du builds the ecosystem, it doesn't compete
Big Interview

du builds the ecosystem, it doesn't compete

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 East.

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,” explains Ali.

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 region.”

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 active in.

“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 services. 

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