Come together

The idea that operators need to collaborate with their partners from across the telecoms ecosystem is a message that dominated many of the conference sessions at this year’s Mecom, which was held in Abu Dhabi this week

Tags: United Arab Emirates
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By  Roger Field Published  May 27, 2009

At the event, delegates stressed the importance for operators to work closely with their partners, including handset makers, vendors, retailers and even rival telcos, in order to achieve their aims.

Collaboration is becoming ever more vital as operators find themselves catering to an ever growing set of customer needs, many of which demand a level of specialisation that is often beyond the skill set of most operators.

Collaboration not only allows operators the opportunity to offer their customers specialist products, it also allows them to focus their efforts on their core purpose, which should be to provide quality services that meet their customer’s needs.

Operators understand their customers better than anyone, and they should leverage this asset by working with other players to bring the right combination of services to their customers.

Khalid Al-Kaf, CEO of Saudi Arabian operator Mobily was just one speaker who stressed the value of collaboration and a focus on customer service, at Mecom. Al-Kaf spoke about Mobily’s plans to develop a wide range of value added services (VAS) to position around its mobile broadband service by working with partners.

The company is achieving this aim by focusing on the needs of its customer, and then working with partners to fulfil these needs.

“We know more information about customer’s behaviour; we know where they are and we know what they want, so we can deliver services on the fly.

“Operators should be partnering with developers. They should set up an open platform inviting developers to use the contextual information to develop services, and then partner with them to share the revenue,” Al-Kaf told CommsMEA at Mecom.

This was a view shared by Grahame Maher, CEO of Vodafone Qatar. When asked how his company would aim to win customers, he said simply: “Services, services, and services. It is not about the technology, it is the services. Our future is to be a customer service provider.”

But while operators can make their own decisions about which aspects of their business to outsource, other areas of collaboration can sometimes fall outside their control.

For example, Maher spoke about the need for operators, particularly those operating in the same country, to collaborate by sharing their infrastructure. By sharing parts of their infrastructure, operators can cut costs and either re-invest the money or pass the savings on to the consumer.

Despite this, Vodafone Qatar has made little progress in sharing sites belonging to Qtel, despite having agreed earlier to implement site sharing, according to Maher. “Not sharing wastes money which could actually be given back to customers,” he said.

But in Maher’s experience, incumbent operators only tend to come round to the idea of site sharing by the time a third or fourth operator enters the market.

Collaboration may be crucial for the health of the region’s telecoms sector, but in some areas, the market may need to evolve further before operators can truly benefit from a collaborative approach.

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