Google’s footprint reaches all over the region, in many different areas, but what is the company doing with operators?

Telcos are partnering with Google and deploying some of their services to shift their focus to digital, as Charbel Sarkis, Industry head, MENA, Telecom and technology at Google, explained to CommsMEA.

“Putting digital at the centre of what operators do is a global story but in the Middle East there has been a lot of efforts to achieve this,” he said.

“We work with most operators in the MENA region.  Mainly in the Gulf, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan Lebanon and Iraq,” Sarkis explained.

There are two main reasons why operators aim to achieve this.  “I think telcos have been gradually shifting their focus on digital, putting digital at the centre of what they do.  This is a global story but also in the Middle East there has been a lot of efforts to achieve this.”

This is coming for two main reason, as Sarkis explained: “Telcos are realising that their consumers are on digital platforms.  Internet penetration in the Gulf, also smartphone penetration in some countries is high.  The popularity of social platforms, like YouTube, in the region is very relevant too,” he said.

Sarkis said that operators also see how digital can change their own business: “Telcos in the region are facing different challenges, related to competition, to the mobile penetration, so they are looking for ways to grow their revenue and to reduce some costs by improving efficiency. They are realising that digital can help to solve these problems,” he noted.

Product development, communication, sales and customer care are the areas that Google covers for operators in the MENA region.  “This is how we engage with telcos.  We like to plan together with our partner so that we really understand their objective.  We work with telcos to leverage the power of digital and to promote their customer activities,” said Sarkis.

On products, Google partner with telcos to co-launch digital base products.  One example is carrier billing, a service that the company is currently developing with many operators in the region.

When it comes to communication, Sarkis explained that digital has changed “very deeply” the way companies communicate with their users.  Creating awareness around products and services is one of the services that Google offers.

“Telcos want to combine their mass customers and their targeted customers.  Digital will give them the levers to target this mass.  The second element is video advertising, as it is the most effective way of advertising,” he said about this area of Google’s business.

Google also offers services to help telcos presence when customers are looking for a service.  Google search is the tool that users utilise to find the product or service that they are looking for and Google can position operators with their search advertisement.

The company also uses YouTube to create a preference for the operator’s brand or around specific things of the telco.

The sales side of Google’s activities with operators is related to promote a strong e-commerce platform, as Sarkis believes that this region is lagging behind.

“Some studies said that there is a 50% savings from moving one sale from store to online and they are also generating more ARPU.  We expect this to be a key topic next year and the coming years,” he added.

“Customer care is a pain point for telcos,” said Sarkis.  He explains that players who have to provide customer care or customer satisfaction services always face difficulties and it is also a high cost activity.

“There are many studies that are showing the benefits of moving the customer care services online. In YouTube we can create different videos and structure a conversation to solve what the customer wants to know for operators. In the region, telcos are applying this in their YouTube channels,” he added.

 

 

Telcos in the MENA region by country, operator name and rank, rate of penetration rank and ownership are given below:

ALGERIA

In November 2011 the penetration rate was estimated at 95% over a population estimate of 39.9 million.

The country’s telecom regulator is ARPT.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Djezzy 16.49 (Nov 2011) Global Telecom Holding (51.7%)
2 Mobilis 14 (Sep 2014) Algérie Télécom
3 Ooredoo
(formerly Nedjma)
8.46 (Nov 2011) Ooredoo (46.4%)

 

BAHRAIN

At the end of 2011 the penetration rate was estimated at 133% over a population estimate of 1.27 million.

The regulator is the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Batelco 0.738 (December 2011) Bahrain Telecommunications Company(100%)
2 Zain
(formerly MTC-Vodafone)
0.508 (December 2011) Zain Group (56.25%)
3 Viva Not Yet Available STC (100%)

 

EGYPT

Egypt had 96.89 million mobile users as of July 2013, government figures showed. Egypt is the largest market in Africa of the total mobile subscriber market.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Vodafone 40.9 (July 2013) Vodafone (54.9%), Telecom Egypt(44.70%), Free Float (0.20%)
2 Mobinil 33.53 (July 2013) Orange S.A. (93.92%), Orascom Telecom(5%), Free Float (1.08%)
3 Etisalat 22.4 (July 2013) Etisalat (76%), Egypt Post (20%), Other Investors (4%)

 

IRAN

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 91.9% over a population estimate of 78 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Hamrah-e-Avval(MCI) 34 (Q3 2010) Telecommunication Company of Iran
2 MTN Irancell 28.4 (Q3 2010) Iran Electronic Development Company(51%)
MTN Group (49%)
3 RighTel 1.5 Social Security Investment Company
4 Taliya 0.7 Rafsanjan Industrial Complex (TCI’s BOT)
5 Mobin Net 0.04 Mobile Telecommunications Company of Esfahan
6 Kish Free Zone 0.006 Kish Free Zone Organization
7 IR70 0.006 Telecommunication Company of Iran

 

IRAQ

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 74.2% over a population estimate of 30.4 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Zain 11.775 (Q3 2010) Zain Group (71.67%)
2 Asia Cell 7.741 (Q1 2010) Qtel (30%)
3 Korek Not Yet Available Korek Telecom Ltd.
3 Omnnea Not Yet Available Omnnea
4 SanaTel Not Yet Available SanaTel

 

ISRAEL

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 131.8% over a population estimate of 7.47 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Cellcom 3.1 (September 2013) DIC (78.5%), GS (5%), BLL (5%), Migdal (4%), Fibi (2%)
2 Orange 2.9 (September 2013) free float (45%)
3 Pelephone 2.7 (September 2013) Bezeq
4 Golan Telecom 0.56 (October 2013) Private Investors & ILIAD group
5 Hot Mobile
(formerly Mirs)
0.32 (September 2013) Altice \ Cool Holdings (HOT)

 

JORDAN

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 101.8% over a population estimate of 6.5 million.

