Osman Sultan is the CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, du; he has worked in telecommunications and information technology in Europe, North America and the Middle East. Prior to du, Mr. Sultan served at the helm of the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (MobiNil), a company he helped set up. Mr. Sultan was the Chairman of the Arab Working Group for the Private Sector in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) from 2003 to 2005. He began his professional career with the France Telecom Group. Mr Sultan has received several awards including for The Best Web Site-Legal Product from the American Information Association; the Man of the Year award (1996) from the Professional Electronic Information Services Community in France and the prestigious award from MENA Crysta as a Media Man. Osman Sultan earned his degree in engineering.
Technology is eroding the traditional borders between ICT sectors by converging business, entertainment and, indeed, all applications onto a single platform. Broadband makes vast amounts of content readily available, but it is content that gives relevance to technology. Still, few content providers and telecom providers work closely together enough - each wants to ‘own’ the customer and receive a larger portion of the revenue. This conflict of interest frequently forestalls fuller relationships between the two and stifles more effective cooperation.
Telecommunication as we know it has come a long way. The constantly evolving technology of mobile telecommunications has redefined the way we communicate today. Following the evolution of fixed-mobile convergence, multiple platforms began to converge and integrate onto a single device using advanced mobile broadband technology- today’s multi-functional mobile phone device. A mobile handset now operates as an SMS messaging device, an iPod, a mobile TV and a gaming device. It provides ring-back services, video and voice mail and access to the World Wide Web, it also enables conference calls and lets you receive and send email. What’s more, a mobile phone now lets you tweet and update your Facebook, you can also transfer credits via your handset. The number of state-of-the-art technologies packed into a single device is increasing and this gives consumers a much more convenient, convergent, communication experience. The bigger picture As applications and functions unite onto a single platform, this fully integrated communication experience is ushering in a revolutionary era of interconnectivity. The boundaries between the various industries are becoming increasingly blurred. The old borders between different sectors are eroded by convergent technologies. For example, mobile convergence has united business and entertainment functions onto a single platform, bringing a convergence of the telecommunication and media industries, which is not only transforming the telecommunication world and causing the media world to explode, but effectively triggering new behaviours, cultures and social and business environments. Similarly, geographical boundaries are breaking down, as anytime, anywhere mobile technology closes the gap between time zones and locations, brings the world closer together and accelerates the rate of globalisation. Convergence as a tool The rate of technological advance affects everyone’s lifestyle. With the proliferation of advanced broadband technology, one man can often do what hundreds of employees were needed for in the past. For example, one man can shoot and broadcast a movie by uploading it to YouTube, or single-handedly source vast amounts of information via Google, which provides easy access to an extensive archive of material. People now perform many functions online including studying, conducting business and performing banking transactions. The quality and speed of the Internet have had to improve to keep up with the modern consumers’ ever-growing demands and requirements; high-capacity, high-speed, broadband Internet is absolutely essential to today’s society. It’s no longer the digital home - it’s the digital lifestyle, and operators have to keep up with constantly evolving customer demands and with all the advances in broadband technology for home, business and mobile services. Convergence and integration is increasingly essential to enjoy the benefits of anytime, anywhere communications and entertainment. Technological innovation is revolutionising our habits - how we watch video and listen to music, how we stay in touch with our family and friends and how we collaborate with co-workers and business associates across the globe. The convergence between communication tools brings business, entertainment and information to our fingertips wherever we are, with fixed and wireless working seamlessly on three critical screens - the computer, the TV and the mobile phone. With new multi-media technologies constantly fostering the proliferation of mobile convergence, the three screens will no doubt eventually become a fully integrated, unified single screen experience. Technology and content Although we can be sure that technologies will continue to evolve and tie the world together with increasingly convergent connectivity, it is difficult to predict exactly how these technologies will develop and alter our lifestyles. It is almost impossible to prepare for technology, which continues to evolve. However, we can effectively evaluate content, one of the key elements in technological evolution. Content and technology have an intense and interdependent relationship, technology makes content available to consumers, but it is the content that gives relevance to its functionality. It is, after all, the content, as it is selected by the end-users themselves that humanises high-tech appliances. So a deep understanding of the changing role of content providers is crucial for telecom providers. The content to end-user cycle is a four-step process - content creation, to channels, to devices, to end-users - the process of content creation by content providers, its transportation by telecommunication providers and its conversion for access by end users. End-users demand greater accessibility to vast amounts of highly diverse content and this is driving the accelerated convergence of technology. Direct contact between content providers and telecom providers would make the content-to-end-user process more efficient, but generally, they do not yet work together closely enough. This is partly due to the desire of each party to ‘own’ the customer and receive a larger portion of the revenue; this conflict frequently forestalls fuller relationships between the two industries, and stifles more effective, cooperative, communication and entertainment experiences. Content and interconnectivity Content and the role of content providers are currently being redefined. With the rise of interactive social media, portals such as Facebook and Twitter let anyone become a publisher and YouTube, where everyone can create and share images or movie, lets anyone be a broadcaster. So, by uploading their content to portals, ordinary people are altering the landscape of the entertainment and media sectors. As content provision becomes more and more interactive and integrated, and technology adapts to keep up with public demand, telecom operators - the channel between content creation and user generated content - must keep up with, and prepare themselves for, the change. The lack of restrictions regarding access to content on the Internet lets content can be easily accessed and adapted by almost anyone. Access to content stored in ‘virtual space’ and transported to end-users via the telecom sector’s communication channels, is therefore nurturing creativity, as content is continually adapted via an interactive platform. By closing the gap between content and end-users who reuse this content to develop new content, access to content is fostering a new era of interactive and interconnected productivity. Nurturing tomorrow’s talent Whatever the future holds for technology, content and telecommunications, the most efficient way to prepare for tomorrow is to innovate, to keep one step ahead, by investing in creative young minds, and giving them the confidence, support and resources to develop their skills and talents. The single most important factor for growth, for carrying forward the vision, values and mission of any organisation is its people. Today’s young talents are tomorrow’s leaders. A rich talent pool is crucial to a nation’s progress and to enriching communities with their discoveries and path-breaking development strategies. Technology such as broadband is essential in almost every sector - from education and employment to community and recreation; it also helps tie all these areas together. Access to, and awareness of, electronic and information technology is paramount in helping students prepare for and succeed in tomorrow’s new world. This sort of access is essential to nurture a cadre of bright, young minds, to build technological skills and an in-depth understanding of a cutting-edge, multi-platform, convergent business environment. The UAE, for example, has made great strides in applying state-of-the-art technologies to its academic programmes in order to keep pace with today’s educational needs. A brave new world Technology will surely continue to push the boundaries of telecommunication. Operators need to respond to the constantly evolving demands of customers and adapt to an increasingly convergent world; they must adopt the latest technologies, adapt their services, and liaise with the necessary industries. Telecommunications will become an even greater part of our everyday lives as we move towards higher levels of convergence and usher in a new era of integrated connectivity. Operators need to ensure that they keep up with today’s communication requirements, and prepare themselves for tomorrow’s - somewhat smaller- world.