By Mika Korpinen, Senior Vice President, MEA, Comptel Corporation
Saudi Arabia is becoming one of the world’s biggest technology markets, partly on the strength of a tech-savvy population of young professionals. To help sustain this growth, Comptel works alongside the largest digital and communications service provider in the Middle East and North Africa, STC, to educate and empower the next generation of IT talent in Saudi Arabia.
Our long-time customer reached out to Comptel for support launching its brand-new employee training initiative. The four-month “Young IT Talent” programme educates recent Saudi university graduates on telecommunications networks and Comptel technologies, while also providing the skills they need to succeed in future leadership positions within STC.
The development of young Saudis countrywide is an important national issue, and Saudi society greatly values any investments made in the education and betterment of youth. Our joint programme is particularly relevant given the kingdom’s emergence as an IT powerhouse.
The Comptel-STC partnership offers young Saudis the chance to develop business acumen, communication, presentation and writing skills, programming language aptitude, as well as an understanding of key technologies and software best practices. STC turned to Comptel because of our broad IT experience, comprehensive solution portfolio and innovative industry vision.
“Comptel was a natural partner to help us roll out the programme given our long-standing relationship and the important role Comptel technology plays within our business,” said Younes Al Suhaibani, director of IT integration applications at STC.
The program includes four modules over fourth months. Trainees receive on-the-job training in STC’s Riyadh offices, and then travel to Helsinki and Kuala Lumpur to spend a month in each city working within Comptel’s key research and development centres.
From these locales, the graduates are educated on the principles of Operation Nexterday, covering the new digital buying experience, the demands of Generation Cloud, the power of intelligent fast data and the possibilities of new digital service monetisation strategies and ground to cloud service orchestration. They also enjoyed international business mentoring and first-hand exposure to different cultural perspectives.
Ultimately, the program benefitted not only the young trainees, but also STC and Comptel. STC has gained access to new staff that possess an accelerated understanding of technology and communications. And by operating a first-class training program, STC is able to attract the best and brightest young talent from the community. All this helps STC meet present and future business goals to ensure long-term success.
For Comptel, the program supports long-term business goals in the emerging Saudi Arabian market. It also ensures that the next generation of Saudi IT talent is well-educated on the principles of Operation Nexterday and Comptel technologies.
“Our joint programme sets up both new employees and STC for success – this competency development initiative will help ensure software delivery and development best practices, reduce time-to-market, optimise costs and resource utilisation, as well as empower future leadership,” explained Teo-Tuomas Hirvonen, vice president of strategic accounts at Comptel.
Most importantly, the young professionals who passed through the program will understand the way globally leading software development works and gain a new global perspective on business, technology and culture. In an increasingly globalised world where innovation proceeds at a rapid pace, this experience will be invaluable to the future development of Saudi Arabia’s IT market.
In November, Comptel will launch the antiseminar that telcos have been waiting for. Nexterday North will bring together the brightest minds in telco to spur innovation and explore creative ways to reach Generation Cloud and transform their businesses for the better. Register for Nexterday North to reserve your exclusive spot.
The year 2014 ended very positively for Comptel. The team’s hard work was recognised in the form of several significant orders announced around the year’s end.
With the Telefonica de Chile deal, announced on 29 December, Comptel entered a new market in South America. Comptel’s fulfillment suite is a part of the Telefonica de Chile quad-play transformation project that will enable improved customer experience for integrated wireline, wireless, Internet and TV services.
On the same day, we also received a significant order from an existing customer in the Middle East region. The order value exceeded 1 million euros and comprises Comptel Convergent Mediation and Comptel Provisioning and Activation software licenses.
Ten days earlier, on December 19, we announced two other customer wins. One was a multi-year deal, with a value of 10.6 million euros, that involved a license upgrade and service extension for a mobile operator customer in India.
“Comptel has achieved a considerable degree of success in the Indian telecom market in recent years. The number of telecom subscribers served by Comptel’s operator customers in India has now exceeded 500 million, which is approximately 60% of the total size of the Indian telecom market,” said Juhani Hintikka, president and CEO, Comptel.
The second major order we received was from a German customer belonging to a major operator group. This multi-year deal also includes Comptel Convergent Mediation and Comptel Provisioning and Activation software licenses and related services. The deal value exceeded 1 million euros.
With many mobile operators hot on the trail to have commercially launched 4G/LTE by the end of 2014, the prospect of new services and faster connectivity is becoming more exciting than ever for their customers.
According to Analysys Mason, the number of 4G/LTE handset connections worldwide will increase by 670 percent from 2013 to 2018. Yet, mobile handset data service revenue is only expected to grow by 64 percent during the same period.
