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During GITEX Global, Telecom Review conducted an exclusive interview with Karim Benkirane, Chief Commercial Officer at du, to explore recent partnerships, expound on the SME ecosystem and its futuristic vision, as well as discuss the three evident challenges of digital transformation.

Please elaborate on the recent strategic partnership between du and Cinturion subsea and terrestrial cable operators. What does it mean for UAE's digitalization vision?

This partnership on enabling the subsea cable is definitely a boost on UAE’s digitalization vision. This is going to enable a digital infrastructure which will help both the public and private sectors, and will attract more investors. The data usage is increasing day by day, and we believe that this partnership will definitely help us expand capacity to respond to this demand, and build more digital infrastructure in the country. We're proud of this partnership and we're proud to position UAE as a connectivity hub.

du has been consistently supporting the UAE's SMEs ecosystem for many years. Please tell us about some of du's latest offerings that are aligned with this critical sector's growth? 

Small and medium enterprises are really our focus and we're trying to build an ecosystem around those companies to make sure that we can assist them from the creation stage up to the onboarding stage, as well as have the existing ones to scale up. A lot of solutions have been designed, with the value proposition being tailored to the different segments in the SME market; making sure that we can stimulate entrepreneurship and have the right ecosystem to help them on their overall journey.

According to market research, the metaverse industry could reach up to $900 billion by 2030. What is du's roadmap to navigate the latest market opportunities in the region? Is it reasonable to infer that the recent introduction of the world's first 5G Advanced (5G-A) demonstration villa is a pioneering endeavour in line with du's futuristic  vision?

We see the metaverse as a one-stop shop, where we can enable an ecosystem around our customers, either entreprise or consumer. Recently, we launched the 5.5G-powered villa, and this means that 5G-Advanced will enable up to 10 Gbps speed at home. Imagine having a high speed and low latency experience. Which will allow customers to enjoy 3D screens, as well as 8K/HD video streaming. This is the world’s first ‘home of the future’, which du has proudly enabled. We believe that the research and development focus we are investing in is really taking us to the next level and helping UAE to be at the forefront of 5G technology’s infrastructure.

What, according to you, are the challenges for digital transformation in the Middle East? And how can they be addressed efficiently?

I see the challenges of any digital transformation in three aspects. First, is the affordability and availability of the digital infrastructure. This is why du is focusing on its research and development agenda, making sure that we can always come up with the new technology and be the key enabler for that.

The second is the cybersecurity. We believe that the security element is increasing, and we at du are ensuring that we are partnering with the right stakeholders and providing the most secure and reliable technology and infrastructure. We strengthen our products and propositions by mastering the security of not only our data but the data of customers and enterprises.

The third one is partnerships. In order to innovate, we need to be more and more open to external partners to deliver the best customer experience. We work hard to guarantee that this partnership can bring synergy and help in overcoming the other challenges of digital transformation.

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