Istikana CEO urges collaboration with telcos

Samer Abdin says operators should seize opportunities such as billing
Samer Abdin co-founder and CEO of Dubai-based OTT video company Istikana.
Samer Abdin co-founder and CEO of Dubai-based OTT video company Istikana.

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While providers of OTT video services are often viewed as a thorn in the side of telecom operators, consuming vast amounts of bandwidth but delivering little in the way of revenues for operators, Samer Abdin co-founder and CEO of Dubai-based OTT video company Istikana offers a different take.

Speaking at Huawei and IDC’s Ultra-Broadband Summit Middle East & Africa 2015 in Dubai yesterday, Abdin said that OTT players and telecom operators should be less antagonistic and more collaborative. He also suggested a concrete example of how operators could generate income off the back of OTTs – by increasing their presence in the payment space.

“Often there’s an almost antagonistic attitude between OTTs and telcos. Telcos see OTTs as a threat and talk about them as a threat,” Abdin said. “I just wanted to say that as OTT players we don’t see telcos as a threat. We see telcos as potential partners. There are certain things that OTT players do very well and in those areas the telcos could use our help to deliver content to those customers. There are lots of things that telcos do very well that we’re not very good at. There is a huge scope for collaboration.”

Abdin pointed out that use of credit cards is severely limited in the Middle East, opening up a significant opportunity for telcos to help customers of OTT players to pay for services. However, he also warned that operators could miss out on the opportunity unless they act quickly.

“Credit cards are not used very much here, maybe they will in the future or maybe there will be some other mode of payment that comes along. If telco operators don’t grab the opportunity now to become established players in payments, then they risk losing.”
He added that OTT players such as Istikana would “jump on” a new mode of payment that is advantageous to its business. “When a new payment does come along and it’s more advantageous to us from a business point of view, we will of course jump on it. Unless telcos take this opportunity to work together and become established in the payments space, they risk losing out.”

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