Author Archives: Samer

The End of an Era: Telco MNO’s out!

no-simThe direct impact of chatbots, IM, or any messaging service on a telecom operator (MNO) starts up with revenue dip for voice services; however, a thorough look at the issue shows it is more than that! MNO’s are losing the war to own the subscriber. With such applications that are taking over the mobile ecosystem, MNO’s are becoming a mere mode of connectivity. Losing a huge percentage of their voice revenues to such apps, they are in battle for the ownership of the subscriber, with all his info & digital commerce activities.

In 2006, handset manufacturers tried their luck with proposing a SIM-less phone. The resistance was so immense by the MNO’s and SIM vendors that the battle was lost the minute it was proposed. Today, the whole picture is different. In the background of the portrait, the MNO’s stand helpless since their role is being minimized to data connectivity operator. With big players like Facebook, Apple, & Google, who currently own the subscribers & their data (whether MNO’s like it or not), it is a matter of time before a new evolution comes up. More IM & chatbots applications are coming up: imo, WeChat, Line, etc.

The rise of a new data technology that requires no SIM card would end the MNO’s role in terms of traditional telecom ecosystem that we know. A new era would rise making way to such companies to take out such MNO’s. How would the ecosystem change? Let us wait the upcoming techs & trends.

SME Targeting in Oman: MNO’s Are Shooting Themselves In The Foot!

Telco MNO’s are currently focusing more & more on enterprise services since consumer revenue is decreasing drastically over the past 5 years. In order to maximize their profit, they are tapping into a segment that has always been considered a mass market segment & targeted by consumer offering: the SME’s. SME’s have been using the consumer offerings to save money & benefit from the features available. They need voice, data, & sometimes fixed voice & data.

In a drill to help a friend with the best package in Oman, I was checking the SME offerings versus the consumer ones. It turns out that MNO’s in Oman are offering much more to the consumer rather than the enterprise. With packages in the consumer segment loaded with national minutes, data, & international minutes, it was still cheaper as a whole package to the customer rather than taking one of the SME packages (around 30% more with around 80% less minutes & data). This has raised a very serious question: how are the MNO’s targeting these SME’s and luring them to sell them more services?

If the MNO’s do not have or compile their database of SME’s, how can they be able to target them later rather than treating them as consumers? If the SME package costs 30% more than the consumer packages compiled for 5 – 15 employees, even more in some cases, how will they be able to target & segment such SME’s?! In more developed countries, SME or enterprise packages are about 10% less in price and loaded with much more features. The rationale behind that is luring the customer with voice & data packages to upsell & cross-sell them more features & bigger packages. SME packages for 5 -15 stick more to the network than consumer packages.

My experience with such a drill made me think that the MNO’s in Oman are shooting themselves in the foot, unless they don’t care about tapping & segmenting SME’s by selling them consumer packages.

Lunch Anyone?

Businesspeople having lunch indoors.

Businesspeople having lunch indoors.

It is not easy managing a medium to large team, especially with managers, team leaders, and supervisors on board. Your communication with your officers, especially the most junior one becomes very hard.

Every successful executive would like to know more about his team: their strengths, weaknesses, fears, threats, fitting in experience, ideas, and much more. It is even a good practice to know about your team’s family occasions and difficulties. It helps you understand your team and be able to support, encourage, and assess them even better.

With managers, team leaders, and supervisors in between, your relationship with your team members becomes masked by formalities, day to day duties, and the image of the boss/monster (from employees perspective). Although it is good to be feared, it is better to be respected and loved by your employees. They tend to give you their best when you achieve that.

In MTN, we used to have breakfast with the boss. Although a great idea, it was too formal. Once I had my first medium to large (depending on how you look at it) team, I needed a way to get through to HEAR & Connect with my team. The informal weekly lunch idea came up.

Informal: call 5 employees from different departments early morning on a set day every week and invite them to lunch. Being fair but strict is not always enough. You need to break the ice and make your team members speak up.

An informal lunch allows you to get closer to your team. They tend after sometime to spill their guts. You will be amazed of what you will learn:

  • Strengths
  • Fears
  • New ideas
  • New talents
  • Ambition
  • Zone of comfort
  • Transparency

Such a step will allow your team to know & trust you, still keeping your image as a boss. The employees will feel they belong, important, and are heard. The last is a very important aspect for every employee. Even with open door policy, such status of being heard is hard to achieve.

Have lunch every week with some of your team members! It is a must.

The New Role Of Telecom Operators

In the past years, the revenue of traditional voice is decreasing drastically while data is picking up; However, the compensation between the two is still far from closing. MNO’s are searching for a compensation for the lost revenue.

Several new streams of revenue are being looked upon or rolled out: M2M, IoT, the old-renewed cloud services, roaming services, among others being developed. The new streams of revenue from these services did not yet compensate for the voice revenues lost.

Flat rates, lower IDD, lower interconnection, OTT, VoLTE and several other apps, services, and market dynamics are pushing the revenue down. Subscribers are always looking for new ways of decreasing their bills. Same applies for companies (enterprise services).

At the other end of the equation, MNO’s are pushing enterprise services and outsourcing their infrastructure (consolidating also) in order to lower cost & push revenues up. The enterprise services are proving to be the new boom for the telcos especially with the new standards & services of cloud, M2M, and IoT. Partnering with ICT companies (service, platform, & software providers) is the new way of doing business among the world, especially emerging markets.

Emerging markets, especially Africa, are the testing grounds for profitability of such streams due to the cost sensitivity & lack of infrastructure. Keeping an eye on services & cases emerging in these markets are worth the effort.

Thoughts on Cloud Computing

cloudOver 10 years ago, while I was still in Africa & we planned for rolling out remote backup, email & domain hosting, platform management, in addition to some other services. Later on, in MTN, such services were flagship projects that were being promoted internally, waiting for the right time to launch. Later on, working with STC, domain & email hosting, managed router service, and some other services have been operational for sometime. Although in both cases, these services did not pick up once launched, two years ago the hype around the cloud boosted their sales up.

The cloud has been there and been provided in different companies for a very long time. Blackberry has provided email services & email push for sometime. The cloud services have been around since the early 2000’s but have not picked up sales and rollout as expected.

Some of the reasons for slow penetration in the market is due to the security threats, lack of trust, high CAPEX to roll out, quality of service, in addition to some other reasons. Customers on one end are hesitant to buy cloud services while providers are promoting or commoditizing these products and services the right way to entice these customers. Some companies have even pushed commission on cloud sales 5 times more than their traditional products.

Mobile cloud sales (mobile apps that store & process data at a datacenter) are the best model of successful cloud services; however, most of these are consumer cloud services rather than enterprise cloud services. The cloud has been intended for the enterprise though!

The billion dollars question is: how to promote the cloud?

To do so, companies need to look at what the customers need, want, & are looking for and try to look at things from a customer’s point of view. Only then would the cloud fly high and become the center of all computing.

You have to know your customer well, else you are out of business

0fc1eb0A lot of companies have a golden business rule: keep an eye on your competitor! Such a rule is a good one, although I would not get too much obsessed with it; however, most of the companies forget about their customers.

Why is it the most important need to know your customer? I always agree with the fact that your staff are your valuable asset. This is where your ideas, executions, and drivers come from. Still, your customers are your cash generators. If you don’t know them, or your staff do not drive you to know them, then you are walking blind.

I am not going into the techniques of how to keep an eye on your customers or the ways & mechanisms of knowing your customers (I bet most of you know that). We are focusing here about the concept by itself.

Trends, habits, characteristics, demographics, ethnicity, origin, feasts & holidays, etc are all aspects of a customer that will affect your business. Who they are & what they like are all related to how you should be conducting your business. Whether you are into mass market, segmented market, B2B, B2C, or whatever segmentations you have, look into how your customers behave, their background, social status, and daily habits to come out with innovative products. Innovation is not inventing new technology. It is coming up with what your customers need, want, or wish for.

Keep your eyes open and take care of your customers. They will take care of your business.

