Self Improvement

It appears the telecoms sector is growing up in the Middle East, and the hope is that this will translate to even better service and lower prices to end-users. Competition clearly raises the game of all parties in the market, and the rapid pace of technological advances in the region is having a similar effect on all stakeholders.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  October 22, 2006

|~||~||~|Operators in the Middle East have been gaining a reputation for their aggressive adoption of technologies, and earlier this month for example, Kuwait’s Wataniya announced the extension of its High-Speed Packet Data Access (HSDPA) network on account of market demand. While such developments, if supported by a strong business case and high degree of market acceptance, do make sense, there is also the belief that operators need to go back to basics and provision the elementary customer services necessary to reduce churn. Nabil Khalil, LogicaCMG’s director of telecoms emphasises the need for operators to focus on customer intelligence management at a time when heightened competition and increased churn means service providers need to understand their subscribers’ needs better. Part of the provision of quality services relates to service providers’ distribution channels and marketing prowess, and these elements of the marketing mix are becoming increasingly important. Abdul Hameed Al-Sunaid, president and CEO of mobile distributor, wholesaler and retailer Itsalat International (i2) has seen his organisation explode into 20 markets across the Middle East and Africa in just a few years. Much of this growth being attributed to the desire to meet the pent-up demand for communications in many under-serviced areas. Many of the more astute operators across the Middle East and Africa are looking at maintaining or in fact improving their relationships with their installed subscriber bases, while forging ahead with technological advances to networks, in a process aimed at raising efficiencies and improving profitability. Jordan Telecom Group, operating in a market in which CEO Mickael Ghossein believes to be too open in terms of the number of competitors, is pushing forward with the integration of its various network platforms, and working towards a converged future. Fixed, mobile, broadband or cable access networks will simply become distinct access networks for a pooled suite of applications and services, allowing telcos such as Jordan Telecom Group to be able to view the full range of activities of their subscribers, as opposed to only segments, dependent on the varying services they subscribe to. The issuance of a single bill for a number of services utilising various access technologies is the ultimate goal. The transfer of skills to the region is also a factor helping improve service providers’ understanding of how to communicate to their subscriber bases. Local talent is replacing expatriate expertise, with the quality of service becoming a factor that differentiates companies more than their products do in some cases. It appears the telecoms sector is growing up in the Middle East, and the hope is that this will translate to even better service and lower prices to end-users. Competition clearly raises the game of all parties in the market, and the rapid pace of technological advances in the region is having a similar effect on all stakeholders. Voice-over-IP in the wider commercial domain, for example, is a technology that continues to leave incumbent operators grappling to find ways to counter its effects and stem the leakage of revenues as a result. It is the development of disruptive technologies, or the use of existing technology in new ways, which forces the industry to look more closely at the manner in which things are being done, and to do them better. Long may such momentum continue. ||**||

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