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Vodafone Qatar launches Wi-Fi as a service for businesses

Vodafone is offering its business customers in Qatar Wi-Fi as a service, which is another sign of the coming together of the IT and telecoms sectors

Qatar-based telecoms provider Vodafone has launched Wi-Fi as a service for its business customers, allowing them to offer Wi-Fi internet access to visitors and employees.

The service is powered by a centralised authentication and web traffic analysis platform.

Mahmud Awad, chief business officer at Vodafone Qatar, said the company is using its Wi-Fi experience gained in other markets to implement this service for businesses looking to enhance their own enterprise wireless experience.

The company has rolled out its first Wi-Fi as a service at its new store in the Al-Aziziya area in Doha. Vodafone’s Al-Aziziya store caters to one of Qatar’s key residential and commercial areas. The company said it planned to roll out the service to all its customer experience stores across Qatar.

Awad said users get internet access, while businesses can extract customer data that is relevant to their business. “For instance, a restaurant owner or manager can find out the number of times a customer visited the café and create special offers based on the data mined,” he said.

The platform, which took eight months to build and roll out, also provides data about Wi-Fi user density, which can be used by local authorities and municipalities for public areas to effectively manage security services.

Eric Samuel, programme manager for IT services at IDC Middle East and Africa, said as telecoms service providers continue to transform their business, they are getting more involved in providing different types of managed services and building long-term partnerships with the customers they serve.

“Telecoms service providers have good datacentre infrastructure, IT security and connectivity resources in place in the Middle East,” said Samuel.

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He said the convergence of IT and communications technologies is here: “As service providers take the leap to selling cloud and connectivity services, many are developing IT offerings that are helping them make inroads into new customer accounts and bulk up their own services portfolios.”

“Developing an IT portfolio around hosting services such as network management and managed security services are value-adds, which telecoms providers can offer to enterprise customers at competitive prices. Vodafone Qatar’s Wi-Fi as a service falls into this category.”

But Samuel added the proportion of business that IT contributes to overall revenues is minuscule for most telcos in this region. “That’s because telecoms providers need to create separate IT services arms, similar to what Saudi Telecoms Company (STC) has done with the establishment of Intigral,” he said.

He added that having such a focus will help telecoms providers such as Vodafone Qatar emerge as ICT service providers and enable them to compete with traditional IT service providers in the managed services space.

Vodafone’s Awad agreed, saying the company launched the Wi-Fi as a service to target large enterprises, malls, stadiums, parks and other locations which require complex and highly customised Wi-Fi solutions in Qatar.

Lee Miles, general manager for Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Red Hat, said: “As more and more enterprise customers demand that their telecoms services be met via cloud- or services-based models, telecoms companies are feeling more pressure than ever to transition their businesses to recurring revenue models, which have IT services at the core of their offerings,” he said. 

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