, of course, we need to go after big hitters, ones that have the higher rating. Content is the driver for viewership and then after that it is between us and our partner, how well we market ourselves and how many people are aware of what we're offering.
What do you look for in a partnership?
Let me start by saying what we're not looking for. We are not looking for somebody who can come and say "I have money" or "I need an idea from you" - it's usually the opposite. We need more value from a partner. We also bring value as we come with a state-of-the-art network, a lot of capabilities and with decent funding. Our shareholders are two massive companies, but we're looking for know-how and people who understand their communities and understand the broadcasting business. It usually helps a lot because we come from a global perspective and they come from a local perspective, and when you marry both capabilities, it's a winning combination.
What's next for Yahlive?
We're very excited about the North African bouquet. It's packed with local content, which typically has never been on satellite, so it differentiates us from other satellite providers. We have exclusive content and the bulk is local. There is a big community of content generators whether they're of Algerian background, Moroccan or Tunisian. There is also new content coming to the region through these exclusive channels. The French content is coming in the very near future with much more to compliment the local content.
Guided by its vision of enriching people's lives and its belief that it can stimulate human growth by leveraging communications to help people achieve their full potential, Ooredoo Kuwait, is a member of international Ooredoo Group and provides mobile, broadband internet and corporate managed services tailored to the needs of customers and businesses. Active Telecoms caught up with Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Thani, CEO and General Manager of Ooredoo Kuwait, to get the latest on the company's achievements, changes and future.
What are the company's key achievements in 2015?
Ooredoo Kuwait introduced major developments in 2015 in terms of the services and products offered to our customers; this includes our 4G LTE network which now covers 92 percent of the state. We plan to roll out more towers in the near future.
We have also expanded our branch network and are offering new services to small and medium businesses, who we think are a very important customer segment to us.
What is the company's market share in Kuwait?
Ooredoo has a strong 30 percent share of the local market, which is a good ratio in light of the competitive environment.
We are always attempting to attract more customers by offering unique products and services.
Revenues for 2015 were KWD 188.1 million (USD 619.8 million), an increase of 11.9 percent compared to 2014 of KWD 168.0 million (USD 573.3 million).
What is the percentage of data services within your revenues?
The internet has become an essential component of everyday life, especially as consumers turn to voice-over-IP companies such as Skype for their communications. Accordingly, and as may be expected, data today accounts for 30 percent of our revenues across our group.
What is the future of the telecommunications sector?
The telecommunications sector is rapidly evolving and has seen significant growth in recent years.It is still witnessing growth thanks to the introduction of competition, the growing needs and aspirations of our customers.
I see the future of the sector largely linked to the quality of the internet services provided by telecommunications companies.
Data access, in particular, is now an indispensable service for the vast majority of subscribers.
Social networking channels and mobile applications are now a staple part of the daily routine for the majority of people in Kuwait.
What are new revenue sources for you, given the decline in voice communication service and SMS revenues?
Although revenues from SMS messages and traditional voice calls have declined, the use of mobile data is rising. Data services, and more specifically the internet companies, have changed the rule of the game meaning our traditional communications services can no longer be the foundation.
The ownership of smartphones and devices continues to grow and our strategy is to achieve leadership in internet access.
What do you hope to see from the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) in Kuwait?
First of all, we must recall that the Kuwaiti telecommunications market is both dynamic and competitive; mobile penetration is around 180 percent and still growing.
We are witnessing a boom in the quality and richness of the services offered to all segments of society.
I see the need of an effective regulator who will develop the regulations and arbitrate fairly, resolve disputes, enforce quality control laws, and allocate spectrum to support the growth of the industry and economy. TRA should also look into offering operators their own international gateway, and to provide greater consumer protection.
We in Ooredoo Kuwait look forward to a positive relationship between both TRA and our fellow telecommunications companies. We also look forward to continue supporting all players to support the advancement of this vital sector.
What licenses do the sector need in the next phase?
