Saleh Al Abdooli said the company recently achieved a new milestone by deploying pre-commercial 5G network in certain areas in the UAE. Image Credit: Etisalat

Barcelona: Etisalat this year is keen to invest heavily in modernisation of mobile and fibre-optic networks, infrastructure development and future technologies.

Saleh Al Abdooli, Group Chief Executive Officer, says the company’s strategy is “driving the digital future to empower societies”, in an interview during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

What are the most important topics discussed at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and why?
Etisalat participation this year aims at engaging in discussions about the latest developments and impact of 5G, analytics, machine learning, and digitisation on operator cost structures, customer engagement, as well as consumer uptake challenges, especially in emerging markets, which are the majority of our operating companies.

We expect a healthy debate on return on investments (ROI) on 5G, and resulting expected expansion in allied technologies, which would become possible given the massive increases in data throughput and new technological breakthroughs.

What is etisalat’s projected investment in 2018?
Etisalat has allocated Dh3.6 billion for 2018 to continue investingin the modernisation of mobile and fibre-optic networks and infrastructure development through investments in future technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Today, our network is one of the fastest growing in the region due to our continuous investments over the years in the infrastructure; with 3G-network coverage reaching 99.6 per cent while 4G LTE covering 98.3 per cent. Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) coverage has reached 94.3 per cent of homes across the UAE, thus maintaining the UAE’s position as a global leader in FTTH, according to the latest report from the FTTH council. Our network today is one of the fastest and most advanced in the region

 We will continue to focus on creating the world’s best and leading networks across our markets.”

 - Saleh Al Abdooli | Group CEO of Etisalat 

Etisalat also recently achieved a new milestone by deploying pre-commercial 5G network in certain areas in the UAE. State-of-the-art 5G capabilities were demonstrated using an advanced 5G based drone that is equipped with 360 degree Virtual Reality (VR) camera with 4K streaming experience in live environment, achieving up to 5Gbps in Downlink and 2Gbps in Uplink with extremely low latency along with massive IoT connections. In addition, a new 5G triple play wireless access services (Data, Voice and TV) were used with unique compact 5G Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) device.

5G technologies will be a major enabler for the fourth industrial revolution and will create new business opportunities for etisalat partners in the UAE including Intelligent Transport System (ITS), autonomous car, smart health and education, among others.

How did etisalat maintain its good performance despite today’s global economic challenges?
In 2017, etisalat continued to deliver on its promise of strong performance despite the increasing global economic challenges and the mounting pressure facing the telecom industry. We have showcased good results underpinned by our continued commitment and investments toward next-generation services and solutions, adding remarkable value to the communities we serve and enhance customer experience.

Etisalat also launched a new corporate strategy focusing on “Driving the Digital Future to Empower Societies”, enabling us to consistently push boundaries, by responding swiftly to the global digital advancements and proactively delivering cutting-edge services and solutions to our customers. The establishment of the “Open Innovation Centre” was a strategic step in this direction, allowing us to highlight digital innovation, its capabilities and how digitalisation can come to life for etisalat customers, businesses and governments.

We will continue to focus on creating the world’s best and leading networks across our markets to deliver long-term value to all our stakeholders. The successful launch of the first pre-commercial 5G in the UAE will enable our nation and businesses to achieve transformational growth by leveraging on New-Age technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud and future technologies that will reshape our society and industry on a large scale.

Etisalat Group is confidently moving forward in enriching lives and enabling societies across it markets. As a group, we will continue our efforts to sustain a healthy portfolio that maximises synergies, and focuses on enhancing customer experience, while adding value to our shareholders.

Can you give us an insight on etisalat customer experience initiatives and your plans on this front?
Etisalat has maintained a diverse and effective business model, offering added value to our customers to meet and exceed their expectations by launching a variety of innovative offers and services in the UAE. Customer experience has seen revolutionary changes using innovative digital platforms to interact and enhance the overall engagement while continually creating new innovative products and offerings to meet their changing needs and requirements.

We have expanded our network of smart stores in the UAE to more than 130 stores, which is a new achievement that supports our continued efforts to provide a unique digital experience with high levels of efficiency and flexibility. Etisalat’s smart stores aim to deliver advanced technologies and high levels of quality and speed in customer service. We aim to improve the overall customer experience by providing data packages and competitive prices to give them the best value. These products and services aim to meet the dynamic changing requirements of our customers in the best possible manner.

With our portfolio of services for enterprise solutions, etisalat offers a wide range of integrated services, from office connectivity to networking solutions. Etisalat has tailored solutions for the SMB sector to deliver the best possible value and a competitive offering. We have set up a first dedicated business hub for SMBs that is committed to provide owners with tailored advanced solutions that increase their productivity and profitability.

Innovation today is a key focus for the government, what is the role of etisalat in this area?
Etisalat’s efforts and investments in the past few years focused on the development of smart city technologies and creating digital solutions aimed to achieve the digital vision of the UAE.

One of the key objectives of the business unit Etisalat Digital is giving young companies a platform to engage with our experts, have access to our robust network and utilise our digital technologies to build viable products and new revenue streams. Etisalat Digital’s partnership with Dubai Future Accelerators, the world’s largest government supported accelerator, pair’s top start-ups with the Dubai government entities allowing them to build, test and deploy solutions for 21st-century challenges.

Etisalat recently opened the Open Innovation Centre a first of its kind in the region showcasing digital innovation, its capabilities and how digitalisation can come to life for all etisalat customers and partners. These businesses will have the opportunity to experience etisalat solutions applied to real-world scenarios and get a comprehensive view of technologies that deliver concrete business outcomes.

In conclusion, what are you looking forward to next?
Today etisalat is one of the leading ICT solution providers in the region and we will continue to remain the future change agents in all the societies where we operate. We aim to make a difference in the lives of individuals and businesses by providing solutions and services under our ambitious digital vision of the company.

In line with this vision, etisalat will continue to embrace leading operating models in the field of digital transformation while leveraging digital evolution to enhance products and services, speed up market offerings, and enrich customer experience. Etisalat will continue to synergise digital initiatives and projects, as well as acquire and employ digital capabilities through its operations.

Thanks to our long-term strategy, we will be able to adapt and respond confidently and responsibly to overcome any challenges, as well as create strategic partnerships that add value to customers and shareholders alike.