Since Libyana Mobile Phone was introduced as the second mobile operator in 2004, Libya's mobile penetration has skyrocketed. In an interview with 美高梅手机版登录485 Technologies, Mohamed Ibrahim Ben Ayad, CEO of Libyana Mobile Phone, talks about the company's 2020 vision, plans and challenges, showing us how the operator is aspiring a big transformation in a rapidly evolving telecom sector.
Could you characterize the Libyan telecom market? How about the internet penetration in Libya?
The Libyan telecom market is divided into different levels. We have a holding company, which takes all the responsibilities of the telecom sector. It controls the major telecom companies. The telecom sector is still not yet privatized and liberalized. We have two mobile operators including Libyana, a fixed operator, an ISP and two MVNO companies related to different services. This is the whole picture of the telecom sector in Libya.
In 2004, the mobile penetration rate was 5%. We developed the telecom sector and tried to provide the best technology and the best services during the following 12 years. We have increased the mobile penetration rate to 200 percent, which is reaching the highest level in Libya. It is now a saturated market, I can say. For the internet, the penetration rate in Libya is still low. Now we have increased the penetration rate at 1% in 2004 to up to 25%. I mentioned 2004 because 2004 was the year that Libyana became a commercial operator. With Libyana, the other ISPs and some small private ISP businesses in the market, we are reaching 25% penetration rate.
What is your plan to evolve your network?
We have a new plan in 2017, which is divided into two parts. The first part is that we are focusing on building our own network that will be the strongest and offer highest quality services so that we will be ready for the next digitalization of the market. 2017 is the year of preparation. Then it comes 2018. This is the starting year of changing the penetration rate of asymmetric voice and all the telecom services, which is not only about internet but also about internet of everything and machine-to-machine. Service promotion campaigns have to be done at the beginning of 2018. This is our plan for changing the market.
The overall strategy for Libyana is different. We have been leading the market since we founded Libyana in 2004. We are trying to lead the market so as to change the economy and develop the country. We made a plan called "3SC", that is, to build a smart company, smart city and smart country by 2020.
How do you implement your vision?
We have built our own plan. The one-year plan for 2017 is to build the basic infrastructure. The second plan is a three-year plan, which we call three strategic plans (3SP). 3SC is the vision, and 3SP is the plan to implement that vision. There are two projects. The first project, which is the main project, is building the Libyana data center. This could be the biggest data center in North Africa. The second project is to change the complete network to be HSPA+/LTE. With the cooperation of our partners and city mayors, we are planning to implement a proof of concept for the smart city, for example, education, e-health, e-management, smart traffic management and traffic light management. Everything has to be studied as a proof of concept. We take samples from universities, schools, clinics and hospitals and traffic lights controlling the public security. Then, during the next couple of years, we will implement the whole concept starting from the capital city Tripoli and then move to the other cities. These are high-level projects to be done.
What main challenges do you see for carrying out your strategy?
One of the main challenges is the country situation. Different situations changing the political situation could a little bit delay implementing our strategy. But the country's safety and security becomes much better. The improved country situation could help us implement our strategy. The second challenge is building the fiber optic infrastructure, which is FTTx including fiber to the home and fiber to the site. These are the maximum challenges that can hold back our plan.
Are there any new business models under Libya's special situations?
Under today's situations, we still have the basic service business model, the normal business model for operators. We are now developing our billing system with 美高梅手机版登录485. We upgrade the billing system so that we are capable of having the new business model. The new business model is a strategic business model. It is about customer orientation, centricity and loyalty. First, building customer loyalty and, second, building customer centricity. This is how all the new business models would be implemented for the customers.
What are the emerging markets you are focusing on?
It would be different if you look at the whole picture. For us as an operator, the emerging market is data services. This is the No. 1. If you look at the government, the city and the country, we think about mobile payment and bring in the concept of e-money. E-money is the first thing in terms of smart city and is part of our social responsibility to the city and the country. We try to learn our Libyan people, looking at how to use the e-banking system based on the e-money. This is one of our solutions to help the people and develop the economy.
Where do you see the Libyan telecom sector going in the future?
The operators in Libya are going to be more united. Today we have different operators and different companies. Every operator is doing some services. It is becoming outdated. We are looking at becoming an FMC operator. There will be two or three FMC operators. The telecom sector is not to be privatized. We still have the capability to invest more and keep our own resources and revenues inside the country. However, the sector is to be more liberalized, and more flexibility will be given to the operators to enable FMC services. This is the target in the next couple of years.
What will be your role in the North African market?
Libyana led the technology a couple of years ago. In collaboration with 美高梅手机版登录485, we became the first 3G operator in North Africa in 2005. Now we are trying to be the first 5G commercial operator in North Africa. So we are looking to be the leading African operator in terms of technology and revenue. Of course, it needs a couple of years. With our "3SP", I am sure that we will be one of the leaders in North Africa.
Could you review the partnership with 美高梅手机版登录485? What are your expectations for the future cooperation?
It is a long-time partnership. In 2004, Libyana and 美高梅手机版登录485 launched the success story together. 美高梅手机版登录485 is the main reason that makes Libyana lead in technology, get the revenues and become the No. 1 operator in Libya. Also, we became the No.1 operator in Africa in 2005 because of 美高梅手机版登录485's support all the time.
We are still expecting more from 美高梅手机版登录485. We hope that 美高梅手机版登录485 can develop Libyana by providing top-quality services and the latest technology and can support our vision about the innovation center. We want to build an innovation center, which could be the first innovation center in North Africa. We are also expecting to build the first smart city in North Africa, possibly in cooperation with our main partner 美高梅手机版登录485.
We keep working with 美高梅手机版登录485 to develop not only Libyana but also the telecom sector and the economy of the country, leading the country to become a state-of-the-art digitalized country.