Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company ― the Dubai-based telecoms operator known as du — is forging ahead with more investments in its infrastructure and data centres, in line with the UAE's economic growth, its chief executive has said.
The recovery of key industries, including trade and tourism, as well the growth of digitalised government services, helped the company boost subscriber numbers and grow the reach of its services, Fahad Al Hassawi told The National at Gitex Technology Week in Dubai on Monday.
“We can see the UAE performing completely outside the norms of what’s happening elsewhere in the world, and it creates business demand and opportunities for telecom services,” Mr Al Hassawi said.
“There is a very big correlation between the economy and telecom companies — whenever gross domestic product does well and sees momentum, the telecom sector grows too.”
The telecoms sector, as with every other industry, was caught off guard by the sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which engulfed the world in early 2020 and brought economies to their knees.
But the industry played a key role in maintaining online activities in businesses, individual consumers and the overall society, through services such as the internet, broadband and mobile connectivity, especially as people were confined indoors.
While the health crisis forced telecom companies to pivot their strategies and adapt on the fly during the pandemic, Du saw this not just as a challenge but as an opportunity to test its resilience, Mr Al Hassawi said.
“Covid accelerated the needed transformation and digitalisation, and it made the end game more of a pressing need today,” he said.
“Resilience, adoption, the use of digital tools and the ability to transform and change priorities are the types of capabilities that will help any business in any situation.”
While Mr Al Hassawi declined to provide specific investment figures, he hinted that both investment and capital expenditure will increase.
“We do not usually give guidance,” he said.
Du boosted its network infrastructure investments by “more than 100 per cent” in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, its chief technology officer Saleem AlBlooshi told The National last month.
The company's plans for its data centres, meanwhile, remain steady, as it has “sufficient capability” to run those facilities amid a massive surge in demand for data services, Mr Al Hassawi said.
Building a new facility — du currently has two data centres in the UAE — will depend on market and business adoption, he added.
As most of its facilities — data centres included — were built using modular models, the company may not necessarily construct new premises, but rather add capacity to its existing ones, Mr Al Hassawi said.
He added that that technologies today have reached a stage of “extreme maturity”, making them capable of running services efficiently.
The challenge is to combine these to provide a single integrated and complete solution that solves real business needs, which will be key for the services offered by telecom companies, Mr Al Hassawi said.
“We need to focus on getting things done today, not concepts — it cannot give you the full benefit of what you can achieve, and this is what drives value creation,” he said.
“We, as a sector, make the backbone of many others. If [telcos] don't have good digital infrastructure, many of the other sectors may not be able to cope, especially with the changing times [in technology and telecoms].”
The company is tapping into the potential of the metaverse by working on a “strong programme” to construct digital twins of its data centres and infrastructure to boost operational efficiency, Mr AlBlooshi said last month.