Broader horizons

Operators need to put the customer first and anticipate future trends if they are to succeed with broadband.

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By  Roger Field Published  March 24, 2009

With so much talk in recent months about the technology that is helping drive broadband expansion, including 3G, WiMAX, LTE, and fibre deployments, the recent Broadband Global Summit in Dubai offered a refreshing take on the subject.

Far from focusing merely on the technical specifications that contribute to a successful broadband strategy, delegates speaking at the event also looked at the importance of the customer and content.

Speakers at the event and attendees that spoke to CommsMEA agreed that without the right customer focus and quality content, broadband is unlikely to succeed as a business case for operators, especially where they might have spent several million or even billions of dollars deploying their networks.

Saudi Arabia’s incumbent operator STC provides a strong example of the importance of putting the customer at the centre of the broadband strategy, with the company having played a pivotal role in expanding the country’s broadband penetration in the past three years.

In 2007, Saudi Arabia had just 192,000 broadband internet users, according to estimates from Jordan-based Arab Advisors Group. By the end of 2008, this number had increased to more than 1 million users.

Saad Dhafer, VP of STC’s home business unit, stressed the role that a customer-centric approach played in the success of the company’s broadband service. “Marketing and communication plays a big role in broadband adoption and service adoption,” he said.

He added that operators need to focus on all stages of the customer experience, from subscribing to the service, to delivery and after sales service. “Know the capabilities you can provide your customers,” he said. “Simplicity, transparency and credibility are most important.”

Furthermore, operators must also distinguish between different types of users, and need to consider offering various packages and offerings to each customer segment, according to Dhafer. For example, operators should look to distinguish between different types of business user, rather than merely offering one or two generic broadband offerings for businesses.

Another key message to emerge from the event was the need for operators to start thinking beyond the current needs of broadband users, and consider what type of applications and services people might be using five years from now.

Giancarlo Duella, Orange, director consulting, EEMEA, believes that about 100 megabits per second per user would be a sensible target for operators to consider.

While this might sound slightly over-the-top by today’s standards, Duella asked attendees at the event to consider what services people will be using in the future. While he mentioned IPTV, video conferencing and ever more user generated content as potential drivers of bandwidth demand, he also stressed that other bandwidth hungry services will emerge that people are simply unable to predict at the moment.

“It is a different commercial approach, and we can debate whether operators need to be offering 50 megabits or 100 megabits per user, but it needs to be high,” he said.

3736 days ago
Shadab

If the idea is to make the economy grow further, why tie it down with monopolies?? I have a North Indian Airtel sim active here, and recently received an offer from it (applicable in India). The offer converted in Dirhams stands out as- for a rental of 14 dirhams for 3 months I can have my local call rates drop to 1.5fils per min to a max of 4.5 fils per min!! Call from India to UAE costs 66fils per min approx.!! This is what competition has done to the telecom sector there and this is what it can do here. Affordable mobile services has meant a deeper penetration thus expanding the market. Which eventually meant more revenue for the companies. This is just plain business sense. If the prices are not brought down, people will keep using VOIP. Can anyone see the future?

3738 days ago
Mike

The cost of broadband in the UAE is extortionate and is unlikely to change with the cosy Du/Etisalat duopoly. Quality is poor and although I pay for 2MB, my download speed is around 1MB and insufficient for streaming video, for example. I agree that this poor state of affairs is holding back the UAE economy and it is depressing to realise that there is a nil chance of things improving anytime soon.

3738 days ago
Bob

Paul is correct. Cost verses quality is a joke in the UAE. The cost, service and quality is better in the countries in Africa and Asia that I have lived in as compared to here.

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