In particular, the Middle East and North Africa are exemplary markets, with strong mobile growth driving impressive progress in the region. Providers are exploring hybrid monetisation models and solutions for their customers, like the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, du. The mobile operator just announced that for the first time in the Middle East, its customers will soon be able to access the Internet at 4G/LTE speeds, while making a crystal-clear voice call, made possible by VoLTE. Such solutions will help secure a competitive advantage and ensure future business growth.
It’s clear that mobile will increasingly play a significant role in connecting communities around the globe. But as the use of voice and SMS continues to decline, it will be more important for CSPs to explore new opportunities for monetising their data. So, how can mobile operators be able to capitalise on the LTE full services’ revenue potential?
This question and others will be tackled at the second annual GSMA Mobile 360 Middle East conference, co-located with GITEX in Dubai from 13-14th October. Comptel has been invited to participate on a panel around this very topic: “Monetising LTE and Profiting from a Transition Towards All IP.”
The conversation is especially important in a city like Dubai and in the broader Middle East, where the potential for LTE adoption is huge. According to the same report from Analysys Mason, strong mobile handset data growth in the Middle East and North Africa could mean that telecoms service revenue grows at a 2.9 percent compound annual growth rate, reaching $96 billion by 2018.
The Future of Connectivity
Comptel and our fellow panelists will share insight on how to help smoothly drive that growth forward, and how mobile operators can monetise their networks to differentiate services in a way that will communicate their true value to their customers.
Petteri Suonio, technical sales director in our Middle East and Africa region, will speak on Comptel’s behalf, sharing solutions from our recent research around how mobile operators can better monetise their data, as well as insight on various offerings, bundles, data usage patterns and more from the region and across the globe.
Mr. Suonio will be joined on the panel by Noel Kirkaldy, head of technology, Middle East & Africa, Nokia Siemens Networks; Ihab Ghattas, assistant president of Middle East region, Huawei; and Muhammad Saqib, director, technical strategy & RAN planning, Warid Telecom.
The key for mobile operators’ success will be a combination of both tried-and-tested monetisation methods and new ones. To strengthen operator monetisation and differentiation, flexible and agile policy and charging capabilities with easy to use service design will play a major role. In addition, predictive analyticswill be increasingly important in allowing operators to see patterns that would otherwise be hidden, and to use this insight to construct new, tailored offers.
With this, mobile operators will be able to better understand customer behaviours and build a higher quality of experience, while introducing new sources of revenue. Future revenue growth for mobile operators will fully depend on building flexible, personalised service packages and services that will allow them to innovate with their customers.
If you’ll be attending GSMA Mobile 360 or GITEX in Dubai and would like to meet with Mr. Suonio, please send an email to email@example.com.
For more information on GSMA Mobile 360 Middle East, panels and participants, please click here. Or read more about monetising mobile data in our recent whitepaper.
Last week, Comptel accompanied Finpro on a trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. CEO Juhani Hintikka and country director Teo-Tuomas Hirvonen took part in the delegation, which was again led by Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori and consisted of executives and employees from 17 other Finnish companies. The trip included meetings with government officials and business sessions related to not just information and communications technology (ICT) but also education, energy efficiency and medical care.
Comptel has joined a number of Finpro trips in recent months; most recently, our team travelled to Indonesia. We welcomed the opportunity to participate in this particular delegation, as we already have a strong presence in Saudi Arabia. Comptel has built long-term business relationships with several communications service providers (CSPs) – including market leader Saudi Telecom Company (STC).
Comptel had many interesting discussions about the future of the industry during our business meetings. The country’s population of nearly 30 million has an extremely high mobile penetration of 176 percent, and about 60 to 70 percent are under the age of 30. That’s opened up significant service innovation and revenue opportunities for Saudi CSPs – but it’s come with its fair share of challenges, too. As the mobile market continues to mature, and as demand for connectivity continues to increase, operators must look to improve its approaches to customer experience and service quality management in order to effectively differentiate from competitors and grow their businesses. According the Saudi Arabian Communications and Information Technology Commission, the substantial growth potential is in the increased demand for broadband services, especially for the fibre-optic network (FTTx) services.
Comptel was glad to have the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia with Finpro – and looks forward to embarking on future trips to further build our relationships with CSPs and their local economies.
The second Zain Technology Conference was held in Dubai on 5th – 7th of November. Comptel participated actively with a booth presence for the entire three days, and we were also part of the series of presentations by vendors and partners who were invited to present at this conference.
