27 Dec 2008

More on the optimism expressed at GSM>3G Middle East

After considerable quantities of roast Turkey, mince pies etc., it's time to round up some more of what was discussed at our recent GSM>3G Middle East event in Dubai. The focus here is on the second day's proceedings.

One thing we took away from both days' discussions was the widely expressed sense of optimism that the Middle East's telcos will weather the economic downturn relatively unscathed. Day two opened with a speech from Dr Marwan Alahmadi, CEO of Zain's Saudi operation, who described the new entrant's successes to date - and was bullish about the way ahead.

Great confidence was also expressed by speakers from both FRiENDi mobile and Majan Telecom, two companies looking to thrive as MVNOs on the Omani market. The afternoon saw a robust presentation from Mobinil on the ever more pressing necessity to provide a dashboard of VAS to both protect current and expand future revenues. Judging by the enthusiastic questions directed at the Egyptian cellco's Commercial VP Guillaume van Gaver, this presentation struck a chord with a receptive audience.

For my part, I moderated sessions whose broad theme was around extending the availability and improving the affordability of communications services in lower ARPU markets with less easily addressable demand. Among the speakers in this session, it was great to meet Khaled Khorshid, currently the Regional COO of Zain Sudan. After sharing useful insights about how to grow a successful mobile operator, Khaled mentioned that his personal journey is about to take him to another outpost of the Zain empire - he is being dispatched to the Nigerian operation. Khaled was kind enough to volunteer to join the panel of speakers at the Com World Series event which takes place in that country's capital so I have encouraged my colleague who covers Africa to take up the offer. So look out for Khaled among the speaker line-up for West & Central Africa Com in Abuja in June 2009.

The Dubai event was enjoyable and rewarding for me - and I am looking forward hopefully to reading positive feedback from delegates early in the new year. The work leading to the creation of the 2009 Middle East event begins now.