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Mobinil: from mobile in every hand to Internet in every hand

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Mobinil is the mobile market leader in Egypt, but they are not resting on their laurels and seek to realize the untapped potential for mobile communications to better enrich Egyptians' lives. 3G is especially one field where devices and local content have big room for development. Mr. Hassan Kabbani, Mobinil Chief Executive Officer, shared his insights into the vibrant and highly competitive Egyptian mobile arena.

Maintaining the edge

WinWin: Can you give us a brief introduction to the Egyptian telecom market?

H. Kabbani: Egypt is the largest market in the Middle East region, with 80 million people and is full of vitality. Mobinil started operations in 1998 and has a vision of putting a "mobile in every hand". When we began, it was regarded as a crazy vision, as the majority of people thought that mobile telephony would be limited to the rich and business people. Now there are 57 million mobile users in the 3 operators' Egyptian market, out of which 25 million are from Mobinil. We are proud of this achievement.

WinWin: How would you describe Mobinil' s 3G operations? And what is 3G' s role in your future operations?

H. Kabbani: We made the decision to get into 3G in 2007, after making sure that 3G service and technology were ready and showing a real value. The 3G service created a new trend and we are excited about this. It helped us evolve in our position from "mobile in every hand" to "Internet in every hand".

We want to democratize the use of the Internet in Egypt. This would help develop the society; therefore we are heavily investing in 3G. We embarked into this new adventure after accomplishing a rollout of 2G services.

Our aim is to make 3G available everywhere in our network. The more we make 3G services available to a large subscriber base, the more we can offer it at a lower price to all customer segments. Since we are the market leader with the largest customer base, we have a social responsibility to do that.

We are keen to keep the adequate balance between the value created for customers and the one created to shareholders. Though there is very encouraging growth in the 3G market, voice remains the major contributor to our revenue. We will have to manage in a smart way the network capacity, balancing 2G and 3G with quality voice and reliable data services.

As the fixed penetration is roughly above 10% in Egypt, mobile with a penetration rate of around 70% will definitely contribute more to popularizing the Internet. Customers want to be connected whenever and wherever they are. Mobility has a lot of value and it' s now open for the Internet and other seamless applications. This is the importance of 3G and future technology.

WinWin: Seeing decreasing voice revenues, operators are vying for enterprise customers as a reliable source of revenue. In this field, does Mobinil have any edge over its competitors?

H. Kabbani: From day one, we knew the importance and value of the enterprise market segment, and gave it special attention with dedicated structure and resources. We take good care of our professional and business customers by tailoring solutions for them.

For example, we study the needs of a company or organization, and provide them with offers like the closed user group, in which they communicate to each other at an exclusive preferential rate and enjoy certain services tailored specifically for them. We always try to anticipate their needs, while listen to them and provide them telecommunications solutions to help them make their business more efficient and enjoyable.

Enabling Internet in every hand

WinWin: To develop 3G and enable Internet in every hand, have you encountered any challenges and if so, how do you tackle them?

H. Kabbani: The 3G technology is good only if we know how to make it serve the consumers, and not the contrary. Our know-how and market experience made us putting the customers at the center of our operations, which helped Mobinil provide always a real value to customers from the products and offers we put into the market.

The absence of local content and affordable devices are still the major challenges I see in the Egyptian market. For example, an Egyptian using a mobile would like to see a digital map of Egypt and not one of Europe. Unfortunately, we are not seeing lots of development in customized content in our region and we would like to see more of this.

Due to the fact that banking service has still a lower penetration in Egypt than in the Western world, mobile money and banking is more necessary in this important emerging market. Customers would like to have banking services 24/7 through their mobile phones. We are eyeing this service and hope to introduce it soon. We used to always follow what was happening in the developed markets, but now there are new services by which we could bring the emerging market experience to them.

We used to be only a telecommunications operator, but now we are at the center of different new activities. Through partnerships, we are expanding our role in different domains like media, banking, Internet, payments, entertainment and information services, which brings new dynamic to our industry. For example, we form a partnership with banks in Egypt to develop mobile payment services. Mobile advertising is also in the pipeline. More importantly, we will encourage and support the development of local content.

WinWin: As devices remain a key challenge for 3G in the market, how will Mobinil further diversify its terminal line-up and make them more affordable?

H. Kabbani: Being more than 100 USD each, smart devices remain expensive to the average Egyptian. 3G terminals are more like an investment to a customer, who would not invest if he or she is not seeing the real value or benefits. Winning the trust of 25 million customers is not an easy task and we need to live up to their expectations. Mobinil is always delivering the optimal offer and product to satisfy our customers.

We leverage the economy of scale by having the largest base of customers, thus we can provide solutions that are affordable to all market segments. Seeing that netbooks are good products, we were the first to introduce netbooks into the market, and use modes like long-term installment plans to make it affordable to customers like students. Our market consists of over 90% prepaid users, while the smartphone is more related to the postpaid users, professional people and corporations. We were the first to introduce a prepaid smartphone, in which customers can pay for the smartphone either by prepayment or monthly credit.

We believe in a smart and open environment for our operations and introducing new things to give more choices to our customers. Now our terminals boast data cards, netbooks, the BlackBerry, iPhones and even laptops. We also have the "fly box" that can provide data and broadband access for multi-users at the same time.

Future opportunities and cooperation

WinWin: Mobinil is showing its interest in the M2M application, can you elaborate on Mobinil' s strategy in this field?

H. Kabbani: We have some M2M applications, but it is still like a niche; we would like to further develop it in the future. As an operator, we may have great ambitions, but can not do it without a complete ecosystem through partnership. An open environment is needed to accommodate more partners. We need to have more cooperation between vendors, operators, content providers, and companies acting in different sectors. We can make the M2M technology serve our society.

Mobinil is an active company in Egypt, leading in corporate social responsibility. So M2M is not only about business, but also about really creating the value and development for the society in the field of health, education, green environment and public utility services.

My 20 years of experience in the mobile field has enabled me to witness how mobile communications has changed the life of people and societies. Mobile is a wonder, yet M2M would further help us improve our knowledge, access to information, expand businesses of different sectors and develop society.

WinWin: How do you envision Mobinil in the next 2-3 years and its cooperation with Huawei?

H. Kabbani: Regarded as a modern operation in the Middle East region, Mobinil is a leading company and a trend setter in Egypt. We will continue playing this role and proudly contribute to the development of the country. We will continue developing new services to satisfy the evolving needs of our customers.

The partnership between Mobinil and Huawei has brought us lots of value. From day one, Huawei understood what an operator like Mobinil needs. Huawei was a great support to our plans and operations, helping us to develop our position as the leader in the market. We would like to develop further this relationship by taking it to the next stage, where we can explore the possibility of further cooperation in different domains and deliver the right solutions for the Egyptian market.

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