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Ambition, Resilience And Vision

On its 15th anniversary, Fahad Al Hassawi, CEO of du, looks back at how the company has positively transformed itself from a traditional telco to an intelligence service and product partner in the UAE and across the MENA region


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Mon 28 Feb 2022, 11:10 AM

Innovation lies not only in outreach, but also comes from within, says Fahad Al Hassawi, CEO of du. It is a message that the company has kept at the heart of its operations for the past 15 years, and will continue to be a slogan for many more years to come. It is what has aided the company through several challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, through which du had to showcase its effective resilience whilst remaining competitive.

“Bold moves had to be taken to sustain our ambitions to develop a service that fell in line with growing telecommunication needs,” Al Hassawi recalled. “du ambitiously moved forward with capital deployment, and not at the expense of its customers.”

He noted that du also engaged with its capabilities to remain up to date with latest technology and 5G use cases to proactively make a difference across communities and daily lives in a timely manner. The company also pursued its inclusivity and sustainability efforts by engaging more with the region’s youth and their interaction with web services and digitisation; encouraging SMEs to shift to advanced technologies; and operating gender balance across its board of directors.

Al Hassawi also said that shaping the 5G network and adding 5G devices to the company’s portfolio represents a ‘tremendous success’ for the company. “Today, du is demonstrating high leaps in digitisation, showcasing intricate data literacy potential with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, 5G, and big data, leading the path for government entities and enterprises to follow suit.”

The most recent innovations demonstrate 5G’s ability to improve operational efficiency and reduce cost, the latter representing a huge advantage for more specific needs, such as the launch of 5G Smart Policing. At an enterprise level, du had announced as early as 2012 its first innovative scheme with the launch of Datamena — a carrier-neutral transit and content hub to simplify business for carriers, operators and content providers by consolidating infrastructure and reducing IP costs, giving them cost-effective access. The recent opening of two new data centres will further equip enterprises across the UAE with next-generation digital infrastructure to accelerate deployment providing agile, resilient, secure, and scalable solutions.

Asked what has been the greatest challenge that the company has faced, Al Hassawi said: “The ensuing demand in digital transformation required businesses worldwide, and telcos especially, to rapidly secure services and products which altogether necessitated significant investment and an expert workforce. Yet, du emerged stronger as we built a tremendous commercial momentum by focusing on our customers and anticipating their needs. I am proud that we delivered growth in service revenues to such extents and especially pleased to report that mobile service revenues returned to growth in Q4 2021.”

The UAE currently holds the highest smartphone penetration rate in the region, and revenues generated from 5G services are set to increase even more by 2026 — thereby successfully extending a digital economy nationwide. du is expecting to calibrate on 5G capabilities both in the UAE and regionally across the MENA region to benefit communities, enterprises, and governments throughout. Ultimately, the aim is to perform a full automation journey for all digitised networks and processes.

“In that process we will reinvigorate cyber defence, tackle telecom fraud, perform data anonymisation, and more,” Al Hassawi stated. “We are also set to increase communications networks through our Mobile Sites Fiber. As a result, we are set to continue deploying disruptive tools across our services next to 5G, such as AI to better screen data analytics against and IoT blockchain capabilities. Such endeavours will positively influence the national sustainability goals with regard to energy saving developments, and we expect to be announcing several initiatives that to incentivise a bigger cohort of users to those means.”

Looking back, he noted that du consistently sought out ‘new and invigorating’ services to cater to its wider network, every-day customers, and enterprises. “Since launching nationwide in 2007, we understood that as our network expands, our customers’ expectations in terms of access and needs increase. Which is why we developed our ambition from the get-go and launched WIFI UAE.”

The announcement of the launch quickly followed suit into a number of high footfall areas including RTA serviced areas such as the Dubai Tram and Metro lines, as well as malls, Emaar Boulevard Downtown Dubai, and Global Village. More recently, du was also one of the first telco operators in the Middle East to make 5G powered devices available for its customers.

Al Hassawi noted that du has successfully grounded itself as a market differentiator, and an intelligence service provider. “Following two years of developments, our 5G network is now accessible to above 90 per cent of the population with seamless resident access to soon follow. The company also extrapolated its unwavering commitment to its employees by further engaging with diversity in the workplace. With over 20 per cent female representation on its board of directors, du became the first GCC telco to reach this milestone of diversity.”

“It is a testament to du’s commitment to integrate a gender lens to its establishment, thereby foregoing gender visibility in the ongoing digital transformation efforts, and allowing for inclusive data prospects,” Al Hassawi said. “The latter is now more relevant than ever before as data analytics conveys automation and predictive insight to routine applications across industries. Our newly launched data centres will further equip enterprises across the UAE with next-generation digital infrastructure.”

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