Zain Group is based in Kuwait and has a commercial presence in 8 countries across the Middle East and North Africa (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Sudan, and in Lebanon). The group has over 6,000 employees, and they provide mobile voice and data services to over 41.3 million active individual and business customers as of September 30, 2012.
In his welcome speech, Mr Hisham Akbar, Deputy CEO and COO of Zain Group, talked about deploying technology that is aimed at serving the customer first and foremost. This strategy links very well with our focus on providing a holistic customer view to CSPs, including customers’ social, demographic, behavioural and contextual attributes. CIQ4T leverages our strength in event data processing and real-time action-taking to ensure a continually high quality of experience.
Most of the operators in our part of the world face challenges in effective customer segmentation and ARPU growth. Moreover, the introduction of new content and media services are critical issues for service providers. Comptel’s ability in using advanced analytics enables the CSPs to apply predictive, contextual intelligence to everyday decision-making.
Comptel was able to generate interest in use cases, especially as the aim of the conference was to get Zain, its operations, and its technology partners to agree on how to achieve a greater convergence on a wide range of technologies and customer experience management tools by using new approaches.
The event hosted a variety of participants from network partners to IT with over 40 companies under one roof. The audience consisted of Zain Group Technology (NW&IT), Wholesale, Procurement, Strategy & BD, Commercial functions and operations (NW&IT).
Overall, it was a great collaborative effort from Zain Group to get their key message across to the relevant stakeholders who can better map the plan and drive the successful implementation together with the group.
A learning organisation is the sum-total of the experiences of its people. At Comptel, we take great pride in having delivered on excellent projects, and the lessons we have learned through them are our prised possession. To a large extent, a distinctive pattern begins to emerge from the various projects and engagements conducted in each region. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) is no exception – its unique characteristics come through its many region-specific best practices, as well as the lessons and cultural themes we have accumulated through our commitment to our customers.
When it comes to the success of a project, leadership is an important aspect– from managing project charters and negotiating scopes, to resolving conflicts and involving stakeholders, to addressing resources and process implications. From my experience in MEA, I’ve seen six elements of success emerge that stem from strong leadership.
First, it is very important that a project be ‘trademarked’ both internally and externally. This should go hand-in-hand with the company’s corporate strategy and bear an inspiring slogan that attracts everyone’s contribution. Externally, with the customer, the trademark should bear in succinct terms the top 2-3 goals and objectives sought from the project. These should be posted at all times as the overriding milestones for all stakeholders, especially the customer. Internally, this should become more of a symbol that people can relate to in daily activities, when talking by the water coolers, for instance. Last, it should be attached to a group of influential sponsors, decision-makers and key participants, who can help develop an inclination across company ranks to make the project successful.
2. Strong Launch
The project should be kicked off like the Olympics. What I mean by this is that everyone should feel willing and ready to be a part of an exciting new journey. The most important thing is making sure that the project leadership is technology savvy and capable of understanding the complexities involved. A sense of control, responsibility, raw skill and effective management can only be inculcated by a project manager with extensive domain expertise. This, in my humble opinion, can be a deciding factor for a project’s success at the very outset. The project leader should then be able to recruit a balanced team and prepare for a strong launch.
The project leader should have a comprehensive, organisation-wide understanding of the customer’s business units (e.g. commercial, network, human resources, finance), business processes (TM Forum standards can help), key stakeholders, parallel vendors and existing IT and systems landscape. This helps align the project to all of these various entities, so that any risk is taken care of proactively, and all parties/resources are marshaled to a collective success.
4. Clear Scope
It’s important that the project leader is actively involved alongside any sales staff in negotiating, understanding and freezing the scope of a project. The scope should be very clearly documented and have approval from all key stakeholders. This can involve details such as key objectives, success factors, project scheduling and budgeting, and risks. Again, it takes a project leader proficient in that domain to effectively record the different requirements, needs, assumptions and risks.
The project leader should be able to develop a very clear communications methodology to ensure transparency and a real-time window into the project’s workings. He or she should be able to identify ‘what messages’ need to be passed to ‘which stakeholders’ at ‘what intervals’ through ‘what methods and channels’ with ‘what level of severity’. The communications methodology should be able to integrate and harmonise the many artifacts of project communication including meetings, emails, progress reports, workshops and portals.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the project leader should strive to be a true source of motivation, energy and inspiration for the whole team. A confident and independent leader can take hold of a project without letting control sink away to distant and irrelevant corners of the organisation. He or she should be bold enough to take calculated risks and use the team’s best energies to create win-win situations with the customer. An effective project leader manages and resolves conflicts through creative ideas and through the power of communication. A dynamic leader is imaginative enough to adapt the fabric of the project to the changing strategic needs of the customer and of his or her own organisation. Finally, he or she should be able to culminate all of these leadership themes into closing the project, celebrating it like a hard-earned victory, learning from its course and moving on to the next challenge with a bigger, more self-assured poise.
