ME telcos mull plan to take on OTT players

Operators in the Middle East mull plans for a pan-Arab online platform - Reuters
Du's Osman Sultan is proposing the idea of a pan-Arab platform to take on the OTT players.
Du's Osman Sultan is proposing the idea of a pan-Arab platform to take on the OTT players.

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Middle East operators are discussing plans to create a pan-Arab platform to take on internet giants such as Facebook and Google, Osman Sultan, CEO of UAE telco Du, told Reuters.

Operators in the region have long voiced their frustration at surging amounts of data flowing on their networks which is monetised by companies such as Google and Facebook.

Sultan said he had proposed the idea to all major operators in the Arab world over the past 12 months, the report added. The proposed Arab online platform would feature social media and online shopping for goods and services, including digital content such as music, video and applications, Sultan said.

He stressed that such a  platform would need to be a collaborative effort by the region's telcos. "A single operator, even one in multiple geographies and with tens of millions of subscribers, can't create this platform on its own," he was quoted as saying.

"It would be restricted to the customers of this operator and wouldn't have sufficient scale to succeed. But a unified platform spanning the Arab world would.”

But the initiative is likely to divide telcos in the region. CEOs from the region’s telcos have debated the merits of entering the digital space at numerous events in the past couple of years, including the Arab Advisors Convergence Conference in 2011 and 2012. Many executives, including former STC international CEO Ghassan Hasbani, have dismissed similar ideas in the past.

It is also not the first time that Osman Sultan has revealed ambitions for telcos to enter the digital space. Back in 2010, Du unveiled Anayou, a social networking and entertainment platform that was designed as a destination for the MENA region, offering content, applications and games, including access to social networks, entertainment, sports, mobile games, two-way phone sync and a storage space.

The full report from Reuters can be read here.

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