Interview with Sameh Sobhy at Telecom Review magazine

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Telecom Review sat down with Sameh Sobhy, Head of Sales for Data Services in Middle East and North Africa, to learn about our expanding digital services growth in the MENA region.

With the emergence of new trends in the telecommunications industry, what are the initiatives that PCCW Global took to uphold the sector in the region and in North Africa in particular?

Ever since we established our presence in the MENA region, we have followed a strong partnership model to work closely with local carriers. Typically, our partners have a well-established business infrastructure and a strong local footprint in the area where they operate. We complement that by bringing our expertise from Hong Kong, a highly competitive, open and technologically advanced market, to the region.

For example, PCCW Global has focused on investing in new digital service capabilities over the past few years. Whether it's Over-The-Top (OTT) services, security, unified communications media or cloud based solutions, this new focus has greatly impacted our regional service offering.

We are now offering service providers a whole set of digital solutions that are ready to be rolled-out in various countries with region-specific adaptations. North Africa has been no exception. We have many initiatives and on-going projects that go beyond traditional connectivity to tap into the world of digital transformation.

How did the industry change in North Africa during the last couple of years that witnessed the rise of Big Data and OTTs? How did it affect PCCW Global activities?
The telecoms market has been changing and evolving all around the world, including in North Africa which is a growing region with huge potential.

In North Africa, our activities have naturally been impacted by increased demand for the same advanced services that are being introduced to other regions. We started working on unified communications and media transport services and are building content delivery platforms with our partners to answer growing needs in this market.

We are obviously open to further opportunities that are coming naturally to North Africa.

Digital transformation is currently the main goal worldwide. How can PCCW Global help North African countries to achieve it?

As a region, Asia has accomplished a lot in the direction of digital transformation. HKT, Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service provider, is a major player and innovator, taking major steps along the path towards digital transformation.
PCCW Global is the international operating division of HKT, so naturally we see that our role is to try our best to bring the digital transformation experience to regional territories, including North Africa.

PCCW Global offers a wide range of solutions and services. Can you tell us about the solutions recently launched in the MENA region?

Our most recent service launch was the introduction of a fully-fledged media transport network, covering new countries and expanding the reach of our partner who works with media players.

Content is the driver behind many telecom activities right now, and a lot of it is actually video content. We ensured our ability to handle the tremendous bandwidth demands of video by launching a specialised network and a solid infrastructure.

I can say that our partner is fully utilising it and serving their media clients right now.

IoT and its applications are the talk of the town. What approach do you adopt in the region to promote their development and deployment in the near future?

Our approach has been to focus on the deploying of “smart city” projects, starting from the basic concept of “smart living”. We have successfully launched a number of projects in the region, from “smart schools”, “smart education” through to “smart transportation”. We consider ourselves on the right track to hopefully bring the ultimate concept of IoT in the near future.

PCCW Global offers a variety of fibre solutions. Is there a high demand on this kind of solution in North Africa? Or do you encounter any issues related to fibre deployment?

As a growing market, North Africa has been quick to launch 3G and then 4G services. Simultaneously, the growth in data consumption has been huge and the resulting demand on infrastructure logically points to the introduction of fibre as a solution.

I am not in a position to make an official announcement at the moment, but you will soon be hearing about serious developments in this area.

Challenges involved in the introduction of fibre always relate to regulation and the time it takes to build these solutions.

PCCW Global has recently signed an agreement with SAP Digital Interconnect. Can you tell us more about it? And how will it help diversify your services and expand your presence?

Our recent agreement with SAP paves the way for the creation of an independent global full-service Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) offering.

Customers will now be able to benefit from both SAP’s extensive LTE roaming footprint and PCCW Global’s state-of-the-art IPX Voice and VoLTE capabilities, all offered via a single dedicated network connection.

The combined capabilities of PCCW Global and SAP will help mobile operators better address challenges by offering various new services, including state-of-the-art Telephone Number Mapping (ENUM) capabilities to facilitate easy and cost-efficient routing of VoLTE traffic.

In your opinion, will we see smart cities in North Africa soon? How is PCCW Global involved in the path towards establishing them?

While the idea of a “smart city” is a broad concept, we have a number of successful “smart solution” deployments in the MENA region already from smart schools to smart living and related smart platforms.
So if “smart city” is the ultimate goal, we are on the fast-track to see it happening across the ME and North Africa.

What are your future plans for the MENA region and North Africa in particular?

Our future plans are consistent with what we are doing right now. We will continue to work closely with our partners to explore opportunities to grow and expand our mutual portfolio of services until we reach the optimum digital transformation goals.

So long as technology is moving forwards, it’s always a work in progress and we will continue to improve on what we do.