Dr Hazim Al-Rawi, general manager, MENA, Comba Telecom. Dr Hazim Al-Rawi, general manager, MENA, Comba Telecom.

Dr Hazim Al-Rawi, general manager, MENA, Comba Telecom on how the company has moved up the value chain to be an end-to-end turnkey solutions provider working in close collaboration with operators, enterprises and other vendors.

As Comba Telecom celebrates its 20th anniversary since it was founded, Dr. Hazim Al-Rawi looks back at how far the company has come in this period. Comba has grown from a China-centred company providing low-end indoor distribution systems to a multi-national entity on the present date, with an end-to-end portfolio of solutions and services for the wireless ecosystem. Not only the company has grown in revenues from approx. $100 million to $900 million, it has also expanded globally across North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia. The contribution of international markets to the company’s revenues has grown from 1% to more than 20% now.

The product portfolio has expanded enormously as well; while the company was majorly a box-mover in the initial days, now it provides a whole range of diverse solutions ranging from outdoor Base Station (BTS) antennas, to indoor distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cells, mobile backhaul, and services like network design, consultancy, deployment, and optimisation. Comba has been rated among the top 3 Tier 1 BTS Antennas suppliers globally for the last 4 years. “That’s how we are moving up the value chain. We are key partners to operators as well as enterprises,” Dr. Al-Rawi says.

In terms of major projects worldwide, Comba completed a multi-system wireless coverage project for various venues hosting the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Working with the mobile operators and the constructors, Comba completed the year-long project to design, and implement a multi-system, multi-band wireless solutions within the venues that included TD-SCDMA, GSM900/1800, Wi-Fi and WAPI (WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure) networks.

Comba also supplied the 2G/3G/4G LTE, iDEN and WiFi turnkey wireless solutions at eight out of twelve stadiums hosting the World Cup matches in Brazil in 2014.

Most recently, Comba enabled mobile device users to enjoy a ubiquitous and high capacity wireless experience at the soccer stadiums hosting the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro and other cities around Brazil. “Now we are firmly not just the number one vendor in our field in China but we also feature amongst the best in our field globally,” Dr. Al-Rawi says.

After having begun operations in the Middle East around eight years ago, Comba has grown organically, and now has partnerships with various operators and enterprises in the market.

The company has a strong focus on R&D, and invests a minimum of 5% of its annual revenues in research. Apart from several wholly owned R&D facilities, Comba is currently collaborating with third party companies in various research set-ups to develop new solutions in line with the rapidly changing market dynamics.

So, which are the areas Comba is primarily focusing its efforts around that it believes will bring in the next phase of growth? Dr. Al-Rawi says the emphasis includes effective monetisation of networks and collaboration with enterprises. He adds how operators could benefit greatly by analysing subscriber data and utilising it to generate revenues, without interfering with regulatory or privacy requirements. Similarly, by collaborating with enterprises, operators could use in-door wireless networks for targeted advertising based on the interests of various customers (which again can be found from subscriber data analysis).

“Big data is the next step for operators to monetise their networks.  They can’t do this by themselves. They need to work with enterprise customers as well. Here is where Comba comes in. With our wireless expertise as well as experience of working with enterprises for indoor connectivity, we can bring all together to create a win-win situation,” Dr. Al-Rawi says. He adds that this will pave the way for IoT and smart cities.