Regulator is Telecommunications Regulatory Commission

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Zain 3.9 (December 2013) Zain Group (96.52%)
2 Orange 1.939 (Dec 2009) Orange S.A.
3 Umniah 2.7 (December 2013) Batelco
4 XPress 0.1 Private shareholders

 

KUWAIT

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 164.7% over a population estimate of 2.6 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Zain 1.816 (June 2009) Zain Group (100%)
2 Ooredoo
(formerly Wataniya)
1.625 (Q1 2010) Ooredoo (52.5%)
3 Viva 1.106 STC (26%)

 

LEBANON

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 65.9% over a population estimate of 4.1 million.

The Lebanese telecom regulator is Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Touch 1.756 M (June 2011) 100% government – management contract: Zain Group
2 Alfa 1.2M (Sept 2011) 100% government – management contract: Orascom Telecom
3 Ogero no info available yet (can support 50000 customers once activated) Lebanese government (100% owned)

 

LIBYA

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 169.74% over a population estimate of 6.6 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Al Madar 1.8 (February 2007) State-owned via GPTC
2 Free Libyana
(formerly Libyana)
0.5 (February 2007) State-owned via GPTC

 

MAURITANIA

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 85.92% over a population estimate of 3.3 million.

Rank Operator Technology Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Mauritel GSM-900 1.335 (Dec 2009) Maroc Telecom (51.5%)
2 Chinguitel CDMA
UMTS
0.160 (May 2008) Sudatel (60%)
3 MATTEL GSM-900 Not Yet Available Tunisie Telecom (51%), Mauritanian Investors (49%)

 

MOROCCO

The country has 31.311 million subscribers in total, or a 113.57% penetration rate. (December 2011)
The country’s telcom regulator is ANRT.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 IAM 17.126 (dec 2011) Vivendi (53%), state of Morocco (30%)
2 Méditel 12.035 (dec 2011) Orange S.A. (40%),
FinanceCom+CDG (60%)
3 Inwi 7.393 (dec 2011) Zain (31%)

 

OMAN

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 142.19% over a population estimate of 3 million.

The telecom regulator is Oman Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (OTRA)

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Oman Mobile 2.124 (September 2010) Omantel (99%)
2 Ooredoo 1.938 (Sept 2009) Ooredoo (56%)
2 Friendimobile 1.938(Sept 2009)
2 Renna 1.938 (Sept 2009)

 

PALESTINE

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 97.5% over a population estimate of 2.5 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Jawwal 2 (Q1 2010) Paltel (100%)
2 Wataniya 0.649 (Q1 2014) Wataniya Telecom (57%)
Palestine Investment Fund(43%)

 

QATAR

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 322.52% over a population estimate of 0.8 million.

The country’s telcom regulator is ictQATAR.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Ooredoo
(formerly Qtel)
2.996 (Q2 2014) Ooredoo
2 Vodafone 1.0 (Jan 2013) Vodafone (22.95%), Qatari Institutions (37.05%), Free Float (40%)

 

SAUDI ARABIA

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 162.6% over a population estimate of 26.1 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 STC 19.914 (Q3 2010) 70% state owned and 30% private
2 Mobily 15.06 (Q3 2010) Etisalat (25%)
3 Zain 6.522 Zain Group (57%)
4 Bravo 0.196 (Sept2009) NascoOoredoo (29.2%), Ali A. Tamimi Co.Mr. Sultan Najr Al Otaibi

 

SUDAN

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 42.3% over a population estimate of 45 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Zain 9.648 (Q3 2010) Zain Group (100%)
2 MTN 4.016 (31 March 2011) MTN (85%)
3 Sudani Not Yet Available Sudatel
4 Canar Not Yet Available Etisalat (82%)

 

SYRIA

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 46.6% over a population estimate of 22.5 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 MTN
(formerly Areeba)
4.419 (Jul 2010) MTN (75%)
2 Syriatel 7.1 (Aug 2014) Syriatel

 

TUNISIA

The country has 11.2 million subscribers in total, or a 105.8% penetration rate. (Sep 2010)

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Tunisie Telecom 5.04 (March 2008) Tunisie Télécom Group (65%),
Tecom DIG (35%)
2 Ooredoo
(formerly Tunisiana)
5.63 (Q1 2010) Ooredoo (75%)
3 Orange 0.53 Orange S.A.Divona

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 230.6% over a population estimate of 5.15 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Etisalat 8.92 (28 April 2014) UAE Federal Government (40%) and public shareholders (60%)
2 du 7.6  (Q1 2014) UAE Federal Government (39.5%), Mubadala Development Company(19.75%), TECOM Investments (19.5%), and public shareholders (21.25%)

 

YEMEN

In September 2010 the penetration rate was estimated at 38.4% over a population estimate of 24.1 million.

Rank Operator Subscribers
(in millions)
Ownership
1 Spacetel Yemen 4.035 (Mar 2012) MTN (85%)
2 Sabafon 3.65 (Sept 2012) Yemen Mobile Phone CompanyBatelco(26.942%)
3 Yemen Mobile 2.180 (2008–2009) Yemen Mobile
3 HiTS-UNITEL (Y) 0.281 (2008–2009) HiTS-UNITEL