ET(isalat) phone home: where is mobile data traffic headed?

At this morning’s Ericsson Change Makers Forum, we were bombarded with facts and figures about how people are using online services – and what the bosses of Etisalat and STC think is needed to deal with the change

Etisalat STC Ericsson
(From left) Ahmad Julfar, Etisalat Group CEO, Dr Khaled Hussain Biyari, STC CEO, and Helena Norrman, Senior VP, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Ericsson

The Ericsson Change Makers Forum, themed around the concept of Networked Society, saw a number of bold claims made. Naturally, given the host’s history, many of these statements were concerned with mobile. Here’s one example:

The tweeted quote is from Ari Kesisoglu, Regional Director, Africa, Middle East and Turkey at Facebook. She believes that wearables and other technology will quickly send smartphones the way of the fax machine.

But she is also aware of the challenges to such a development. “People have been demanding apps for contacting emergency services,” said Kesisoglu. “But what if, say, a person’s data runs out right when they need to use the app?”

Mobile data flows faster

However, if mobile data traffic statistics are anything to go by, this isn’t the case just yet.

Around the world, mobile data traffic usage last year was 65 per cent higher than in 2014. This figure was 80 per cent for the Middle East. And for the first time, half of this traffic was driven by video. “The internet and networks transformed the music, entertainment and communications,” said Helena Norrman, Senior Vice-President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Ericsson. “They are in the process of doing so for the transport industry with driverless cars.

“Now, the business of telecom operators is also being transformed.

“LTE subscriptions doubled to hit one billion last year, though it was a slower process in the Middle East,” she added. Although we didn’t get exact figures, Norrman attributed the relatively slow uptake to infrastructural changes being faced by telecoms providers in the region.

“It’s important to remember that you’re using [telecoms] networks for something other than what they were originally designed for.”

Operators focused on local

When asked how his company should deal with changing demand, Ahmad Julfar, Etisalat Group CEO, said, “We want to be a service provider for the local environment.”

Dr Khaled Hussain Biyari, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s STC, concurred: