Telecom Egypt has to build a very concrete base and go up step by step to reach the roof of the pyramid, which is the applications for the customers, said Adel Hamed, CEO of Telecom Egypt. Emphasizing the importance of applications, he spoke to ZTE Technologies about the company's shift in positioning from a total telecom operator to a total ICT provider and its digital transformation progress. Founded in 1854, Telecom Egypt is Egypt's only fixed-line operator, and one of the largest in Africa and the Middle East with a subscriber base of over 12 million subscribers. It entered the mobile market with the launch of its mobile network "WE" in 2017.
How would you characterize the trends in the Egyptian telecom market and your position in it?
Egypt, as the largest country in the Middle East and North Africa, has fiber connectivity from Egypt to everywhere. The geographical location of Egypt, the initiative, the many strengths and the strategy of Telecom Egypt positioned Telecom Egypt as the digital corridor two or three years ago. Now we are in the phase of modifying such strategy, and capitalizing on the strength, location and skilled people of Telecom Egypt and the large network to be not only the digital corridor but also the African and regional hub. Hub means we want to partner with all of the country providers, cloud service providers, serving the Eurasian market and regional market, and connecting the world.
Inside Telecom Egypt, we used to be the total telecom operator and now we are going to be the total ICT provider. ICT means a lot of industries. ICT means a lot of synergies—not only the telecom services but also total ICT services like eWallet, Fintech and media. Now we are announcing the launch of the IPTV services for our customers. This is the strength and the major point that we are focusing in the coming days.
What are the three core competitive strengths of Telecom Egypt?
One is that we are everywhere. So we have a very large, expandable, and reachable network. We reach every corner in Egypt. This is the major advantage that Telecom Egypt has. The other is the well-trained and skilled people that can offer enhanced quality services. The last one is the financial position of Telecom Egypt that enables all of the investors to see Telecom Egypt as a good environment to invest.
We have this four Es strategy. Every company all over the world has four pillars: customers, services, employees that offer the services for the customers, and at the end of the chain, shareholders that gain from such employees offering the services for the customers. The four Es strategy is excellency of services, good experience of the customers, enthusiastic employees to offer such enhanced services, and making a good equity for the shareholders.
To recap, our three major strengths are an expandable and large network, skilled and trained people, and a very good reputation and financial position that encourage investors to invest more in Telecom Egypt.
What do you think of the challenges for Telecom Egypt?
Globally, the challenge is to enhance the services and reach a very good customer experience. So the challenge is the innovations for the new markets; the challenge is to increase and expedite the network cloud so that we can achieve our goals of digital transformation, total ICT sector, and making Egypt an African hub. Now time is a challenge; now service excellency is a challenge. Out of the challenges, you have to see your weak points and strong points. Challenge does not mean obstacles; it means, for SWOT analysis, that we can overcome such obstacles and make challenges a reality.
Where are you now in the journey of digital transformation?
We started our strategy of digital transformation as a pyramid strategy. You have to build a very concrete base and go up step by step to reach the roof of the pyramid, which is the applications for the customers. We start by building the base. The base is the network, which is a large infrastructure, a very reliable infrastructure that we build in cooperation with our partners like ZTE, one of the most efficient and committed partners. We build our infrastructure, increasing our network capabilities. This is the second step.
Then we start to implement the second phase of the strategy, which is the data center offering for the content providers and the cloud service providers. After we finish the data center, we have to go to the cloud service itself and the content itself so that we can offer something new like IPTV, Fintech. We see our roof, so we are building our pyramid to reach the roof, which is the customer needs—applications.
IT is coming. It is not only 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. It's all about customers. To reach the customers, the relevant media includes wireless, wire, 5G and IT. Our digital transformation is the track of digital transformation initiative, track of consumer transformation, which is all of such pyramid is focusing on, and track of the government and enterprise services.
We did in the last few months a big step towards the digital transformation in the field of government. We deployed 2,500 fiber connections to the schools. This is the project of digitalizing the education environment in Egypt. And the other track with the government is digitalizing the city itself. We start with the Port Said city and finalize 600 enterprise connections to the government entities so that the government could start its initiative easily by connecting the government entities together and start to offer government digital applications like e-health, digital medical insurance. Other services for the government are coming.
We will continue our work with the government in other cities so we finalize one and sign another five and will continue for most of the cities in Egypt. To achieve such track, we have to think the new capital differently. The new capital will not only be a smart city but also a digital city. So we have to be prepared, and we are preparing ourselves for this.
We are building our legacy, our history and building the future.
So the digital transformation encompasses various market segments.
For the market segments, it's B2C, B2B, enterprises, and government. I don't like to segment the customers. I do like to segment the services. I can offer the services segmentally to any customer. It doesn't matter whether it is an enterprise, a consumer, or maybe a new type of segment.
We are focusing on the customers by segmenting our services, putting our services in a quality manner, and offering a complete set of solutions for the customers. We started with dual offerings, now triple play services and we are now in the phase of quadruple play. We have our fixed network, and we have our broadband network. We have our IPTV and mobile services. So if I may say we are in the phase one of offering the quadruple services, for the future, it will be not only quadruple services, as I said, it will be like a snow ball rolling, eating and absorbing all of the industries.
So the banking retailer will be one of our services. If I may say it is a banking segment, I'd like to say it's banking services. Not only banking, maybe the media. We start to penetrate the media, transforming the broadcast (legendary name) to the digital TV name and now IPTV name. In the future, it will be like a one-stop shop for all the services over our large network.
The future is not for the operators; the future is for the application owners. The future is for the customers. The customers would like to have excellent services, and we are ready.
You and ZTE are cooperating in extensive areas such as 100G transmission and MASN. How would you comment on the cooperation?
It's not a vendor-operator relationship. It's a partner relationship. We start to transform this relationship through our part of digital transformation. Now we are thinking together, having a common strategy direction together, building our strategy together. It's not about technology (100G). Technology is changing everyday. So the solid base that we build our relationship is "being together with success together" as your CEO said.
How would you describe ZTE as a partner?
I would describe ZTE as a fast growing partner, ready to market and committed. In the last GSMA conference in Barcelona, I was promised that ZTE is committed. So commitment is one of ZTE's slogans. Trust was also mentioned. So if you combine commitment with trust, I believe that ZTE has a very powerful and rigid story to tell. I would now describe ZTE as a committed and trusted partner.
What are your expectations for the future cooperation with ZTE?
I have a good expectation. I believe that this expectation is achievable. By visiting ZTE Headquarters, this expectation becomes, I believe, not an expectation but a reality. I am quite sure that the coming period will be a very successful period for both of us.
As the CEO, what are your development goals for the next three to five years?
Any CEO of any company is looking for the benefits of the triangle, which is the customer, the employee and the shareholder. Putting this triangle in front of my eyes, my goal is to achieve the best ever experience for the customer, the best ever environment for the employee, and I hope I can gain the trust of our shareholders to continue the success story of Telecom Egypt for the coming two to three years.