Instability in some parts of the Middle East is not slowing the regions hunger for connectivity and the rapid growth of its telecoms sector.

On February 28th the telecoms carrier community will again meet in Dubai at Capacity Middle East to discuss drivers for growth and how telecoms is shaping regional development.

At last year’s event carriers took turns making the case for why their operating areas deserved to be the hub for the region. These carriers have been challenged to provide operating environments that are business friendly and open to deeper levels of cooperation, connectivity and competition.

Abdulhameed Alhamad, General Manager, Wholesale Marketing at STC, Raghu Venkataraman, Chief Strategy & Investments Officer at du and Etisalat’s EVP, Carrier & Wholesale Services Ali Amiri will be speaking on this year’s keynote panel and giving their take on how strategic investments in the region can help to capture market share. There will be an emphasis on greater interregional connectivity as well as how deeper infrastructure investment can shape the future of the market.

Undersea cable operator Gulf Bridge International (GBI) along with Tata Communications are increasing interregional connectivity with new undersea cable systems in the Persian Gulf while it has been reported that Etisalat and du have begun testing a shared network in the UAE ahead of a national rollout later this year. These kinds of developments are expected to bring prices down in both the retail and wholesale space and continue to drive growth in Middle East telecoms.

As competition emerges as a priority, instability in some parts of the Middle East has highlighted the role that connectivity is playing in the region. This instability will certainly be a topic of discussion as instability does not lend itself to the creation of telco hubs but is an interesting topic as a component of political and economic change.

What will be interesting to see at this year’s Capacity Middle East is how operators and regulators discuss the role of the internet in this instability and how affects their businesses. The impact of limiting internet services as a perceived means of calming unrest is a topic that operators from within the region and beyond are sure to have an opinion on.

The Middle East’s strategic location between Asia, Africa and Europe makes it an ideal meeting point for carriers and this year’s conference will have more than 700 attendees and has expanded in format to include an additional day of panel sessions and networking. As with each year, Capacity Middle East continues to grow up alongside one of the most dynamic telecoms markets in the world.

Capacity Middle East 2011
28 February – 2 March 2011, Dubai

Matthew_Whalley

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To clear this up immediately: no, I am not proposing a return to the era of 1920s Chicago with its ban on alcohol and preponderance of illicit “speakeasy” bars.

The following is a list of habits and behaviours which I would ban if I could; and whose prohibition, I believe, would make the world of pan European PR coordination a far more effective and agreeable place to work. I would be very interested to hear feedback from both sides of the curtain (“coordinator” and “coordinated”) on whether you recognize or could add to this list…

1. The coordination “Cockney” – just because I was born within the Bow bells of London  may make me a Cockney, but it does not mean that I possess the skills and sensitivities to manage multiple markets. Being a native English speaker has many benefits (English remains the “lingua franca” for business in most of Europe), but pan European coordination requires many other skills and experience

2. Unacknowledged success. A half page article in the Financial Times may not be the only definition of success; coordination teams who ignore or discount local achievements are doing themselves and their network a disservice. ‘What does this radio slot mean to the local market’? ‘How long has the team been pitching this vertical title typically dominated by the competition’? ‘What does this endorsement from a powerful local blogger mean’? As Shakespeare noted about the quality of mercy, such acknowledgements are “twice blessed”; to the coordinator and the coordinated.

3. Forgetting who actually does the work. The most amazing, compelling and creative PR plan in the world would remain just that – a plan – without the support of the local markets; they are the ones whose role it is to implement. It is their local market and media knowledge, their relationships, their long hours and good humour that bring the plans to life and generate the results against which we are all measured.

4. Ill conceived conference calls. Has humanity ever wasted so much time as the hours spent on interminable conference calls which are not preceded by an agenda, have no relevance or call to action for participants and no follow up summary? Think of the things we could have done with that time . . . . I for one could have learnt Chinese, recreated the Sistine Chapel in my bathroom or, even, updated my timesheets with all the time spent on meaningless calls. Keep calls regular (not ad hoc), keep them brief (30 mins max) and ensure that they are “sandwiched” by an agenda and a follow up note.

5. The surfer´s voice. If coordination teams are guilty of conference call inflation (increasing ubiquity matched by decreasing value), countries are sometimes guilty of “multi tasking”. There is nothing more irritating that presenting over the phone against a chorus of keyboards typing, alerts sounding , lunch orders being taken. In terms of distraction, this is the equivalent of trying to deliver a presentation in a nightclub complete with pumping music, strobe lighting and dry ice. Keep calls to a minimum but make them count.

6. Clichés and Colloquialisms. Let’s “hunker down” and plan for the “end game”; if we bring our “A game” it will be a “slam dunk”. Apart from being incomprehensible (even to a native English speaker), this type of dialogue simply reveals a paucity of clear thought and is wide open to misinterpretation and confusion. Genuinely clear thought is typified by language and terminology which can be understood in any country.

7. Focusing on what can’t be done instead of what can. I appreciate that this type of response can be culturally driven and a way to manage (central) expectations, but I have found that focusing on the negative can be self-fulfilling and destructive. “There will be strikes planned for this day . . . it is a Bank holiday weekend . . . there is not local customer reference . . the journalists do not speak English . . . we have no local spokesperson . . . .” These may all be legitimate observations, however, a focus on what could be achieved given these constraints is far more effective and fulfilling. “Given the above, we could propose an exclusive with one English speaking journalist . . we would propose embargoed meetings with trusted press to provide them with time to prepare . . . we would position the story in the context of a local competitor. . . we would research some local market data to add context . . . etc.”

