Tapping potential

With plans to deploy fibre-to-the-home across the UAE and ambitions to grow its business in countries including Nigeria and Pakistan, Etisalat is fulfilling its promise to become one of the world's leading telecom operators by 2010.

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By  Administrator Published  November 6, 2008

With plans to deploy fibre-to-the-home across the UAE and ambitions to grow its business in countries including Nigeria and Pakistan, Etisalat is fulfilling its promise to become one of the world's leading telecom operators by 2010. Mohammed Hassan Omran, chairman, Etisalat, explains how the UAE's incumbent operator is adapting to the global market and raising eyebrows among its rivals.

What do you view as the most important service developments from Etisalat in recent months?

With the environment of local and international competition present today, innovation and higher flexibility are part of our strategy.

Etisalat being ranked as the world’s fastest growing mobile operator clearly highlights the ongoing success of Etisalat’s international expansion strategy, and shows we are on course for achieving our goal of becoming one of the largest operators in the world by 2010.

We have many ongoing service developments that we are working on that include many services that customers can use to pay bills over the mobile phone, such as electronic wallet applications.

We are also continuing to invest in our fixed-line network. For example, our strategy for new developments is the full deployment of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) which will enable us to offer advance services such as Smart Home where the main feature is triple play services offering voice, broadband, and TV on single IP connection.

Our target for Etisalat is to have FTTH infrastructure deployed to 20% of houses in the UAE by the end of 2008. We will be able to offer very high bandwidth, up to 100 megabits per second, which can be used for video, internet, and voice.

Tell me about Etisalat's operations in Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia. What potential do you see in these countries?

Etisalat's network in Nigeria is in the final stages of testing prior to public launch. In March, we demonstrated the quality of our network to the NCC (Nigeria's regulator) by making our first telephone call.

We are now preparing for commercial launch, which will come soon. In December 2007 Etisalat acquired a 15.97% equity stake in the Indonesian mobile service provider Excelcomindo.

This investment was our first acquisition in the Far East and represents an important step in Etisalat's international expansion strategy into Asia.

The Indonesian market is very promising and its one of the largest and fastest-growing mobile markets worldwide. Etisalat also has a 26% stake in the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL).

With a population of more than 162 million, Pakistan is one of the most promising markets in Etisalat's investment portfolio.

What do you think about Etisalat's entry into India?

Mohammed Hassan Omran: Our entry in India, one of the largest and fastest growing mobile markets in the world today, marks an acceleration of our expansion strategy and brings to us an opportunity which matches the scale of our ambitions.

We are truly excited by the partnership with the DB Group and the prospect of building Swan Telecom into a leading telecom operator, emulating the successes we have achieved in similar situations elsewhere.

Etisalat has been referred to as the world's fastest growing mobile operator. How do you feel about that and how do you plan to maintain the growth?

Etisalat being ranked as the world's fastest growing mobile operator clearly highlights the ongoing success of Etisalat's international expansion strategy, and shows we are on course for achieving our goal of becoming one of the largest operators in the world by 2010.

We are continuing to seek new opportunities in countries where technology penetration is low and where we see good potential for rapid and exceptional returns for our shareholders and of course our investment partners.

How do you think Etisalat will continue to grow? Organically or by acquisition?

Definitely in both directions. Etisalat is continuously evaluating opportunities to extend its operations into new markets and we believe that we will succeed with using our wealth of experience and knowledge in all telecoms related services that we have accrued over the past three decades to fuel our growth and revenues.

How do you see competition in the MENA region, and how do you plan to respond?

When we enter a new market we offer services and telecommunications solutions based on intensive studies and market research relying on our experience, as well as the expertise of our long-term partners.

We also aim to introduce customised services that meet the needs of our specific markets and their customers.

In Egypt, for example, which is one of the most competitive markets, we have made great strides in rolling out an infrastructure that now competes not only with the existing mobile voice network; but also proving a competitive solution for internet and broadband services.

Egypt's mobile penetration remains relatively low and we continue to grow our market share and customer base there.

What challenges do you see in the UAE market?

The telecommunication market in the UAE has almost reached complete saturation but there still remains an additional growth opportunity yearly because of the growth in the economy, infrastructure, and tourism.

We continuously seek to introduce more services and more variety available to the customers, then there is more usage. As you have seen last year, we have introduced several new services, we have been more active introducing different services for different customer needs.

This is good for the market as it benefits the customer and the industry in fostering a healthy competitive environment.

Can you tell us about Etisalat's Q2 performance?

Etisalat now is looking for an even better future, with the company's financial performance in the first half of 2008 that recorded net profits of AED5.1 billion (US$1.38 billion), an increase of 37% on 2007 first half figures of AED 3.72 billion ($1 billion).

Etisalat reduced its equity interest in Etihad Etisalat from 35% to 26.25%, adding AED 1.77 billion ($481.7 million) to the quarter's revenues, which was recognised by the corporation in the second quarter of 2008.

Etisalat has achieved several major landmarks during 2008. Earlier we attained the rank of the largest telecommunications company in the Middle East and one of the 14 largest in the world - a clear sign that our strategy to become one of the largest ten operators is on track.

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