B2B sector which often used to be a second priority for telcos worldwide has found a new increased importance in the data era. The last couple of years have witnessed an increased focus by telecom operators to revamp their enterprise business. The reasons for this are many, including the decreasing dominance of voice, low prices of data, changing expectations of consumers and businesses, as well as the increased competition from OTT and other digital players.
Convergence of IT and telecommunications has created multiple new opportunities for various stakeholders of the ICT ecosystem. Considering the huge infrastructure legacy of the telcos, large scale investments as well as ongoing customer relationships, they are definitely at a position of advantage when it comes to offering new ICT services. The global B2B telecommunication market is anticipated to cross $ 100 billion by the end of 2026 and is estimated to record a CAGR of 13.6% during the forecast period, according to Future Market Insights. The report further adds that Middle East and Africa is the fastest growing region in B2B telecommunication market especially due to the huge investments being made by large telcos to meet the increasing demand for data services throughout the region.
So, what role does a telco exactly play in the enterprise services market? Is it that of a system integrator? According to Hany Aly, executive vice president - enterprise business, du, the role varies for the various segments serviced by the operator. “We are different things to different people. As a telco you have to deal with different segments of customers.
“For large enterprises, we act as a system integrator. For SMEs, we play the role of their IT consultants in addition to be a one-stop-shop for their all ICT needs.”
du is soon coming up with a new proposition called Business Connect, which is going to be a one-stop-shop where SMEs can go in and get their connectivity needs and office equipment- all they need to set up their business in a hassle-free process. By subscribing to Business Connect, businesses can enjoy faster broadband, devices, Office 365, 24x7 support and more.
2017 saw du launching several new solutions and services targeted at the business segment. It enhanced business mobile plans to meet the communication needs of SME businesses more effectively. du also launched its first ‘Business Mobile Centre’. The mobile air-conditioned bus is aimed at bringing the operator closer to business customers and offer easier access to sales and services. The Business Mobile Centre is scheduled to stop at government and business customer entities, with operating times from 8 am to 2 pm.
du also announced its new satellite teleport facility, located in the Al Qudra area of Dubai, to enable the expanding requirements of du broadcast customers to deliver a superior service with a focus on service reliability and close control and monitoring of services uplinked from there. But why would businesses prefer to get their ICT needs serviced not by a traditional IT player but a telco? “Businesses have the option of buying from us if they don’t want the hassle, and want a one-stop shop. There’s no capex and everything in one place and one consolidated bill,” says Hany.
“What differentiates us is our focus on the quality of service and customer experience. One of the most important factors is that the customers trust us, and this is something we have earned by serving our clients better than anyone else in the region. Our strategy is to offer competitive pricing with superior customer service. Customers have the peace of mind that they will get help in timely manner and best possible manner.”
The market landscape has been definitely getting increasingly competitive with time. In such a scenario, it’s very crucial for companies to choose their battles wisely, so that they don’t waste their resources. Keeping this in mind, du has adopted a clear strategy that it’s not going to compete with the big digital players be it in the cloud space, content or other ICT sectors. The idea, instead is to be the host and enabler of services provided by international technology players, and market those effectively banking upon its expert knowledge and understanding of the local market dynamics, customer requirements and regulatory regimes.
Hany says: “Whenever there’s a possibility that we can partner to get a solution or service to the market quickly and leverage the other person’s knowledge, we do so. What’s critical for us is to create the environment that enables such collaborations while we focus our energy on upgrading our connectivity infrastructure.”
In the technology space, du has partnered with a number of strategic partners, Hany adds. For IoT and M2M solutions, du has partnered with Vodafone. On the datacentre side, du has a very strong partnership with Equinix which is a state of the art datacentre provider. In the security space, du has strong partnerships such as the one with DarkMatter. “We focus on establishing our core connectivity infrastructure and create an environment to bring in partners together. We have the market knowledge, we have the client base, and we know the market regulation. We bring specialised partners each with their own area of expertise,” Hany says.
du already has a great network coverage across the UAE and the operator is currently piloting 5G to prepare for the new opportunities that the next generation mobile technology will bring. According to Hany, “It will allow us to add another layer of services for our customers. Clients for example can have fixed connectivity along with back up through 5G and vice versa.”
2018 has begun on a good note for du, Hany says. “Some people were bit concerned with the introduction of VAT, but we are not seeing any negative impact on the market. I think it’s going according to the expectations.”
Commenting on the reorganisation of EITC in the latter half of 2017, Hany says, “The main purpose of the reorganisation was to have more focus. The whole idea is we have separate business units which are focusing on different businesses but they have synergies between them as a result, they can leverage each other’s assets or capabilities. Once you reach a certain size, it makes sense to invest more in the business and grow it.”
Hany is quite optimistic about the gains that the reorganisation will bring to the enterprise side of the business. “We have grown our non-connectivity revenue over the past four years by over 400%. Now, with focussed business units in place, I expect lots of benefits to come in the form of more focus, increased sales, better customer experience and more innovation.”
Refuting the argument that connectivity is dead, Hany adds: “Almost every new innovation in the world requires a connectivity element. So connectivity is growing. Prices are going down of course but connectivity is growing. And connectivity revenue is growing. I think that’s the case for all telcos.”
In addition, Hany sees a lot of growth coming from the datacentre business, M2M and IoT, smart home and smart city services. “Enterprise segment contributes more than 25% to du’s overall revenue mix,” adds Hany. Going forward, he expects double digit growth in areas like cloud, security, and adjacent services, and single digit growth in connectivity. Reviewing the evolution of the operator’s business over time, Hany says, it has evolved from purely being a connectivity business to being more and more solution driven business. The second big aspect has been the move to digital. Companies be it SMEs or large enterprises want to access all of their services through mobile. That’s one more thing du is focusing on this year. Going forward in 2018 and beyond, EITC’s strategic priorities aim to focus on protecting and optimising the ‘core’ while seeking growth in ‘adjacencies’ beyond core.
When asked about the biggest disruptive trend he foresees, Hany says: “While it’s true that we are living in a disruptive world now, we are also quite used to change. So, disruptive isn’t as disruptive to us as it is to some people. It’s in our DNA.”