The authority has a number of important decisions to consider, including the license for international gateways and to create a fiber optic network across the state. They should also look into allowing virtual network partnerships and providing support for fixed-infrastructure investments and ISPs.
How do you see the future for the privatization of the sector?
We believe that there are sectors/services which will need to be privatized in the near future; however, some areas including maintenance and facilities management (domestic and international exchanges and infrastructure, fiber optic, etc.) will still need to be under the Ministry's supervision and control.
The move to the partial privatization is a positive step towards enriching and promoting the principle of positive competition, which creates an attractive environment for investors.
With the rapid changes in communications technology, how ready is Ooredoo to keep up with these changes?
Ooredoo Kuwait is considered one of the leading companies in introducing new technologies; we hire the top talents and train our employees to the highest standards to ensure that our customers are offered the latest and best telecommunications services.
We have invested significantly in upgrading our network, which allows us to continue introducing these services as and when they are available.
How is the company seeking to retain its position in the light of local competition?
Ooredoo is committed to being the leader in Kuwait, and continuously introduces new technologies and services that meet if not surpass the client's needs and aspirations. We have recently upgraded our entire network to LTE/4G + at no additional cost to the customer.
We have also introduced new offers for prepaid and postpaid customers; both are witnessing huge success. We will continue to search for methods to enhance customer's confidence by providing the best services and products.
What is the readiness of the company to launch 5G?
Ooredoo Kuwait is working with its partners to provide the best products and solutions that ensure the company sustains its reputation as having the best network. We have recently signed an agreement with Huawei and look forward to expanding our network with the latest technologies and services.
Ooredoo has participated in the World Mobile Congress that took place in Barcelona earlier in February. What did the company highlight during this event? And what is the main agreement formed there?
The company has used its presence at the event to highlight the incredible progress it has made in updating and optimizing networks in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, as well the range of solutions that Ooredoo companies are delivering over these next generation networks. As well as 5G, Ooredoo has also showcased Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services during Mobile World Congress.
Also, top executives from Ooredoo Kuwait have met with their counterparts at Huawei, the leading global ICT solutions provider, during the Mobile World Congress, as both companies prepared to showcase ICT Innovation previewing how Ooredoo Kuwait will use cutting-edge communication, IT and managed services to deliver value to its customers in the coming years.
In an interview with Active Telecom, Marwan Hayek, chairman and CEO, Alfa talked about the company's remarkable success in 2015 and the future plans and vision for 2016.
How can you briefly evaluate the performance of Alfa for 2015?
I can say that 2015 was another year that further proved the power of broadband connectivity today, and the huge impact mobile data has on people and their behavior and lifestyle, in all aspects, which requires from us, as operators' continuous creativity and innovation, to meet customer demands for digital technologies.
Last year, we have seen an unprecedented growth in data traffic especially on our 4G LTE network where growth reached more than 500 percent by Dec 2015, compared to same period in 2014. This is a record increase thanks to the 81 percent smartphone penetration on our network. It only tells us how hungry are customers in Lebanon for data and how enthusiastic they are about being at the heart of the mobile data revolution. We launched the first live 4G+ LTE Advanced site in Q3, 2015 in Lebanon and the region, achieving actual speeds of 300 Mbits/sec. We embraced change and engaged in the Internet of Things (IoT) trend through the launching of our wearable device, the Malak-e tracking mobile watch, which addresses kids and enables parents to easily locate, and monitor them anytime, anywhere. This was only the start.
Our network KPIs remain steady and excellent and in line with international benchmarks as certified by our major equipment manufacturers. We have further maintained Alfa's leading position among local and worldwide networks on many fronts. Our throughout rate on 3G+ network is highest than the world average putting us at the top 14 ranks among 79 Ericsson markets. Our 4G LTE KPIs are excellent and we maintain a competitive edge over EME and world averages.
What is Alfa's business strategy for 2016; any focus on services such as enterprises, data, or increasing subscribers' numbers?
