Etisalat to invest Dh3.6 billion in infrastructure this year

Etisalat to invest Dh3.6 billion in infrastructure this year
Eng. Saleh Al Abdooli, Group CEO of etisalat

dubai - The amount will be invested in the modernisation of mobile and fiber optic networks and future technologies



by

Mustafa Al Zarooni

Published: Wed 28 Feb 2018, 7:11 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Feb 2018, 9:16 PM

Eng. Saleh Al Abdooli, Group CEO of etisalat, spoke about the telecom company's investments in future technologies such as 5G, IoT, artificial intelligence and robotics during an interview to Khaleej Times during the Mobile World Congress being held in Barcelona, Spain.

He spoke of how etisalat recently achieved a new milestone by deploying pre-commercial 5G network in certain areas in the UAE. He attributed the telco's strong performance to its investments toward next-generation services and solutions. Excerpts below:

What are the most important topics discussed at this year's Mobile World Congress?
A: Etisalat's 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 in 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 investments in 2018?
Etisalat has allocated Dh3.6 billion for 2018 to continue investing in the modernisation of mobile and fiber optic networks and infrastructure development through investments in future technologies such as IoT, Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Today, our network is one of the fastest growing in the region due to our continuous investment over the years in 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 networks in the region.

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 camera with 4K streaming experience in a live environment. 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, autonomous car, smart health and education, among others.

How did etisalat maintain its good performance despite 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 investments toward next-generation services and solutions.

Etisalat also launched a corporate strategy focusing on 'Driving the Digital Future to Empower Societies', enabling us to consistently push boundaries by responding swiftly to global digital advancements and delivering cutting-edge services to our customers. The establishment of the Open Innovation Centre was a 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.

What is the current rank of etisalat brand in the region?
We are proud to be named the 'Most Valuable Brand' in the Mena region at a value of $7.7 billion. This is a significant milestone as we have transcended from the third rank to the first in only one year by surpassing some renowned regional brands. This can be attributed to our efforts in digital transformation whereby we have amplified our reach and presence in a highly competitive marketplace by investing in new digital platforms and global brand building initiatives.

Can you give us an insight on etisalat customer experience initiatives and your plans on this front?
Etisalat has maintained a diverse business model, offering added value to our customers by launching a variety of offers 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 to meet their changing needs.

We have expanded our network of smart stores in the UAE to more than 130. 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.

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

Innovation today is a key focus for the government. What is etisalat's role 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 UAE's digital vision.

One of the key objectives of the business unit Etisalat Digital is to give young companies a platform to engage with our experts, have access to our 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, pairs top startups with Dubai government entities, allowing them to build, test and deploy solutions for 21st century challenges.

Etisalat recently opened the Open Innovation Centre 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.

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 societies where we operate. We aim to make a difference in the lives of individuals and businesses by providing solutions and services under our digital vision.

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.

- malzarooni@khaleejtimes.com


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