8. “Yes but that will not work in my market . . . .” see above.

You make recognize a few of these; once again they are not behaviours I regularly see in my agency, however I’d love to hear about your “prohibitions” and how they would implore the world of pan European coordination.

@RogerDara

Nokia Siemens Networks grows its mobile solutions capabilities with a partnership with mobile commerce specialist, MoreMagic.

The companies announced the partnership at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and have jointly developed “Mobile Payment Solution”, which enables the delivery of a range of services including money transfer, mobile banking, mobile payments as well as near field communications (NFC).

Rick Centeno, head of charging, billing and care at Nokia Siemens Networks, said: “We are very excited about the growth in the mobile payments space in general and about mobile money and NFC payments in particular. Our partnership with MoreMagic provides us with a flexible architecture that integrates very well with our flagship products. The combination of MoreMagic solutions with Nokia Siemens Networks’ integrated Subscriber Data Management, Identity Management and Unified Charging provides a comprehensive set of Mobile Payment Solutions in this innovative market segment.”

The joint Mobile Payment Solution interconnects consumers, mobile operators, financial institutions, retailers, agents and other members of the mobile commerce and financial services value chain to enable seamless monetary transactions. This is an ideal solution for emerging markets where the industry has already seen mobile money uptake.

Nokia Siemens Networks is trialing mobile payment solutions in Libya with Libya Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology Holding Company in collaboration with Madar and Libyana, the two leading mobile operators in Libya. The Project which is set to run over a period of four months, will provide customers with easy, secure and convenient access to basic financial services which has previously been enjoyed only by a small percentage of the population and access to NFC proximity payments for purchasing anywhere at anytime.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_telecom

 

Last year’s Mobile World Congress was greeted with cautious optimism that has since been replaced by real enthusiasm within an industry that continues to explore its potential

In preparing for this year’s Mobile World Congress I’ve been taking a look at the trends and insights that emerged from last year’s congress and seeing how far the mobile industry has come since then.

Edelman’s Kevin Bossi noted that last year’s event was approached with a kind of cautious optimism that was understandable after a year in 2009 that showed growth in mobile data services but financial instability around the world.

In 2011, this cautious optimism has given way to real excitement around a mobile market that is continually pushing its boundaries and seen as a driver for social and economic development. As ever the scope of the industry continues to grow and this offers up opportunities at the same time raising questions about how businesses define themselves.

The trends and themes from last year’s Mobile World Congress point to an industry that is reaching deeper into the lives of consumers while still exploring how far existing and new technologies can be pushed.

New Enthusiasm, Old Challenges

There has been excitement around new developments in devices with tablet computing taking hold in the market and new networking technologies like LTE hopefully solving mobile data challenges. Apps and gaming have also shown that the opportunities within the mobile market are still vast and not always easy to predict.

From looking at these innovations and the trends from MWC10, the question of the operators’ role in the mobile ecosystem is still one that has yet to be answered. It isn’t an easy question and one that is becoming even more difficult to answer. Pricing, bundled services and increased penetration won’t be generating buzz in the exhibition hall but they are all very real for operators as they try to convert network traffic into revenue gains. Operators have an uncertain future as they watch a vibrant market and seek to carve out a leadership role in it.

What is certain is that the mobile industry as a whole is being seen as a force for good. Mobile Money services are expanding as operators partner across verticals, mHealth is bringing efficiency to healthcare while the increased depth of wireless networking and affordable handsets bring more people online. While the buzz amongst technology journalists has been about the role of mobile phone and social networking in uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, they are already being used in the democratic process in Africa particularly in Uganda as well as regions across the continent.

Lessons to Learn

Emerging markets aren’t just taking advantage of new services as we saw at MWC10. Some of the largest brand presence at the event were from vendors and operators from outside of Europe and North America. Expect to see Huawei , ZTE, HTC on the hardware side and China Telecom, Bharti Airtel and Turkcell to be well represented again this year. Revelations about the Chinese government’s aid to its equipment vendor was not surprising and will not slow these companies down as they continue to take market share from Western mainstays in the equipment market.

What will be exciting is to see what lesson both operators and manufactures from emerging markets have to teach the industry about new services and what they see sustaining growth in the future. Players in emerging market will have some distinct lessons to share and it plays into an overall theme of this year’s congress. While technology is certainly at the core of the mobile industry, meeting the unique needs of different markets, communities and ultimately consumers is its goal.

A User-Centric Congress

Since last year’s congress there has been an increasing shift toward the user with a stronger emphasis on how people are using new technologies not just the technologies themselves. Consumers are more frequently asking themselves, “What can this technology do for me? What need does it meet and how does it improve the way I’m living my life?”

The tablet computing market has shown just how important it is to explain the usage scenarios of a device, not just the device capabilities. That is at least for competitors to the iPad that need a strong rational for why their device is superior and best meets the needs of the consumer.

Nowhere is the user more important than in the app market. MWC10 was awash with talk about apps ranging from mHealth to social media and what will be the next Angry Birds. The proliferation of apps and smartphones have allowed for greater levels of customization and allowed devices to offer suites services that can define a user’s experience.

More than ever it feels like the consumer is able to shape the future of the market and we’ll see this theme play out along side announcements around tablet computing, near field communications, LTE and gaming. All facets of the mobile industry from devices, the network and apps are all showing us something new and hopefully we’ll see a few surprises at this year’s event.

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom