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Telecom Review held a virtual panel on October 5, titled “Digitizing the capacity”. The panel explored various options and shared insights on the importance of wholesale services while industry experts discuss in depth the latest developments in the wholesale industry, digital infrastructure, on-demand services.

The esteemed panelists sharing their views and expertise were as follows:

Cengiz Oztelcan, CEO of GBI; Ali Amiri, chief carrier and wholesale officer, Etisalat Group; Frédéric Schepens, CEO, MTN Global Connect; Emmanuel Rochas, CEO, Orange International Carriers; Eric Cevis, President, Verizon Partner Solutions; Eric Handa, CEO & Co-Founder, AP Telecom.

The session was chaired by Toni Eid, CEO, Trace Media and founder, Telecom Review.

During the session, the panelists responded to the various questions addressed by Eid. One of the questions was related to how did digital acceleration and consumer behavior change on the long run impact the wholesale and capacity industry with over 18 months of pandemic.

Ali Amiri was the first to answer this question saying that indeed, customer behavior has changed after 18 months as everyone today is much more involved in the online world, learning to use new platforms which as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, which weren’t used as regularly before. In addition, Amiri shared a document showing the change in people's behavior, in terms of buying, stating that during these 18 months, pre-Covid-2019, only 13.6% of global purchases were made online, whereas post-Covid-19, online purchases grew to 19.5%, recording a 43% growth in just two years.

Cevis noted that in order to keep their connectivity going, they had to increase their network capacity, adding that Verizon also invested in platforms like BlueJeans which allowed a lot of distance learning. “All the investments made paid off because we had been on this customer digital transformation journey, for several years now,” Cevis added.

Schepens stressed that the pandemic was important as it shows again that telecoms and the services offered are essential. “If we weren’t there as an industry to fuel and help overcome this situation, it probably would have been a totally different world. […] We at MTN GlobalConnect and our partners, did a great job in building a reliable world.”

Eric Handa CEO & Co-Founder, AP Telecom, had a different point of view on this subject seeing that they don't own and operate a network, they consult and offer advisory services. “We've heard the expression that data is the new oil, and that certainly is prevalent. We've seen networks during the Covid period bend but not break but the importance of subsea and terrestrial is very important for digital infrastructure.” In addition, Handa mentioned that wholesale will change post-Covid. “We’re already starting to see that change maybe not in the Middle East yet, but in the GCC.”

Furthermore, Eid asked about how important is it for operators to become a one-stop-shop that provides digital experiences for its customers and what are the expectations from the market and customers.

On this note, Rochas stated that, “Everything will become digital, and this is exactly what we are living today […] If we want to provide to our customers what they expect, which is quality over capacity, more reliability, more simplicity more responsiveness, we need to digitize.”

The stop and shop approach will emerge the industry, and will enable the customers to focus on their business and have at their disposal a proposal which does not oblige them to manage a number of different providers and services. So this approach is really a requirement in the industry and needs to be built together by interconnecting different approaches and offers that will answer all the customer needs.

Schepens also commented on this subject, saying, “We started by consolidating our activities as a one-stop-shop. I still remember negotiating many year ago on individual roaming agreements with many companies, and today, we’ve now consolidated all of that. This indeed will help streamline, digitize, and simplify a lot of this end-to-end capability.” He added, “We took a strategic decision to build state-of-the-art PaaS enablements, thus offering new way of interoperability and driving more efficiency. What we are doing now is completely converting the capacity business where we are driving it as a zero-touch network with top-notch end-to-end capabilities.”

Eric Cevis, President, Verizon Partner Solutions, gave his opinion about this question by stating, “We’re operators in this one-stop-shop environment today, and as operators, clearly we have to make scenario planning to make sure we're caring for those needs today. As Verizon, we put a lot of investment in roadmaps relative to make customer experience become a reality and provide customers a superior digital experience.”

Ali Amiri, chief carrier & wholesale officer, Etisalat Group commented that, “The experiences that people had are somehow quite advanced compared to some telcos and I think that's really important for customer service so that they feel that when they approach any telco, they are offered a one-stop-shop: they can order online, they know where their orders are, they know the prices, etc. We have to be really on the top of it.”
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