Our focus in 2016 is to continue providing high quality services while keeping innovation as main pillar of our strategy.
In a market where we are close to saturation, with a 94+ percent mobile penetration rate, and with the record growth we are witnessing in terms of data traffic, the challenges we are set for are abundant and enormous.
However, we see them as growth opportunities that will further set Alfa as a main contributor to the digital economy growth in Lebanon and to further positioning Lebanon as a leader on this front.
In 2016, we plan to set the foundation for digitization in the local market and continue to drive innovation around non-traditional business models such as the IoT trend.
2016 for us, is also the year of nationwide 4G+/LTE Advanced coverage. This is a big challenge, but a huge step forward and we stand ready for it. We have the resources, the team and the strategy in place, and our track record proves that we can and we deliver in record times.
What role does customer experience play for that strategy to succeed in the Lebanese market?
We place the customer experience at the heart of our corporate strategy. We strongly believe that CEM is a journey, not a destination. Our aim is, not only to understand the customer experience from his perspective, but also to anticipate his needs. This can happen through establishing compelling, integrated customer experience across every communication channel with the customers. Consistency across all channels is key, as is measuring how successfully we capture customer interest.
We are already relying on many scattered CEM platforms to get closer to our customers. We intend to integrate them into a central platform that treats and analyzes all the information we amass about our subscribers through all our channels.
As part of this CEM journey, and since 2013, we have been actively working on collecting the voice of our customers in order to better meet their needs and expectations. Over 2.6 million surveys have been sent to our customers since 2013, and 26 programs were launched with more than 200 initiatives taken and implemented upon the results and the feedback we garnered. Some of the initiatives we launched include introducing the live chat as a new channel for communication on Alfa website, which is a first from Alfa. Other initiatives are in the pipeline and will be announced soon.
How are you benefiting from the increase of data usage? How much has it increased so far from the previous couple of years?
Our data traffic has almost been multiplied by more than 22 times in the last couple of years thanks to the massive expansion on the network and namely the introduction of the 3G and 4G technologies. Between December 2014 - 2015, we have seen a 40 percent increase in data traffic over our 3G+ network and more than 500 percent surge in data traffic over the 4G LTE network. This is a huge increase coupled with a rise in LTE capable devices in the market of 107 percent and an increase in data subscriptions by 11 percent. According to the GSMA Mobile Economy Report for 2015, data traffic is expected to see an almost ten-fold increase by 2019 and at Alfa, we are witnessing this exponential data growth, we are part of it and ready for the challenge.
Envisioning the future of telecom in Lebanon, what is your vision for 2016?
Mobile in Lebanon is a key enabler for a digitized society that will pave the way to developing all other sectors in the country: Banking, public, health, communication, etc. Of course, we remain focused on establishing cross functional partnerships with these other non-telco sectors through which we will be able to offer reliable and added value services that also benefit our society.
The mass adoption of connected digital services that we provide will greatly contribute to the economy growth, jobs creation and also to maintaining Lebanon at the forefront of the technological innovations in the region.
We see a promising and bright future. Despite the current setup which makes it hard to develop a long term strategy, we are all geared up for the mobile data revolution and all the enormous challenges it brings. We have proven since taking over the management of Alfa in 2009, and through all our milestones throughout these years, that we are able to move ahead with this operation and run it in a smooth way that satisfies us, our stakeholders and our customers. Change is in our DNA and we are ready to move to the next level through the digital transformation.
As 2016 takes shape, new industry players are sure to emerge in the fast-paced, developing world of apps. One such emerging player in the Middle East region is TEDMOB, a rising agency focusing on developing the best mobile apps for enterprises, telecom operators, and agencies. Their main aim: To transform any idea into a successful application. In addition, the company is planning to deploy VAS services allowing operators to leverage a complete set of innovative products for generating more customer engagement and increase brand loyalty. We caught up with Mario Hachem, co-founder and CEO of TEDMOB who is optimistic about the establishment of his new company.