These types of leaders deliver on strategic opportunities, resulting in increased revenues through cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and references, and ultimately happier customers.
Over-the-top-players (OTT) have been seen as a big threat to the traditional Communications service Providers (CSP). In short, the traffic generated by the OTT players is congesting the communications networks in which the CSPs have invested hundreds of millions of Euros, while the same OTT players also bring home most of the revenue streams. The Telco industry has been discussing the topic already for quite a while now, and – as often – the market and business disruptions have been seen as a threat rather than an opportunity.
As an example, CSP executives around Europe and the Middle East gathered at a conference in January 2011 to share experiences on how to compete with Google, Skype and others, that is, the dreaded, revenue-hoarding global OTT players. (Source: Global Telecom Business). Other commentaries, such as this from Ovum, remind the CSPs that they should rethink their business model and become a part of the OTT value chain. The list of similar examples just goes on.
Let’s recall some of the earlier disruptions to see if there is anything we could learn. Although the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) phenomenon was more or less a local disruption while the OTT players of today are truly global, there might be something worth noticing from those days. Many of the MVNOs in the early phase were established in an opportunistic manner to cash in on the disruption quickly, while trusting that the traditional CSPs will buy them out simply because CSPs should see them as a competitive threat. This also happened in many markets. After attempting to fight against the grain, many CSPs started to see the MVNO business model as an opportunity, although with the strong encouragement of regulatory bodies . Some CSPs have taken the role of selling the network assets to the MVNOs and some have built their own MVNO business to differentiate within specific customer segments. A good example of the differentiation strategy is E-Plus, who still in June 2012 was the jewel in KPN’s crown. E-Plus established its own MVNO, Ay Yildiz, with a segmented offering to several million (statistic vary from 2.5 to 4 million depending on the definition) Turkish people in Germany, who communicate with their relatives inside the country and between Turkey and Germany.
Some of the leading CSPs have taken similar steps in capturing the OTT opportunity rather than seeing it as a threat. Naturally, there are multiple approaches. One good example is Telefonica whose Jose Valles explains how Telco’s are in a unique position to take advantage of opportunities to facilitate OTT services through their relationship with users. The example by Zain Deputy CEO and COO, Hisham Akbar, is another instance of the CSP leveraging their competences and assets to build a whole sale service. Zain sells network infrastructure to other players to deliver a wider variety of OTT-type of services and applications to Zain’s customers.
Where there is a threat, there is also an opportunity. However, it often requires the courage to go for the opportunity instead of fighting the inevitable change.
Today, we announced Comptel’s financials for the second quarter of 2012 and for the first half of the year as a whole. This is a personal milestone for me, as it marks my second year fully immersed as CEO — and as you’ll see from our mid-year highlights, I’m confident in the direction the company is moving.
This past quarter, our order backlog rose to a record high, as we won a significant EUR 5.4 million project to consolidate the mediation systems of a leading operator in Western Europe.
The upfront investments in the customer interface have yielded results in our largest regions, Europe and Asia, and we won seven new customers globally. Although our net sales have not yet met expected levels, they stayed on par with last year’s numbers, EUR 20.3 million (EUR 20.0 million). And we are optimistic our investments will grow our 2012 net sales approximately 10 per cent from the previous year. Integration of the advanced analytics expertise acquired in February 2012 has proceeded exceptionally well, resulting in winning our first deal for Comptel Social Links software.
We continued to bring new products to the market as key strategic initiatives. The major launch of Next Generation Comptel Fulfillment 8 software this quarter was received remarkably favourably by the OSS/BSS industry. We also unveiled our Contextual Intelligence for Telco (CIQ4T) concept this quarter, providing communications service providers a framework for bringing customer experience to the next level. This innovative approach truly differentiates Comptel in the market.
Our business mix of licence and services sales was impaired by the personnel, project delivery and marketing costs, causing lower operative results than expected. To remedy this, we initiated first productivity action by streamlining R&D in Norway and further cost saving initiatives will bring us approximately EUR 10 million on annual level. During the second half of 2012, we will realise EUR 3-4 million savings. These initiatives will secure our competitiveness, sustain the execution of our strategy, and deliver an estimated 0 – 5 per cent operating profit of net sales, excluding one-off items.
