Telcos and software providers must buddy up to accelerate the evolution of the digital enterprise

Etisalat’s recent partnership with Microsoft is just one example of how telcos and software providers are collaborating on 5G, AI and network automation to offer a range of digital services to enterprise customers across the region

Etisalat, Microsoft, Telecoms, Connectivity

The current Covid19 Coronavirus pandemic will necessitate far closer collaboration between telcos, software developers and their digital enterprise customers, if all three hope to make a return on their sizable 5G investments.
Public, private and hybrid cloud offerings, powered by the region’s next generation telecommunications networks will help enterprises in the region fast track their digitalisation programmes and will allow telcos and software developers to own a bigger slice of the managed services market. The digitalisation is a win-win for telcos, software developers and their enterprise customers, across the board.
With the multi billion dollar investments that telcos have made in their next generation network infrastructure, they were already looking to make as fast a return on their investment as possible. With the possibility of challenging market conditions looming large for the foreseeable future, as a result of the economic slowdown bought about by the global Covid19 pandemic, partnerships become all the more important.
“The global telecom market will face sales challenges due to retail store closures and supply chain disruption, and may also take an average revenue per user (ARPU) hit as states insist on bill waive programmes to keep the financially weak sectors of society online. Customer support lines will also be affected, as call center staff are required to work from home wherever possible. 5G spectrum auctions and roll-outs are facing delays in several countries,” said Sapana Maheria, practice head of thematic research at GlobalData.
Despite the short term prognosis, Maheria believes that the long term outlook for telcos is bright, provided they can learn from their experiences during the pandemic and partner with the right players to fast track their network development.
“Telco networks will have gained first-hand experience in dynamic network traffic management while businesses and their telco partners will have a better understanding of the challenges of homeworking. The need for robotic health workers, biometric virus predictors and AI health management tools will provide new use cases and investment justification for 5G. The situation will provide a shot in the arm for telco innovation around AI and machine learning and a catalyst for app and solution innovation ecosystems,” Maheria added.
Last month, the Middle East’s most valuable telco, Etisalat, announced a multi year partnership with US software giant, Microsoft, to accelerate the deployment of its public cloud first strategy.
This is one of many examples of telcos and software developers forging closer ties to catalyse their digital service platform offering to their enterprise customers. Ultimately, public and hybrid cloud services will be one of the key revenue streams that help network operators make a return on their 5G investment, while simultaneously boosting digital transformation efforts for enterprises across the region.
The deal with Microsoft will allow Etisalat to develop its digital network platform, using a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) and process automation initiatives. 
“Today, Etisalat and Microsoft embark together on a bold new digital transformation journey that will allow us to leverage our industry expertise to deliver the next generation of networks,” said Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice president, Mobile Networks, Etisalat.
As part of the agreement, Etisalat will utilise Microsoft’s Azure suite of services to provide mobile edge and network edge computing, which will rapidly boost speeds and latency at the edge of Etisalat’s network. This move will help Etisalat evolve its product offering, positioning it less as a traditional telco and more as a provider of digital services.
“Keeping in line with our overall strategy and vision of ‘Driving the Digital Future to Empower Societies, we at Etisalat are committed to nothing less than the total transformation of the consumer and business customer experiences. Etisalat today has transitioned to a digital service provider – the provider of choice for digital services among enterprises and SMB customers, supporting them to monetise services to generate new revenue streams. Together with Microsoft, we are building the communications network of the future,” Al Zarouni added.
The move will also be instrumental in helping enterprise employees work more collaboratively with their colleagues from remote locations. With the current Covid19 pandemic forcing millions of people across the Middle East to work from home, the onus is on telcos to provide services that allow enterprises to continue with business-as-close-to-normal as possible. It’s not just Voice over IP protocols that will facilitate this; employees will need to be able to share, edit and merge documents in near real time, to allow for seamless business interactions. Now, more than ever, the partnerships between telcos and international tech firms will be instrumental in making that happen.
“Our partnership with Etisalat is further demonstration of the trust regional enterprises place in the intelligent Microsoft Cloud,” said Sayed Hashish, general manager, Microsoft UAE.
“Our mission is to empower every individual and organisation on the planet to achieve more. Etisalat’s digital transformation journey centres on a public-cloud-first strategy including network workloads. Its partnership with Microsoft is designed to merge its telecommunications capabilities with our intelligent cloud solutions, including artificial intelligence and self-healing networks.”

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