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Staying connected and safe are key in today’s current scenario in the country for families, friends and businesses. During this unprecedented period, that has challenged both health and economy, Etisalat has taken all steps to make sure that its network, services and teams are well equipped to help all our customers.

As one of the leading telecom groups, Etisalat has shown resilience and agility by leading the efforts and focusing on its primary goal to keep its valuable customers, employees and society fully connected now more than ever before, which is why they are completely devoted to supporting businesses and the entire community during this pandemic period.

With its long term vision and strategy focused on investing in its networks and providing the best-in-class customer experience, these efforts have supported Etisalat in addressing the requirements of this unprecedented global pandemic. Reliable broadband has become a critical commodity, and Etisalat’s teams are working around the clock to monitor and optimise the network for both customers and businesses.

Telecom Review managed to secure an interview with Dr Ahmed Bin Ali, SVP, Corporate Communications, Etisalat Group, to discuss the relevance of connectivity during today’s times and how it has put measures in place to meet these distinctive challenges and pressures.

How is Etisalat responding to the difficult situation we currently find ourselves in?

Etisalat’s primary goal is to keep our valuable customers, employees, and society fully connected - now more than ever before. This is why we are entirely devoted to supporting businesses and the entire community during this pandemic period. 

Telecom has proved it is a mission critical infrastructure. It offers resiliency as it supports business critical activities in terms of video conferencing and remote working. In addition, it allows families to keep in touch during this tough time.

In UAE, Etisalat has kept in line with the government directives to stay at home and made it our priority to employ all our resources and technologies to allow for both studying and working from home.

For the past few years, UAE has been leading globally in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) penetration which has paid off in today’s scenario. It is the resiliency of the fixed and fiber network that has allowed work and study to continue at home.

Etisalat worked with the concerned authorities in education to make sure that every student has access to all the necessary services. For instance, we have zero-rated a lot of websites and platforms for the Ministry of Education in order for schooling to continue. There are thousands of families without internet broadband at home who are now able to access and work on the collaborative and learning-from-home applications.

We have made sure that the quality of service has been reliable irrespective of where you access it from, fixed or mobile, and taken all necessary steps to make sure that our network, services and teams are well-equipped to support our customers. With Etisalat managing and hosting critical service infrastructure in the country, our technical, field and operational teams are working 24/7 to monitor and optimize the network for both consumers and businesses.

As people disperse to their homes to work and study, how has Etisalat adapted to customers’ needs during this time?

In line with the ‘Stay-at-Home’ initiative, Etisalat has put into place smart services that empower customers’ virtual assistance and automated self-support through Etisalat business mobile apps and business portals. While providing telecom services and managing the network capacity, Etisalat has also made sure to support government’s stay at home initiatives by spreading awareness on the current situation across our subscriber base using our SMS platform and social media channels. We also changed our network name to ‘Stay at home’ supporting the country’s campaign launched to urge residents to stay at home.

With more families working and studying at home, entertainment is also significant. Etisalat had special promotions to enhance TV viewing for everyone at home with the best in movies and higher speeds on the home network.

Furthermore, to support e-learning, free mobile data was made available - in coordination with the Ministry of Education and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority - to over 12,000 selected students without Internet at home. Additionally, Etisalat has allowed over 10 million of its subscribers to enjoy free browsing of over 800 websites related to education, health, and safety, along with providing access several applications and platforms for distance learning.

Etisalat is committed to the UAE; we will continue to play a critical role in delivering exceptional service and remain dependable to our people who are working tirelessly to keep everyone connected and safe. The Dubai Police project is a perfect example where Etisalat customers in the UAE get free access to their website and mobile application without consuming internet data.

The initiative reflects Dubai Police efforts in maintaining the security and safety during the current circumstances, allowing the public to utilize Dubai Police online services. This collaboration supports ‘Police Eye, a programme launched recently by Dubai Police which provides the public with a secure and confidential online platform to report crimes and suspicious activities in the city.

Etisalat has implemented a number of technical procedures to maintain the highest quality in services provided, and to ensure that all subscribers and customers are connected during this unprecedented time:

  • Doubling the number of technical teams, in order to cater for internet subscription and upgrade at homes around the clock.
  • Allocation of extra working hours for technical teams to ensure quick response to service requests.
  • Dedicated teams were deployed for maintenance across all critical sites and stations.
  • Arrangement of spare parts and distributed to all stations
  • Spare parts ordered for the months ahead to manage future incidents

The pandemic has underlined the criticality of telecom infrastructure. How is Etisalat managing the surge in traffic and extra pressure on network infrastructure?

Etisalat is diligently working to fulfill requests for network capacity upgrades and meeting the demand surge for cloud collaboration and cyber-security solutions to support our customer’s business continuity. Our virtual meeting service, CloudTalk is enabling organizations to remotely work, by utilizing a secure collaboration platform ensuring the smooth functioning of their businesses.

To meet unprecedented service demands driven by life and work style changes, Etisalat has implemented the following network upgrades and enhancement measures:

  • Local network upgrade and enhancement
  • Implementing new fixed LTE stations inside cities as well as rural areas.
  • Fixed LTE network capacity expanded and upgraded to mitigate the traffic increase and maintain customer experience.
  • Additional mobile sites deployed to cater for the increase on demand and strategic locations in alignment with authorities’ requirements
  • Expansion of existing sites (new or expansion) to cope with the requirements supporting working from homes and eLearning.
  • Transit network expanded enabling seamless traffic routing in and out from UAE towards other operators’ networks.

Will this slow the pace of 5G deployments or will rollout continue despite coronavirus?

In our journey with 5G, Etisalat has continuously diversified its business, making a bigger impact with 5G technologies and laying the foundation for the next generation of telecom services and solutions. Today we have made global achievements in 5G setting benchmarks for the industry.  This was backed by the infrastructure accomplishments made in the past that have complemented the 5G network.

Etisalat took the lead in the launch of 5G in the MENA region targeting opportunities to maximize value from the delivery of end-to-end 5G enabled solutions. We have continuously engaged with relevant stakeholders to deploy and monetize from the 5G network while at the same time testing and exploring new 5G use cases for the government, business and different industries.

Etisalat will continue to its investments in infrastructure making sure that UAE residents enjoy the latest in technology and network.

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