The Middle East: an untapped opportunity

Several myths about doing business in the Middle East persist: Business people tend to believe that the Middle East is a single block of countries, culture and way of doing things. The reality is much different and success in doing business in this area can be achieved only if the Middle East is understood and respected as a sizeable region with many singularities.
Today, we are interviewing Charlie Warda, ICSS Regional Sales Director for Middle East based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, since 2014, to gain an understanding of those regional differences and how they impact the daily business of a wholesale operator like Deutsche Telekom.

Mr. Warda, you’ve been in the telecommunications industry for more than 15 years, spending recent years in the Middle East region. What makes this market so interesting from a wholesale perspective?
The region offers significant opportunities for an operator like us to provide experience, services and partnership potential as a leading European and complimentary operator. As the dynamics change in this area, significant and previously untapped potential is becoming available.

In your opinion, what are the key industry trends in the region?
Access to content, rapidly advancing mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) are playing a significant role in demand and growth. In some countries, the simple task of being able to reliably roam into neighboring countries was a chore until recently. We’ve seen the reactions of some countries to limit or restrict access for either security or OTT revenue protection. In some areas, content needs to be housed locally, ensuring that delivery and secure information remains within the borders. The political unrest has also resulted in operators creating new routes to the region, lowering their reliance on routes that may be at risk

In the Middle East, you can see clear differences on ICT investment. On the one hand we have countries such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, which are at the top in regard to broadband connectivity, for example, while, on the other hand, we have countries such as Iraq or Yemen, which are much less developed. How can telco wholesalers adapt to these regional differences? And specifically how does ICSS meet these market necessities?
In countries where domestic ICT is being improved, we can step in to deliver connectivity and access not only to our significant eyeball base of over 300 million, but also to every other mobile operator and fixed line provider in the world. This helps operators monetize their investments by providing greater services to their customers. An area of significant expertise at DT is our M2M solutions within the world of IoT, where we not only provide turnkey solutions, but are willing to share our experiences and offer consultancy.

In your opinion, which challenges is facing the region and affecting the telecommunications industry?
The region is changing rapidly, political instability in one area, markets opening up in another. Boundaries that previously existed are being challenged and countries outside the region have a role to play. Regulation varies greatly within the region, which must be respected on the one hand, but also fostered on the other; in some countries, for example, MVNOs and new entrants with foreign investment are encouraged, where in others they are not.

Speaking of deregulation, Iran has claimed that it needs high investments in technology since the lifting of the embargo in 2015. For example, will the upgrade of domestic broadband services drive greater demand for global traffic and what does this mean for the telco wholesale industry? What uncovered potential does Iran have?
This planned development of broadband services provides an opportunity for the industry to improve connectivity and content delivery to Iran, driven by growing demand of international traffic. This also provides us with the opportunity to introduce various wholesale services both existing and new.

Finally, how does Deutsche Telekom differ from other wholesale providers as a relative newcomer to the region?
That’s a good question. While our physical presence is new, we have been active remotely for some time. We’ve been offering voice termination and access to our fiber network connecting businesses and individuals around the world. Having this physical presence allows us to tap into other revenue opportunities such as mobile, IoT, Internet and content delivered by a global brand and backed by reliable and respected German engineering.

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