From Operator To Service Provider: The Role Of Telcos In Tomorrow's Digital Future As the world grows more digitally dependent, the role of telcos in achieving the connected future will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

By Hany Aly

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In recent years, the world has plunged head-first into a technological transformation that has altered almost every aspect of our lives. This is the new normal, and we foresee the continuation of this trend into the future. As the world grows more digitally dependent, the role of telcos in achieving the connected future will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

While connectivity is found at the center of all things digital, telecoms operators must endeavor to increase their agility and versatility as service providers, delivering disruptive services and solutions that will catapult the digital transformation ahead of the competition. Particularly in business, and for the ever-growing SME category in the region, the digital future will rely on the provision of a comprehensive suite of services– from basic connectivity to high-end ICT solutions.

Currently, SMEs represent 94% of the total number of companies operating in the UAE. As SMEs continue to function as the backbone for the business landscape and economy in the UAE and across the region, telcos will become the nerve center of a digital future, supporting the stark majority of businesses by facilitating innovation and transformation from every angle. Achieving this will depend on the ability of operators to adapt to the convergence of life, mobility, economy, governance, and environment under an overarching technological umbrella, and to embrace a change of mindset with a visionary approach towards digitalization. In so doing, telcos must overcome obstacles associated with achieving the digital vision for the future– especially as they pertain to SME operations.

These obstacles revolve around data monetization, operational efficiency, converged access, and adding value. As telcos' business models evolve, they must be able to monetize services and streamline operations on a fundamental level; from there, they must develop a converging framework for customer access and devise new strategies to offer customers more as their needs change. The SME sector is constantly changing to fulfill new demands and adapt to the business landscape– and in the coming years, overcoming these obstacles to keep pace with SMEs will require operators to focus on three key business components: connectivity infrastructure, digital media, and information and communication technology (ICT) solutions.

In the digital revolution, infrastructure plays an integral role as the foundation for digital uptake and technological transformation. It facilitates connectivity and acts as a major instrument in the economic, social, and digital development of cities and countries. Next is digital media, which acts as the primary vehicle for moving beyond traditional services of voice and data connectivity. It presents an opportunity to capitalize on new, revenuegenerating business strategies that will come as natural next steps in the digital transformation.

Finally, ICT solutions are fundamental: they are the tool that operators have always had and will, in the presence of evolution and adaptation, continue to be telcos' most valuable asset. By zeroing in on key components like these, and addressing how they can be adapted to best serve enterprises and other customer segments, operators can expect to see continued growth as the digital transformation unfolds. A new business model that caters to the demands of businesses, and particularly SMEs, will ensure that ICT players stay ahead of the pack in terms of maintaining a competitive edge and establishing a leading position in the digital transformation.

The crucial aspect of this adaptive phase is the willingness to expand beyond connectivity and become true service providers, embracing the vital role of telcos in the technological takeover. In order to maximize and optimize resources, competencies, and experiences, operators must channel their efforts to become more versatile and agile in their role. In line with these sentiments, du is working towards implementing these strategic changes as it prepares for the digital future in the UAE. Particularly in terms of the smart city agenda, which will revolutionize Dubai as a global innovation hub, du is laying the groundwork for SMEs to lead the smart city transformation through innovation and technology implementation.

With initiatives like Dubai Pulse, a central operating system for the city's smart services and technologies; and Smart Concierge, which helps businesses solve visitor management problems through blockchain technology, du is providing the value-added services that support the smart city future for both the public and private sectors. With a focus on SMEs, which are already acting as a driving force behind the digital transformation in the UAE, du is thus making strides towards the successful shift from operator to service provider.

Related: IBM's Juan Jose De La Torre On The Need For MENA Businesses To Embrace Digital Transformation

Hany Aly

Executive and investor focused on the Middle East startup ecosystem

Hany Aly is an executive and investor focused on the startup ecosystem in the Middle East. For more than 20 years, he has created and executed strategies to support innovation, digital transformation, and the growth of telecoms and information communication technology (ICT) organizations across the region.


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