TELECOMS TRANSFORMATIONS

Dubai 2017 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Osman Sultan, CEO of du, on its disruptive market entry, multi-stakeholder ecosystems, and being at the center of this revolutionizing ecosystem.

Osman Sultan
BIOGRAPHY
Osman Sultan is the founding CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC-du. Sultan has enjoyed a successful career for over 30 years spanning Europe, North America, and the MENA region. Prior to joining du, Sultan was the founding CEO of another successful Middle Eastern operator, Mobinil in Egypt, which he set up in 1998. As one of the most influential figures in the region in the telecommunications field, he has earned several industry accolades.

When du entered the market, it brought a price-balancing element to the telecoms industry. How do you gauge the overall effect that du's entry to the market has had on prices for customers and businesses?

When du entered the market in 2007 and started providing our services in mobile, we disrupted the entire ecosystem. This is normal as the market only had one player beforehand. Disruption does not mean simply undercutting prices; it is about looking at price differently. For example, du was the first in the region to introduce the pay-by-the-second billing system. People really feel that this is a much more honest and fair way to price. We also introduced the possibility of having different wallets, one for more time, one for more credit, and one for prepaid access, and choice is continuing beyond pricing now. Customers use technology in different ways, and this applies to individuals, families, friends, SMEs, large corporations, government departments, associations, and even nations. Nations and the behavior of their citizens are changing radically through the evolution of mobile technology along with the explosion of the Internet and social media. We have the perfect storm when you add these factors to the empowerment that will come from big data coupled with artificial intelligence and robotics.

The smart city initiatives stem from the capture and analysis of big data across the Emirate. How is du engaging with this aspect to develop the Smart Dubai platform?

Dubai, compared to other cities, has a lot of smart applications provided by multiple government agencies in areas such as immigration, utilities, transport, local government, and police. But having a lot of smart applications does not make it a smart city. It starts to become a smart city when all these applications talk to each other, and there is one platform where all this data is aggregated, processed, and treated. Through analytics, that data then becomes knowledge that can be used for better planning and leadership. People will be able to do things differently–more safely and more efficiently. People's behavior will then produce more data that allows the city to cater for its people even more. du had the privilege of being selected as a strategic partner for Smart Dubai. This means we will build and operate the platform for Smart Dubai, and we will contribute to the developments that are needed for this platform. By doing this, we are bringing a lot of partners into the equation with us. This means all the data that exists will be available, and young entrepreneurs will see the opportunities to develop new businesses. This will be the fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship, supporting the growth of smaller players in the market as well. The world is moving toward ecosystems that are not only multi-dimensional with multiple components, but that also have multiple stakeholders.

What are your expectations at du for the next 12 months?

Through initiatives in the UAE, we are creating momentum. The smart government and smart city concepts, the Blockchain Council, the Accelerator of the Future, the Museum of the Future, and even the hyperloop fast train are beyond the issue of whether one year will be tougher than another in terms of growth. We are extremely blessed with the level of leadership in the UAE, and we are all being pushed to do our best. Despite various geopolitical and economic pressures going on in the world, the UAE with all its initiatives is continuing along the path to create a new milestone in the history of civilization. I am privileged because I am in a field that is at the heart of this transformation, which is the digital internet space, but in any industry you can feel this happening.