Mar. 25, 2015

Kyle Whitehill


Kyle Whitehill

CEO, Vodafone Qatar


Before joining Vodafone Qatar, Kyle Whitehill was the CEO of Vodafone Ghana from June 2010 to June 2013. Prior to that, Kyle joined Vodafone UK in 2001 as head of the enterprise business. In February 2008 he moved to Vodafone India as CEO. His early career was spent in fast moving consumer goods with L’Oreal and Jeyes before he entered general management with the Soft Drinks division of PepsiCo. Kyle has a degree in marketing and economics.

What are some potential growth areas in Qatar?

We have identified large growth opportunities in the enterprise segment and are rapidly growing in this market. The Qatar enterprise market is worth QAR1.8 billion, and we have a clear strategy to expand into this market drawing on our local knowledge and global track record. In 2014, we launched a comprehensive range of enterprise grade fixed products including corporate voice, internet, and data network solutions. We brought two firsts to the business market in Qatar with a locally supported secure device management solution and an audio conferencing solution with a free local dial-in number that can significantly reduce the telecoms costs for local businesses. In summary, we have the infrastructure, business solutions, and an aggressive product roadmap coupled with outstanding client management that will transform the way many businesses in Qatar work.

Vodafone has invested massively in high-speed services like 4G. How do you see this developing over 2015?

We see data usage increasing exponentially in the MEA region, to the tune of 70% compound annual growth by 2018. Already, GCC operators are seeing as much as 60% of their customers using 3G and 4G networks, which is significantly higher than in Europe. The increase we are expecting rides the wave of growing smartphone and tablet adoption. With 80% of all connections in Qatar coming from smartphones, we are already way ahead of earlier adopters such as Europe and the US—we lead the world in smartphone adoption. This also fits with what we are seeing in terms of the growth of internet users in the GCC region. In 2012, there were 26.4 million internet users in the region, and by 2017, this is expected to grow to over 40 million people, or over 52% growth. In Qatar, the growth is even more significant. We had 1 million internet users in the country in 2012, while by 2017, this is expected to nearly double to 1.8 million users, or 80% growth. With the increase in internet users, we also expect to see an increase online of Arabic language content, likely doubling within the next year or two. For telecoms operators, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Figuring out the best way to monetize this data usage is a top priority. The exciting next steps will be when we expand our 4G roaming footprint as well as the best voice quality service with applications like VOLTE Voiceover LTE, which can provide a remarkably different digital voice experience with 4G.

Qatar is rapidly developing, and ICT and telecommunications are very important in that. How do you assess the national authority's efforts in facilitating this?

I think there are three important reference points: 2016, which is the National Broadband Plan; the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where there is a mandate to have two suppliers of ICT in every building and stadium; and the Qatar National Vision 2030, which is about turning the country into a strong ICT knowledge-based economy. We are well on the path for 2016 in being a twin choice in broadband. Our role with regard to 2022 will be to develop technologies for the future. If you think about the video for the 2022 World Cup, it says that when you step out of your hotel room, a bus or train will literally pick you up outside the door and whisk you off to the stadium, and you will be using a smart device that will provide for everything. It is not, therefore, easy to define that for 2022. The easier part to define is 2030, because it is clear that by 2030 the major developments are going to be in places where there is substantial innovation and movement toward an ICT knowledge-based economy. I think the Qatari government is wise to adopt this milestone approach because it is possible to see each milestone the country achieves.