July 2015 | Christabelle Noronha

'We have a broad reach'

Tata Communications has had a presence in the MENA region since 1996 and has continually enhanced its presence and the strength of its services and solutions in the region. In this interview, Radwan Moussalli, the company’s senior vice president, Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, speaks about Tata Communications’ growth in the MENA region and how it is being managed.

Could you tell us about the nature of your operations in the Middle East and North Africa?
Tata Communications is a global leader in the telecommunications business and we also offer unrivalled local expertise. We have a broad reach across countries in the Middle East and an ever-increasing footprint through our owned global infrastructure and our partnerships. We offer a wide range of interconnection options, respond faster to service requests and recovery, and provide cost-effective bandwidth and flexible service provisioning. In the unlikely event of any disruption, our full network visibility means we can act instantly to get things back on track.

We have invested more than $250 million in cable systems and networks in the Middle East to connect the region with the rest of the world. Our infrastructure includes the only fully protected ethernet ring in the region; two private cable systems; three consortium cable systems, and a dedicated, multi-service backbone built for the Gulf countries.

Our core network is a mesh of terrestrial, cross-border and new subsea links. This ensures unparalleled speed, redundancy and scalability, all at a cost-effective price. Whatever be the requirements, our high-quality solutions and services mean we can help deliver. Customers can count on Tata Communications to act as a single point of contact for all solutions, network management and trouble resolution.

You operate five cable systems that crisscross the Gulf. Are there plans to develop more such systems?
We believe we have decent coverage for the region, the required diversity, and enough capacity to serve the needs of our customers. Our 100G technology gives us ten times more bandwidth to grow, compared with the initial design capacity when these cables were built.

Watch this video to learn more about the challenges that Tata Communications faces in the MENA region
Do you plan to expand your dozen points of presence (PoPs) to places such as Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan?
Yes, we are always growing, especially in emerging markets and in markets where multinational companies need services. In addition to our dozen points of presence, we have recently deployed a PoP in Bahrain and we also serve the Kuwait and Jordan markets through partners.

Besides being a wholesale service provider, are you also looking at catering to the needs of enterprise customers and other service providers in the region?

Our enterprise enablement initiative is one of the pillars of our strategy. We work with strategic partners, enabling them to serve their enterprise and business customers by providing solutions and services using our subject matter experts and support staff. We are already providing solutions and services to major business and enterprise customers in the region.

What are the challenges of doing business in the MENA region?
Regulatory issues are a challenge since some of these markets are not fully deregulated. In addition, there are market dynamics; pricing is usually higher than in developed markets. Also, there is the difficulty of having a limited number of last-mile providers in certain countries.

Could you tell us about the revenues generated here?
The Middle East, Central Asia and Africa represent about 20 percent of Tata Communications GCS’s (global carrier services) revenue in just data services, and we do sizeable business with voice services in the region. Our revenues from the region have been growing at 5-10 percent year-on-year.

We do see growth opportunities through initiatives like partner enablement (in the enterprise business), by expanding beyond the wholesale business, and through solution selling and transformation services.

What are your growth projections for the region over the next five years?
Capacity demand is growing at around 25 percent a year, but revenue is growing at a lower rate due to price erosion and other factors.

This article is a part of the special report on the Tata group's operations in the Middle East and North Africa region in the July 2015 issue of Tata Review:
Tata Sons: An enriching relationship
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