The Emerati CSP say that its experience during the pandemic has led it to refocus on connectivity and collaboration to deliver the digital future

Every operator in every region around the world has had a markedly different experience of the coronavirus pandemic. Ensuring robust connectivity at a time like this has been no easy task, requiring CSPs to adapt quickly to the unique challenges posed within their own networks.  


However, there are many experiences that unite almost all global operators; namely, the rise in traffic as a result of movement restrictions, which has driven the rapid acceleration of digitalisation. With strict lockdowns being implemented, operators were not only relied upon for the continuation of the business world, but also for public social well-being, education, and health. Their ability to deliver on this incredibly responsibility has its foundations not only in their ability to react quickly, but also on their collaboration with governments, educators, health institutions, the public, and, of course, with each other.


Today, the pandemic is beginning to subside in many regions around the world and operators are starting to realign themselves with the new, digital norm. There is no going back – the digitalisation that was accelerated throughout the pandemic is here to stay, having demonstrated time and time again how embracing technology can improve and enrich our lives. With the telcos now on the brink of harnessing 5G, and governments relying upon them to play a major role in international economic rejuvenation, working together to usher in the digital future is now more important than ever.


“We must work together even closer than ever before to accelerate the transformation journey and to drive more new growth,” said Hatem Bamatraf, CTO of Etisalat International, speaking at Huawei’s Better World Summit 2020 last week.


For Etisalat, the key to unlocking the world’s digital potential is via a new strategy they call CODERS, in part due to the belief that coding professionals will be at the forefront of the software-driven digital future. The acronym stands for Connected, Open, Delightful, Efficient, Responsive, and Smart and serves as an excellent framework from which to plan the future.


The focus on connectivity, of course, is self-evident; the coming decade will require better connectivity than ever before. This not only includes meeting the rising data demand from customers, but also shrinking the digital divide and incorporating new technologies.


Here, accelerating 5G is of paramount importance. 5G will greatly improve customer experience, and its high-bandwidth and low-latency will also unlock a myriad of additional technologies, such as the IoT, AI, smart cities, virtual and augmented reality, and edge computing. Taken together, these technologies are going to be transformative for industry, bringing about new efficiencies in what is being called the 4th industrial revolution.


“5G, together with AI, IoT, blockchain, robotics, and quantum computing is what will lead us towards this revolution,” said Bamatraf.


But 5G’s benefits extend far beyond simply a faster connection and improved manufacturing. The latest explorations in 5G are showing that it can be advantageous for almost every aspect of modern life. 

Since the start of Etisalat’s 5G journey in 2014, when it first signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to work together in developing 5G standards, the Emirati CSP has explored numerous use cases, including everything from CCTV cameras with AI-supported facial recognition to a 5G network to provide a cutting-edge experience for visitors to the Dubai Expo. 


“It is not enough to transform our companies to be digital-centric, but we must also influence other verticals, such as the education, health, and transportation sectors, to join in embracing this upcoming digital era,” explained Bamatraf.


To achieve an ultra-connected future, the industry must be united in this goal. This is where the ‘O’ of Etisalat’s CODERS strategy comes into play: Openness. Here this means not only “open to the future”, as Bamatraf describes, but also open to a wide range of third-party collaboration. 


“We believe that alliances and partnership is a model of business that we need to embrace,” said Bamatraf. “And therefore, it becomes necessary to build a network that can expose its assets to the outside world and collaborate with third parties to build joint propositions to the market.”


It is only with this diverse partner ecosystem that operators can truly expect to deliver on the rest of the CODERS strategy: ‘Delightful’ (what Etisalat describes as “best-in-class”) experiences for customers; ‘Efficient’ development of network virtualisation and infrastructure optimisation; ‘Responsive’ network agility, with open architecture supported by the cloud to promote agility; and ‘Smart’ leveraging of AI in both network operation and maintenance.


The pandemic has changed the world forever and soon 5G will do the same. For Etisalat, the key now is to embrace their digital experience throughout the crisis and combine it with that of their peers to help deliver a digital future that serves everyone.


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