x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Osman Sultan: It’s time for the UAE to cement its place in digital

The chief executive of du says the next phase of telecommunications will see the UAE becoming a hub for the digital space.

Osman Sultan is the chief executive of du. Here he talks about the company and the future of telecoms in the UAE.

Why was du set up?

The creation of du was the first step in opening up the telecommunications sector in the UAE to competition. It was the first time in UAE telecom history that the market allowed in a secondary player, after 100 per cent penetration had been attained in the mobile segment.

What have been the company's biggest milestones to date?

We are very proud of what we have achieved within just five years of launching our services. Today, we are a company that has a significant market share in the mobile sector in the UAE - over 46 per cent in the most penetrated market in the world for mobile services, which is remarkable by any standards. We are now getting close to having 6 million active mobile customers, and we managed to reach close to Dh9 billion [US$2.45bn] in revenues in 2011. We are very proud of these results … and today I believe that we have one of the strongest brands within the Arab world. Additionally, we have excellent infrastructure. Our mobile broadband network has recently been ranked the best in all of Africa and the Middle East. We also have solid foundations in our governance. We are so very passionate about the brand, which is not just about having a nice logo or campaigns; our brand is about everything that this company lives and breathes, interfacing with its customers, employees and shareholders.

What's next for UAE telecoms?

I am convinced that the next phase will see UAE becoming a hub for the digital space. It is a natural step. This part of the world generally missed the industrial revolution of the previous two centuries; we did not create the infrastructure for big factories that could drive innovation — we were buying and using. I believe that the digital age is a great opportunity, as it does not require the infrastructure of factories and R&D [research and development] centres. The UAE, over the past 15 years, has been through a brainstorming process and put all the right aspects in place to attract investment flows. In the digital age, we have the opportunity to cement the UAE's place on the map. Awareness at the level of decision-makers, policymakers, regulators, industrial leaders and the community to incubate entrepreneurship could create the right ecosystem to continue attracting these flows in this digital space.