Category Archives: Telecomunication

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.

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 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.

Dear Mr. Harb, I want my old connection back!

OgeroI had a 1Mbps ADSL connection with a contention rate of 1/8 (hopefully & optimistically) which felt like a 124Kbps rather than 2Mbps. I was ok about this connection since I could connect to the sites I wanted, receive my emails, and get what I needed to do to be done (while I am in Lebanon).

I am not comparing this connection to my UAE one or my Saudi one! There is NO WAY to compare the connections. It would be like comparing a 1970 VW beetle to brand new F50! Don’t get me wrong, I WAS happy with such a connection and for the fees I was paying (monthly fee). That was until Mr. Boutros Harb decided to change my connection so he could look good!

What the MoT did was:

  • He decreased my monthly fee from $8 to $6 per month
  • He increased (I am trying to believe that) my bandwidth from 1Mbps to 2MBPS
  • He increased my data cap from 10 GB to 40 GB

After using the new setup for 4 days, I concluded the following:

  • Well, I don’t believe that decrease in monthly fee is substantial to me or any of the people using the Ogero internet connection.
  • After trying the NEW 2Mbps connection, I WANT MY OLD CONNECTION BACK!
  • I am ok with the 40 GB data cap. It was already expensive paying for 10GB on the old setup.

Just to give some historical background about the issue of internet in Lebanon, one of the most expensive internet fees in the region:

  • The internet bandwidth is already available and just needs a click (actually an email) to expand it through SAT3 connection.
  • In terms of the ADSL & fixed line new installations, it has been a political issue rather than a logistics or technical issue.
  • The demand on ADSL & Fixed line is enormous due to the fact that little number of boxes are being installed per year.

So dear Mr. Boutros Harb, please ask your advisors to put a business & action plan so we could get our connection back! I need to connect to the internet in a smooth way.

Zain KSA’s Opportunity With The Intro of The New MVNO

Zain KSA new logo

Zain KSA new logo

The Communications & Information Technology Committee (CITC), Saudi Arabia’s regulator, has awarded two MVNO’s licenses to operate in the Kingdom and is about to award a 3rd in the coming weeks. The 3rd license is to be awarded to operate under the umbrella of Zain KSA. After being awarded an MNO license to operate in KSA with a sky rocketing fee of 6.1 billion dollars, Zain KSA started up in the Kingdom on the wrong foot.

Zain KSA targeted ethnic and bottom line of the pyramid segments for the past years of operation, launching a vicious price war; However, Zain now has the opportunity to cut down its losses, alongside gaining more market share in a very wealthy & high ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) market.

This opportunity arises if Zain offloads its mass market & ethnic segments to its MVNO. This will allow Zain KSA to focus, under its new CEO and management, on more lucrative segments & markets:

  • High end customers
  • Roaming customers (due to its footprint in the GCC & Middle East)
  • Mid End professionals
  • SME & SOHO segments
  • Tap into some of the LCA (Large Corporate Accounts) & government segments
  • Push for M2M and cloud products that are underutilized in KSA

With good subscriber base of bottom liners and very aggressive ethnic marketing strategy, Zain KSA already has the buffer to relaunch itself. Add to that, Zain’s (KSA) excellent strong mobile data capacity (4G network) throughout its coverage areas (Does not cover a lot of areas in KSA). Another good trait that Zain KSA can benefit from is its partnership with Vodafone & its GCC & Middle Eastern networks for roaming (used a lot by middle & high end Saudi customers).

Zain KSA has been absent from the enterprise market in KSA, leaving this multi-billion riyals market for the two other MNO’s: Mobily & STC. While both MNO’s are focusing more on verticals & LCA’s, little attention is given to the equally lucrative segments of SME’s & SOHO’s.

The Saudi market has not yet tapped into a big segment of its enterprise segment. The SME’s (Small & Medium Enterprise) or SMB’s (Small & Medium Business) are poorly penetrated or neglected due to the effort needed to be put into such segment. Still, it is a segment worth billions of riyals in terms of telecom revenue due to the amount of small or medium companies in KSA.

The race for M2M & cloud is starting up in Saudi Arabia and Mobily is leading the way through a newly derived division handling partnerships very actively. Zain KSA can benefit from these virgin fields and startup an early race towards dominating these fields, especially in financial & medical uses.

Zain’s (KSA) opportunity rises to rectify the strategy with the new MVNO license. Would it grab this opportunity? Time will tell!

Why Re-Invent the Wheel?!

OTTIn my previous blog regarding OTT applications & revenue, a lot of peers have messaged me agreeing, commenting, or offering their services. I read all the comments (most preferred not being published) and several were from vendors regarding MNO’s developing their own OTT applications (through their companies). This has always been a tricky dilemma for me: “Why re-invent the wheel!”

Continue reading