Mario Hachem has spent the last twelve years in the telecom, VAS and mobile industries. He led a great team at apps2you which was recognized as the "Best Mobile Application Developers" in the Middle East for 2013-2014. With a team of apps gurus and focus on outcomes that benefit the customers and company, Hachem led some projects and apps like "LAF Shield" which was to be awarded "Best M-Government App in Dubai" at the Deloitte awards for 2015.
"Throughout my journey I was elected as representative towards the government in the Beirut Creative Cluster whose vision was to create a world cluster of content, platform and technology providers, developing and distributing innovative digital content and technologies to global markets," says Hachem.
With his extensive experience in the industry, in late 2015, Hachem felt it was time for a change to extend his outreach to a broad range of customers by opening his own business. On October 5, 2015, Hachem co-founded the company TEDMOB (Technology, Entertainment and Development for Mobile). To Hachem, the establishment of the company is a "dream come true." He founded a team of seventeen developers to initiative the company; a team that he hopes to grow in 2016 by seeking out more talented individuals.
"Over the years, while working with telecom and mobile gurus, I realized that there is a huge need for telecom operators, enterprises, government, startup and entrepreneurs to leverage their distinct assets and capabilities by offering new innovative disruptive products and services," says Hachem explaining the influence behind establishing TEDMOB.
TEDMOB in a nutshell is a mobile solutions and apps development firm with offices in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East region. They work collaboratively with telecom operators, media, and digital agencies, enterprises and startups to turn their ideas into reality. Now is a better time than ever to emerge as an app developer, especially when you look at statistics provided by Go-Globe who claim that mobile apps now account for more than half (52 percent) of all time on digital media. In addition, Go-Globe claims that estimated worldwide mobile app revenues reached 45 billion in 2015, and will increase to 58 billion in 2016.
"Our Team of mobile app and VAS developers, UI/UX designers, as well as hero project managers is devoted to managing every step of the process of each project while guiding our clients through it and guaranteeing superior results," says Hachem. "Not only do we cover native mobile apps development, but also digital products and concepts, telecom VAS content services, mobile solutions, and products that can be customized upon our clients' every need."
Goals, challenges & looking ahead
The products that Hachem and his team are currently working on are complex; therefore instead of going into detail explaining them, Hachem mentioned the target of TEDMOB's products: "Let's say today the operators are seeking products for the users and the network," he explains. "They want to increase engagement, increase brand loyalty, and engage more with their customers. Mobile apps, one of the main activities of TEDMOB, are a good way to approach our clients to offer them a new experience. We think: Why not join forces with the operators and content providers to create products that can be directly offered to the customers? The billing is directly happening with the customers, the owner of the product is happy, the users are happy, and the operator is happy."
As apps are very much a part of the technology entertainment industry, Hachem and his team closely follow trends in the app market, and other technology that is trending. Virtual reality, for example, is a tech trend that TEDMOB has caught on to. "We have many products lined up related to virtual reality in 2016, including cardboard and oculus based products," Hachem explained. "360 videos are very important - even Facebook are trying to get involved with that." TEDMOB products cover these technologies. They are also getting involved with 3D tours and 3D augmented reality.
Hachem feels sure that his team has the capacity and "know-how" to build this type of technology platform and he is excited to see how far his team can take the business of developing fun, interactive and successful apps. "We are hyping 'Appreneurs' meaning a startup that is based on an application," said Hachem. "We essentially help them and offer them services beyond development."
Looking ahead, 2016 is sure to be a big year for TEDMOB, the up-and-coming tech entertainment development brand. As a new company, like any other, they have faced and will still face more challenges - but Hachem is up for it. For him, one of his main focuses for the year is to continue to add more talented individuals to his team who can provide fresh ideas and expertise.
He admits that a challenge he faced in 2015 was the "economic and political situations in the region" which caused pushing back of some of his potential investors. However, Hachem remains optimistic offering this final statement: "If you have a good team and a good product, any company has a good chance at making it."