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Hany Aly, executive vice president, Enterprise Business, du, has claimed that the anticipated deployment of 5G technology will create a revolution in the types of new applications available to consumers. The du senior executive provided a fascinating insight into the diversification process the company has underwent in the last 12 months, and also highlighted how embarking on its own digital transformation journey has helped them guide other enterprises into making that transition.

In addition, Aly predicted that as the demand for cloud services continues to increase so will the demand for greater connectivity, and stressed that one of the primary objectives for the operator is to ensure world-class customer experience for its clients.

You recently announced a collaboration agreement with Amazon Partner Network (APN) at Capacity 2018. Can you outline to us in detail what the benefits of this partnership will entail?
Amazon has been a very important client for us over the years and we basically share the same ecosystem. The agreement brokered between us and APN enables customers on our network to be able to access Amazon services and all of their cloud computing services. We’re very excited about this partnership because Amazon has also placed its connectivity node in datamena for the region which represents another step in the partnership that already exists between us.

Our strategy is to create the right environment in order to partner with the large players instead of competing with them. I’m not interested in establishing my own du cloud to compete with Microsoft, Amazon or Oracle. For me, that just doesn’t make sense. Our strategy is to set up a proper environment and a proper ecosystem which allows us to partner with these large players and bring them to the region.

Du has been at the forefront enabling digital transformation in the Middle East. Can you highlight the role du has been playing in terms of helping carriers both in the UAE and the GCC?
We’re embarking on our own digital transformation initiative. Changing ourselves first and going through the pain of the change has given us the experience and know-how to enable digital transformation for customers in the region.

In relation to datamena in particular, we launched a digital portal with providers such as Akamai, Epsilon and Level (3) which allowed access to datamena services. We partnered with Level (3) to develop an application which we made sure was able to provide all of the datamena services seamlessly through a mobile phone. When you think of mobile applications, you think of consumer ones, not an enterprise customer providing services on the cloud via a mobile app. That is why we’ve worked very closely with Level (3) on this. Why should I develop my own application when I have partners that are becoming part of the datamena ecosystem? Such a partnership is a win-win situation.

Cloud and Growth of Content (C&C) have been identified as being major factors in driving growth in the UAE. However, how much of an impact has the emergence of trends such as smart cities and internet of things had in supplementing C&C?
There’s definitely a big trend towards the cloud, which was made evident in the announcements made throughout the last twelve months. Amazon has confirmed that it’s setting up a cloud computing node in the region and has also acquired Souk.com. Microsoft has also announced that it’s setting up a cloud presence in the UAE and so have Oracle.

Because of the infrastructure that we have here, whether it is datamena’s infrastructure or the cable infrastructure - or the entire ecosystem we have, not just as du, but as the UAE, we’ve been able to attract these global players because a cloud node won’t be available in every single country. So there is definitely a move towards cloud which is going to accelerate with these major players coming in.

Most of the known brands have either announced that they’re coming or have already set up business here in the UAE. I think these companies have realized that you can’t serve the entire the world from one single location. There are issues related to latency and governance and so it makes sense to adopt a regional approach and as the industry matures I expect that trend to continue.

Has the increase in demand for cloud services created an opportunity for you to sell capacity to non-traditional players like OTTs?
OTTs usually opt for cloud computing, therefore, the demand for bandwidth increases and we definitely see this increase and demand. That’s why I always stress that connectivity is not dead, but is growing because as all of these industries ‘digitize’ and move to the cloud, naturally, the demand for connectivity increases. In addition, there are different pricing and economic models.

With 5G coming very, very soon and given how tech savvy this region is in terms of mobile handsets, you will see a dynamic shift in usage and applications, incomparable to what you have seen in the move from GSM to GPRS. LTE is what made the applications such as Uber and Careem accessible. However, you can expect with the move from 4G LTE to 5G to see more and more of these applications and uses being established.

5G gives you the same speed and the same capacity as a fixed-line connection so you can imagine the demand for video streaming and the applications that will come up. Companies won’t need to set up IT infrastructure. We will witness a revolution in the type of applications which are out there.

Connectivity solutions are the fundamental mainstay in your business. However, can you discuss some of the other new revenue streams that you have generated?
On a du level, we have, of course, revenue streams coming from what we call beyond the core. Beyond the core is beyond connectivity. So, we have revenues coming from our data center business; we have revenues coming from our managed security business and revenues coming from the smart city space. Our whole strategy of diversifying our revenue streams has paid off and is on track.

Can you outline to us what your primary objectives and goals are for 2018?
For 2018, the main objective is digitization. We’re focusing a lot on digitizing a lot of our internal processes while offering, at the same time, more digital services to our clients.

Our second goal is focusing on customer experience and what we mean by customer experience, especially for enterprises is simplification. There’s a lot happening in the world and breaking it down to make it easily understandable is very important for us. We want to provide solutions required by our customers in a simple reliable way. We want to ensure that we continue to earn their trust with their mission critical activities. The whole idea is to provide world-class customer experience by providing a really good service.

We’re focusing on the fundamentals but in this new era, it’s all about building trust. We know that customers trust us with their business, but we need to make sure that we deliver on that. And the best way to ensure we execute our objectives is by focusing on the fundamentals.

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