On the sidelines of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit 2022, du’s CTO Saleem Al Blooshi, discussed in an exclusive interview, the company’s digital transformation journey, its contribution to standardization bodies such as ITU and its future plans, among many other topics.

How can you describe the technological transformation journey of du in 2022?

Transformation is a mindset. We started by updating the business process and restrategizing the way we operate. In 2022, our focus areas were first, to accelerate the 5G rollout and second, to increase the nationwide footprint of our infrastructure. In these two areas we were able to increase our 5G population coverage to over 90% by modernizing our infrastructure, upgrading our core capacity — our international capacity — and introducing new capacities in the data center. In addition, we also launched the 5G home wireless product and started the monetization of the API economy.

All those pillars go in one direction, where our objective is to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure to provide the best services to our customers, be they either the consumers, enterprises or the government. In 2022, we have put significant investment to achieve our specific targets and add value to the ecosystem at large, and thankfully, we were able to achieve them all. For 2023, we aim to also accelerate our investments and plans and continue with the digitization journey.

du has been utilizing different technologies for the benefit of both the public and private sectors. What is the motivation behind this strategic move?

The telecom industry is a key enabler for all industries in the country. For that, EITC is committed to building state-of-the-art infrastructure for the benefit of the public, government and private sectors.

As a telecom operator, we are at the core of enabling digital transformation and creating value for all industrial sectors in the country. From that perspective, du is harnessing different technologies for different purposes, either for public 5G and fiber or for government and private 5G and fiber, in order to meet the specific objectives of the sectors. Thus, these technologies can be used by each sector differently to maximize their value, be more efficient, serve their customer better, and drive innovation in each of the multiple sectors in the country.

We are continuing with the investment and we are working closely with our partners in each sector to discuss and understand how to integrate our infrastructure with their capabilities to maximize value for all the stakeholders.

How will du maximize its role as a digital telco in today's regional innovation?

As a digital enabler in the country, we are focusing on multiple fronts. First, our goal is to drive enterprise telco services and process integration, offering diversified and sustainable growth in new businesses (ICT and digital consumer services). We have started the journey to rethink the approach of serving, satisfying, and delighting customers through all verticals to deliver state-of-the-art services. We are leveraging data and deploying advanced analytics to support people and talent, targeting to upskill our people (diverse talent and future-ready skills)

Second, we aim to be a leading digital telco from an end-to-end perspective to provide our customers with a seamless experience with specific KPIs. We cannot improve our digital capabilities unless we measure where we stand today and continuously drive improvement.

Third, we are also focused on enabling an autonomous network and zero-touch infrastructure with the help of specific programs to uplift the way we operate the network and to modernize it by applying AI capabilities, machine learning and enabling end-to-end capabilities for an autonomous network which is a self-healing, predictive infrastructure.

From that perspective, we have several initiatives and structured programs to deliver value. Fortunately, we are on track. In 2022, we have achieved significant improvement in the way we, as an infrastructure provider, deliver services on all fronts. This was a key enabler to achieve our 2022 objectives and accelerate 5G, fiber, and data center rollouts. All the above, with digital transformation, work hand in hand to achieve the expected value and maximize the value to the stakeholders at large.

Together with ITU and other partners, what is du’s commitment to contributing to the growth and development of the telecom sector?

du confirms its role as a forefront of technology standardization in the MENA region. It is worth confirming that du is the only MENA Global Certification Forum (GCF) full member and our network is the only GCF FTQO (Filed Trial Qualified Network) in the MENA region, which makes our network a reference for any Filed Trials in MENA. In addition, we are hosting the GCF Conferences CAG#73 and FTAG#70 in Dubai.

As we continue to drive the future vision of technology standards, we are proud to be the only MENA founding member in forming the Light Communication Alliance (LCA), with its role to standardize LiFi communication.

In addition to our excellent contribution to the ITU sectors, we play an active role with the GSMA within all its working groups. We have just hosted the GSMA TSG#51 from 28 November to 1 December 2022 in Dubai, which confirms our position as a MENA standardization leader.

From a technology perspective, what are du’s aspirations for 2023?

Our vision is to become World Class best-in-market, delivering core competencies to drive new businesses and to become the preferred operator in UAE from both sides: connectivity and innovative services. In 2023, we will introduce 5G standalone and 5G advanced, and we will continue with the acceleration of our fiber rollout; we will further collaborate and engage with our partners in the verticals to understand their needs and collaborate with them to add value and implement new use cases that will ease the introduction of their services and enable them to do better in their business.

We are here to give our customers the best customer experience and to drive the development of a new digital ecosystem. Our new business model is to enable digital customer management and to empower business customers through self-service capabilities.

Our goal is to drive enterprise telco services and processes integration, and to offer diversified, sustainable growth in new businesses (ICT and digital consumer services)

Our agile and efficient operating model enables us to build the best talent with future-ready skills.

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