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Etisalat setting benchmarks for the telecom industry with 5G: Masood M Sharif Mahmood, CEO, Etisalat UAE

In a world where digitalization is at its peak, Etisalat Group’s newly appointed CEO for UAE operations shares his views on the company's ambitions during GITEX.

What should we look forward at the Etisalat stand this year at GITEX Global 2021?

Every year we get the best and most futuristic showcases to GITEX, that are set to mesmerise visitors with many of the exhibits making a presence for the first time globally on our stand.

We are bringing the future of transport, healthcare, retail, education, home entertainment, business, showcasing 5G use cases across these verticals and how innovative solutions can be applied in our environment becoming a digital reality.

The mobility area is a show-stopper every year, giving visitors an insight into the future of autonomous transportation, and in robotics. Visitors also get a sneak peek into the future of healthcare with robotics that help complex and sensitive procedures; in the post-pandemic era, the role of robotic technologies in making education an interactive learning experience, and also re-defining the smart home with immersive technologies.

Many of the use cases are focused on AI, machine learning and computer vision with Etisalat’s payment functionality, demonstrating our capability of providing complete end-to-end solutions in this domain with enhancements like biometrics, wearables and facial recognition for payments.

With our theme this year focused on ‘Shaping the new Digital Era’, these showcases will take the visitor on a journey of the future, where they will witness the impossible of the past, which has become the reality of today.

With UAE all set to celebrate its 50th jubilee, what are the major achievements of Etisalat contributing to the growth of the country?

With the UAE’s ambitious ICT fueled vision aiming to transform the country to a digital economy, there have been great strides in digitalisation of services across different verticals like education, retail, tourism, banking, oil and gas, health and logistics. Etisalat on its part has continuously focused on innovation as part of its strategy ‘Driving the digital future to empower societies’ embedded within its DNA manifested across the business.

Today we have made global achievements in 5G, setting benchmarks for the industry. This was backed by the infrastructure accomplishments made in the past that have complemented the 5G network.

Another noteworthy effort was the Etisalat’s network being recognised as the world’s fastest mobile network and fastest fixed network in the GCC. UAE was the only country from the MEA region to be ranked in the top 20 countries globally in fixed broadband index with the fastest average download speeds. Etisalat’s efforts have positioned UAE to have the highest penetration rate in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) globally for the third consecutive year.

This global recognition is a result of the endless efforts of UAE leadership for the past 50 years and is a shining example of nation building with the growth and development achieving endless success. This is also in line with the late Sheikh Zayed’s vision to lay the foundation for future generations to build on.

With Expo opened to the world, what do we expect from Etisalat at this global event?

Expo is probably the most important event of cultural exchange and a catalyst for millions around the world bringing national and international exposure to numerous inventions.

This event allows people travelling from across the globe to witness history in the making, with this unique celebration. Visitors at the biggest world are connected to the fastest, smartest and most connected place on earth. They will enjoy a seamless, cutting-edge, immersive digital experience with a state-of-the-art network that is highly available and resilient built exclusively on premise to serve the requirements of Expo 2020, all the participating pavilions and visitors. The site has more than 700 km of highly resilient and multi-redundant fiber network, which is four times the distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Fiber cables will have the ability to provide more bandwidth for carrying more data.

What efforts are being made to support the entrepreneurs and innovators in the country?

There is a serious effort internally in building an AI capability, Etisalat has partnered with Microsoft, Accenture and EBTIC to build a team to lead the AI stream for the company and the industry. The team currently consists of young Emiratis working on internal use cases focused on increasing operational efficiencies mainly with planning infrastructure and optimising the network. The long-term plan is to focus on building the capabilities of the next generation of Emirati youth and AI use cases for internal use and will continue to increase efficiency, boosting productivity, and enhancing customer experience.

Etisalat Digital continued to foster open innovation with ‘Future Now’ an innovation programme devoted to accelerate the digital transformation journey of government entities and enterprises with user centric solutions and the latest technologies worldwide

The ‘Open Innovation Centre’ is also part of Future Now, a dedicated area created by Etisalat now in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and serves as a window to the future to witness and experience all this innovation and how Etisalat Digital is driving digital transformation journeys. The centre also includes a co-creation lab area to facilitate design thinking sessions with Etisalat customers to develop customer-centric solutions as well as a scale-up area that welcomes start-ups and scaleups.

What efforts are being made by Etisalat to train the next generation of Emirati leaders?

Etisalat’s focus is always to keep people at the heart of its strategy. We are currently focused on making investments in our teams to bring in special skills to facilitate digital transformation in the organisation. The focus is on re-educating our existing workforce and looking for specialised skillsets like data scientists, data architects, and subject matter experts across each vertical.

A great initiative launched recently is the AI Graduate programme that welcomed the first batch of talented Emirati graduates following a rigorous hackathon selection process that saw them put forward innovative solutions to a series of challenges. The graduates were met by an exciting and challenging nine-month development journey created by Etisalat’s Learning and Development team.

Etisalat has made great strides in training a large segment of talented Emiratis on various advanced practical and scientific skills as well as hands-on experience on emerging technologies. It was great to see inspired and curious graduates develop their skills on Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, big data and cyber security and adapt them to real life situations.

Etisalat’s Etisalat Academy, established more than two decades ago has accommodated more than 25,000 trainees annually, with plans to expand the capacity to more than 75,000 trainees over the next three years. Since its establishment, the Academy has trained about 300,000 trainees, including 200,000 Emiratis, through many partnerships with government and private agencies.

Source: Etisalat Press Release