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Sun 10 Nov 2019 02:59 PM

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Telcos' 'big mistake' was allowing Google, Facebook to use networks for free, says Naguib Sawiris

Egyptian billionaire said telecom operators should have blocked the solution providers and introduced a revenue sharing model

Telcos' 'big mistake' was allowing Google, Facebook to use networks for free, says Naguib Sawiris

The telecoms industry is hindered by maturity because telecom operators made a “big mistake” by allowing solution providers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter to use their networks for free, according to telco tycoon and Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

Speaking to Arabian Business, the founder of Orascom Telecoms said telecom operators paid for infrastructure, marketing and sales only to see solution providers “sneak” onto their networks.

“The telecoms industry is suffering from maturity… and we, the telecom operators including ourselves, have made a huge mistake in allowing all solution providers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter to come through our networks and use us without getting any benefit out of it.

“We had to go out and pay for the infrastructure, marketing, sales, we got the subscribers and then they sneak inside our network, provide the service to the consumers and what do we get? Nothing. It’s a big mistake,” he said.

Sawiris said he had previously suggested that all telecom operators block solution providers from their networks and introduce a revenue sharing model instead.

“When I was on the board of the GSM, I had made a proposal that we, all the operators, should prepare a platform and block them so they can only go through the revenue share model.

“It’s too late now,” he said.

Free internet?

When asked whether he agrees with Du CEO Osman Sultan’s views that internet will eventually be free, Sawiris said: “Who’s going to pay for it if it’s free? With all respect, some people like to say shocking stuff. Who’s going to pay for it? I’m going to build it, pay for it, and you use it for free?”

Speaking at the 2017 Arabian Business Forum in Dubai, Sultan said the cost of internet will go down, eventually becoming cost-free.

“It cannot happen overnight. Yes, it will go that way, but it will be a gliding path,” he said, adding that users already pay less per gigabyte compared to 2015.

Largest telco

Sawiris is credited with changing the face of telecommunications across the Middle East, having built Orascom Telecoms into the largest cellular operator in the region in terms of subscribers, before merging it with Russian Vimpelcom (now Veon) to create the world’s sixth largest telecommunications provider.

He is the eldest of three brothers leading the Orascom family business which was set up by his father Onsi in the 1950s. Today, he sits at the helm of investment conglomerate Orascom Investment Holding (OIH) as its executive chairman and CEO.

While he diversified investments away from telecoms – real estate, financial services, logistics, food industries, cultural development – OIH continues to operate networks in North Korea, Lebanon and Pakistan.

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