You should be out of Business

So I landed in Dubai and slipped my UAE SIM card into my phone. Waited for the signal but there was nothing. It has been over w year since I used this SIM card. Number has been deactivated as it seems.

Let us run to an outlet and get a SIM card. And so we ran there. Literally ran there! I needed my phone up & running & I needed my data connection. It is weird how you get hooked up to the data apparatus.

I need to take a ticket and get in the queue. Nothing new and a normal good procedure.

NO! NO! NO! There are over 50 numbers waiting before me. I cannot wait all this time! Ok, then, let us run to the other operator & buy a new SIM card. After running across the mall & being out of breath, I had a line of about 15 people to wait to be served. I waited, and my friends waited with me. Once facing the agent, he explained to me that I can buy the SIM card now but will take till tomorrow for it to be activated. WHAT! Are you for real!

Run back to the first operator, wait over 35 minutes (a lot of people got bored & left) for me to be served. “Your number has been deleted by our system sir.” A new line is the only option & so it was. I bought my new line while I was surprised of such low telecom customer experience standards. It took me over 50 minutes to get a SIM card.

What happened to Accessibility to succeed in selling any product! What happened to the KPI’s of Walk-in centers?! What happened to a customer should not wait (with one MNO 50 minutes while for the other over 12 hours).

How come that a Du & Etisalat SIM card is such a hassle to find & buy?! All my resident friends have mentioned that it is a hassle to get a SIM card or to see a CC agent. I guess TRA should look into introducing a new player to the market to have some competition & put the heat on!

OTT of Death

Don't OTT & Drive!

Don’t OTT & Drive!

Been around three countries recently (2014) in the Middle East and how people are using their handset & how countries are setting up the rules is not so promising. In Lebanon & Saudi Arabia, although there is a rule regarding using your mobile phone while driving, over 40% of drivers are using their handsets while driving, mostly typing or reading while driving. OTT has become a very hazardous enabler in these countries since the police is not fining OTT-drivers (let us call them that).

On the other hand, in UAE, what I have noticed is that people rarely use their handsets while driving, whether OTT or talking over phone. The reason: huge fines & black points on your driving license! If you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, the police will take you to court & fine you some hefty amount of money.

OTT & mobile tech helps us make out life simpler & easier, not a tool a death! Drive carefully. Don’t OTT & drive.

You are a Threat to Your Mobile Data!

So you think your mobile is safe and that you are protected by your antivirus! Well, your mobile is safe until you give the permission to share your data. Upon installing applications like TrueCaller, you give the application access to your address book. Thus the application uploads all your contact cards and stores your address book into the company’s server.

So all your contacts are shared. All your family contacts are shared. All your friends contacts are shared. All you business contacts are shared. What happens to this data?! This is shared with millions of people around the world without the consent of your contacts (family, friends, business contacts, acquaintances).

Most probably this data will become the biggest centralized contact data storage in the world (always updated). Truecaller might sell premium services to customers who are willing to pay for such data.

So in other words, YOU are a big threat to your data by giving such applications access to your info and data.

Bad Customer Experience from Leading MNO’s in KSA

So I decided to change from STC due to bad service. The reason for that is the lousy customer service by STC, whether through call center, walk-in centers, or online applications (especially while roaming). I have stopped services on STC and they still billed me for these stopped services. So I grabbed my phone and headed down the road to Mobily walk-in center hoping their welcome services & knowledge would be better!

To my amazement, the CC agent had to swap over 10 cards without giving us any reason for the delay. He was consulting with is colleague about the issue and not knowing what to do and why the system was not accepting the cards. We left and decided to come back after dark. On our next visit, the issue of the cards has been solved; however, upon activating the service, the CC agent (another agent) did not know what kind of data packages Mobily had!!!!!! All I could think about was: if this guy worked for me, I would fire him on the spot!

To add to my fury, I have applied for a package through USSD and it has been over 24 hours without any feedback from their system! I am not sure what kind of customer service does any of the two leading operators in KSA give. With such bad quality of service from both MNO’s, I am pretty sure that the poorest & most mismanaged MNO in Africa does not have such bad customer experience! I would have expected a lot more from a multi-billion dollars worth MNO’s.