02 May 2018
Smart cities, 5G trials and a thriving cloud-based ecosystem, Hany Fahmy Ali, VP of enterprise at du, talks to Natalie Bannerman about the digital revolution in the UAE
More and more global enterprises
view the UAE as the next big hub for cloud and connectivity
services and as a result are quickly establishing a presence in
the area. As the region undergoes a major digital
transformation, Hany Fahmy Ali, executive vice president of
enterprise business at du, talks us through a number of trends
that are driving this migration of business to the Middle
According to Ali this digital transition happening in the
region is being driven by three factors. The first is the trend
towards digitisation. "All of the industry especially in the
Middle East, given that we have a high penetration of 4G
phones, are looking to digitise its business processes,"
The second he says is advent of 5G. "5G is coming next
year," says Ali. "We’re already running trials for
it here at du. 5G opens up a whole new spectrum and allows us
to provide super-fast data, equivalent to broadband fixed-line
data speeds as well as a whole new world of applications."
Not least of all is the cloud and specifically its impact on
enterprise. "We see a number of global cloud players setting up
a presence in the UAE," continues Ali. "By having these cloud
services with cloud implementation set up locally in the
region, it opens up a whole new spectrum of customers to access
and use the cloud. At the same time we solve the problem of
latency and of local government."
Another area that is influencing the adoption of the cloud
is content. The ability to have instant access to content, as
well as the ability to manage and share content at scale,
according to Ali is something that very few telcos in the
region other than du can provide.
"We are uniquely positioned to provide content across the
region, because we have an end-to-end offering," he says. "So
if you are looking for a presence in the region that allows you
to have distributed cloud content, the Internet or
fibre-to-the-home we are probably the only provider that can
give you a one stop shop of comprehensive solutions that allow
you reach multiple audiences in multiple areas of the
Ali says that du has a number of partnerships with OTT
content providers like Netflix and OSN, but proving that global
content players are understand the need for regional presence.
"I think what’s happening now is that you have the
large cloud players understanding that they cannot serve the
entire world from one location, in one country. So
that’s why you see the likes of Amazon set up data
centres in the region, after buying Souq last year (an online
marketplace in the region), Microsoft just recently announced
that it is setting up cloud nodes here in the UAE and Oracle
has done the same."
du's datamena recently partnered with OSN on its trials of
Microsoft Azure Expressroute. The partnership will enable OSN
to extend its on-premises network into the Microsoft cloud
running over a private connection powered by datamena,
Globally we are seeing faster growth from newer revenue
streams like data centres and managed services and although du
is active in these higher growth areas, Ali wants to make it
clear that connectivity an area that the company is still very
"Yes connectivity as an area has slowed down but I have to
clarify a misconception that connectivity is not growing. As
businesses continue to transform into digital enterprises, the
demand for connectivity remains strong. "
As for data centres and managed services, he says that the
strategy is to invest in managed services, especially those
services that leverage connectivity. Ali describes data
centres, managed security and software-as-a-service as some of
these potential areas but du’s approach to this
type of investment is that they "don’t want to
reinvent the wheel and compete with them."
"So I’m not going to go out to build an
ecommerce website to compete with Amazon," explains Ali. "Or
build a cloud platform to compete with Microsoft Azure. We
think the correct approach is to set up the proper ecosystem
for these large players to come and partner with us."
du has been active in transformation projects throughout the
Middle East, having recently partnered with the likes of
Vodafone, Equinix, Cisco and leading edge security companies
like DarkMatter and McAfee. Most notably du is the main partner
with the local government on its smart city initiative.
"Our responsibility in this project is to make sure we set
up a proper ecosystem that will ensure that this initiative is
successful. So we’re very excited about it because
it’s a major building block required for a
successful smart city deployment," says Ali.
Beyond this, on the enterprise side Ali says du is focussed
on two things for the foreseeable future. The first is
providing a world class customer experience, as that is a "real
differentiator when it comes to doing business with
enterprises" and as the trends have indicated, the second is
the digitisation of all of du’s