SAMENA’s “Beyond Connectivity 2011” begins in Abu Dhabi

SAMENA’s Beyond Connectivity annual conference commenced today, drawing industry focus on the issue of digital content. Highlighting the regional industry’s growing desire and the impending need to differentiate with respect to the provision of digital content to a large regional subscriber base, Beyond Connectivity’s first day provided a platform for knowledge-sharing on the issues, needs, requirements, and the assessment of business models surrounding the design, creation, aggregation, and the provision of mobile content.

Speakers from du, Intigral, Accenture, Arab Advisors, Ericsson, and other valued participants led a comprehensive discussion, covering subject matter concerning Threat of OTTP, Content Monetization, Digital Content Ecosystem, and OTTP’s Opportunities and Challenges, and Content Business Models.  Raghu Venkatraman, Chief Strategy and Investment Officer, du, during his welcome speech and key note address on behalf of du’s CEO, Mr. Osman Sultan, expressed that traffic on service providers’ networks is doubling every 8 to 9 months while no significant increase in the revenue is being observed, creating a challenge for service providers. Understanding the threat of over-the-top providers, assessment of monetization and the identification of the role of operators, all play into understanding what a digital ecosystem would look like, and what operators need to build such an ecosystem.

In addition to various important topics, the first day also highlighted the significance of location-based services and cross-channel marketing techniques to be able to effectively position mobile advertisements, as well as mobile content. Mr. Andre Popov, Head of Strategy and Business Development at Anayou (du) said, “54 percent of the Arab population is less than 25 years of age showing a good potential for content based services.” He said that the operators are not making enough money with the content mainly because of the less innovative portfolio, unfriendly pricing and ineffective marketing of their content based services. Mr. Jawad Abassi from Arab Advisors pointed towards the broadband trends in the Arab world. He said that fixed broadband is still underdeveloped in the region while 15 out of 19 Arab countries have operational WiMAX networks.
Among the notes exchanged, important conclusions—concerning the lack of suitable business models within the content value-chain, elements of content growth, lack revenues generated by operators, potential collaboration among over-the-top-providers (OTTPs) and the operators, economic value of digital media, operator’s core business and business levers, issues in content monetization, dimensions involved in enabling content creation and provision, and the understanding and creation of the digital ecosystem—were drawn. The panelist supported the view that content is a very small portion of the operators’ revenues; yet, value-addition and differentiation in this context are highly important. Operators ought to seek becoming true enablers of the content and should aim to become the most preferred pipes. However, doing so requires first understanding what their subscribers’ content needs are and then offering the content that is most preferred.

The first day of Beyond Connectivity focused on the operator, content-creator and distributor, and end-user perspectives. Over the next two days, when Beyond Connectivity’s official conference agenda will be approached, policy-maker and regulatory perspectives regarding digital content, among other dimensions of the digital future, will also be discussed.

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