Telecom operators in the region are increasingly looking for ways to capture a piece of digital pie as revenues from voice and SMS are falling and data is growing.
They are launching new mobile content and services, investing in digital startups, or establishing app platforms and application programming interfaces (APIs).
“Telco operators need to partner with content providers for Internet Protocol Television [IPTV] and over-the-top [OTT] services and should reassess their digital strategies they are pursuing,” Dr Ismaeel Makdisi, CEO of Dubai-based content aggregator Intigral, told Gulf News at the ArabNet Digital Summit.
He said telcos need to be more mindful of the customer experience and provide more online and digital services. These kinds of products and services require “demand innovation and demand agility”.
“Telcos lack both and they need an innovative company to get in touch with techy people at the Silicon Valley to help address this issue and use it as a differentiating factor to sustain them. Telcos’ biggest investment today is the infrastructure and broadband,” he said.
Intigral creates and aggregates content and makes it available across multiple platforms (desktops, TVs, smartphones and tablets).
“We just started offering our services to du and soon with etisalat. We provide 200 IPTV and OTT linear channels. We have one of the biggest video-on-demand channels in the Middle East and North Africa,” Makdisi said.
Intigral is in talks with other telco operators in the region to provide the IPTV and OTT services.
He said attempts have been made by regional operators to provide contents on multi devices, but I haven’t seen a full convergent offering. “Telcos in the Gulf, on some aspects, are two to four years behind when compared to the West, but on long-term evolution [LTE] investment the regional operators have made a big stride. Content, especially premium content and live streaming content, is the key for people to use,” he said.
Lot of providers relies on traditional services in the form of SMS and MMS. People are spending more on content and the wallet is getting bigger when compared to a couple of years back. “We are moving from SMS and MMS to app-based applications. Innovative technology is essential to keep up with the market. The digital content market in the Arab region is advancing at a rapid rate and has significant potential to drive revenues and gain a loyal customer base,” he said.
When asked how telcos can add value to customers, Makdisi said that telcos are in a unique position whereby they can bring about certain mega projects to enhance user experience in the region and only telcos can do it because of their size, database and customer profiling that they have.
IPTV is becoming more of a legacy and it is a managed network while OTT is unmanaged network.
“We are moving from a managed network to unmanaged network, from set-top box to virtual set-top box, more competition in the marketplace due to Apple and Google entering the market,” he added.