Beyond the figures, we also concentrated the first half of the year on executing our new strategy. We opened new offices in Istanbul and Cairo and announced several major customer wins around the world. These included, Telefónica Central America’s mediation consolidation that enabled the efficient management of more than half a billion daily transactions, Thai mobile operator Real Move’s deployment of Comptel’s Fulfilment solution to gain customers from the 3G market, Kcell Kazakhstan’s replacement of its provisioning and activation system with Comptel’s Fulfilment suite to support its 3G rollout, and Kuwaiti’s Watanya Telecom improvement of its customers’ first use experience with Comptel’s Dynamic SIM solution.
Overall, the first half of 2012 has been largely focused on executing our strategy, investing in bringing new products to market, winning new customers and developing our Services Business. As we move into this next quarter, we’ll continue onwards building on our stated strategy and remain confident the productivity programme will secure our competitiveness. And I’m honoured to convey, on behalf of Comptel, that we are looking forward to continuing to deliver on our promises to the market in the second half of 2012.
Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of our new office in Cairo, Egypt. This new venture reflects our continued commitment to get closer to our communications service provider (CSP) customers in the region.
While Comptel is already well-established in the Middle East and has played a significant role in developing its telecom industry, the Egypt office will also enable us to fulfil our larger vision of expanding our reach within the region, especially strengthening our presence within Egypt’s burgeoning telecom market. We also have plans to add to our network of partners, including local system integration companies, that specialise in the telecom industry within the Middle East.
In addition, we consider this expansion to be an opportunity for us to highlight just how Comptel’s Customer Engagement solutions enable CSPs to respond quickly to network events and transform them automatically into relevant and timely actions that improve subscriber satisfaction. We’re looking forward to further enabling regional CSPs to better engage with their customers, so they can benefit from increased loyalty and drive new revenue opportunities.
The new office will be located at Smart Village in Cairo and headed by Ahmed Hamza, head of cluster, Egypt & Saudi Arabia. Complementing Comptel’s Middle East & Africa headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it will include both sales and service teams deployed to ensure rapid and effective customer and business service support.
Microsperience… First Touch, Last Touch, Every Touch
Analyst Teresa Cottam explains why every interaction that takes place between a communications service provider (CSP) and a customer is important. The CSP often perceives the first touch, or first customer engagement to be a sales transaction where it signs up a customer to receive a service. However, customers believe that their relationship with a CSP doesn’t just begin with a simple sale—it takes a longer period of time to cultivate.
Teresa uses a personal experience with an old broadband operator to explain how CSPs should build better relationships with customers. After mishandling her service transfer process, the operator made her wait 30 minutes on the phone, and a support assistant accused her of signing up for the wrong package and dismissed her concerns.
Teresa says this example emphasises issues that currently exist in the market, and proves that CSPs need the ability to analyse data in real time to get a better understanding of and retain their customers. CSPs need to focus on not just the first touch but any and every touch in order to build loyalty. She also notes that in today’s competitive market, even forgetting that ex-customers could be future customers is a missed revenue opportunity and could hinder CSPs’ success.
telecomasia.net… APAC Telcos Concentrate on Quality
Joseph Waring gives an overview of a recent Telecom Asia-Ovum survey of telecom executives in 19 countries across Asia Pacific. The results revealed quality of service (QoS) to be the key distinguishing feature for operators in the region.
Interestingly, the survey also found that fewer respondents (38% compared to 54% two years ago) viewed unlimited data rates as the most effective way to charge for mobile broadband services. But Ovum analysts believe that the percentage of people who agree with this method is still too high, and urges operators to steer away from flat rates, which can over-burden networks and negatively impact QoS.
Additionally, survey respondents indicated that they believe video will be the key driver of continued mobile broadband traffic growth in Asia Pacific. Like Comptel, Ovum believes that operators must look to balancing the management of resources like bandwidth, while controlling customers’ data services, in order to maximise the customer experience and monetise their offerings.
CommsMEA… Right Path for Roaming?
Industry experts wonder if recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regulations could potentially cause more harm than good. These called for telecom operators to slash mobile phone roaming charges to consumers by at least 50 percent beginning 1 February in a bid to bring costs in line with those in Europe. Roaming revenues account for a significant proportion of overall profits for many CSPs, and a sudden forced reduction in tariffs may, unfortunately, lead to price increases, less investment in other areas and other unintended consequences.
But, there is evidence that Gulf operators are already moving in the right direction towards decreasing roaming tariffs without the regulations. Peter Lyons, director of spectrum policy, Africa & Middle East for the GSM Association (GSMA), says that operators responding to the competition are driving roaming costs down and that they are making an effort to increase the transparency of roaming rates. On the other hand, some point out that regulation is needed to protect against distortions in the market that can be created by dominant players. What do you think is the right path for the Gulf in terms of roaming?