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The biggest and most important names in the telecoms and ICT industry from the Middle East and beyond gathered under one roof at the 2015 Telecom Review Summit on December 13 2015, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai.

This year it was all about ""smart"" networking and attracted over 200 C-level executives, including CEOs, SVPs, directors and business giants from operators, vendors, technology providers and consultancies who came together to discuss the most crucial issues facing them today.

The global event exceeded all previous year's attendance and was streamed live, worldwide, with thousands of people around the world joining the Summit. The live streaming was provided by Telecom Review's partner, Deutsche Telekom.

Editor in chief and CEO of Telecom Review, Toni Eid, opened the event by welcoming all the attendees and thanked them for being part of the day. Jeff Seal, editor in chief and managing partner, Telecom Review North America, continued by telling the attendees about the new demo area that was added this year so that attendees could see the latest products and services from around the world including du, Qualcomm, Commscope, IPT Powertech, Deutsche Telecom, Nokia and Comarch.

A keynote by Tom Loozen, managing director Global Communications Industry, Accenture, then followed as he shared his view on the telco industry today. He said: ""I believe there is a role for telcos to play which is primarily into operating from the middle, connecting with all the different entities in the ecosystem and bringing them together for prosperity.""

Following the keynote was a visionary debate with Ahmed Julfar, Group CEO, Etisalat, as he spoke with Ghassan Hasbani, CEO, Graycoats, and shared his views on the industry and Etisalat's position.

Speaking about the World Radio Communication Conference2015 held in Geneva, he said: ""Operators need more spectrum and the message is very clear: mobile is becoming more relevant than other media which is a good achievement for the industry. Today we have 7 billion connections globally for phones; internet of things is 5 billion connections so far but it is expected to go to 50 billion by 2019. To provide this connectivity we need to have a completely different model to address this huge requirement.""

Julfar went on to talk about Etisalat's progress and achievements and how we need to see other operators doing the same. He talked of the change from 30 years ago until today and how the pace of change is ten to twenty times faster which means that we need to have a different business model, operating model and collaborative approach.

He added: ""Telecom operators are always going to be relevant to the end user. Today operators have challenges with legacy issues and regulations. Today we have achieved our objectives of increasing connectivity and introducing competition so the objectives of regulators have to change.""

The summit continued with a keynote from Osman Sultan, CEO, du, who spoke about the digital revolution and what is yet to come. He spoke about the remaining challenges and said: ""I think that the main challenge is to be able to extract ourselves from the kind of ecosystems we are used to. If you consider companies like Facebook and WhatsApp, where no particular technology innovation, it was just focusing on a very good experience and a need of people but it was done through a totally different ecosystem.

""I'm still surprised on our inability to move faster and to catch up on the digital space. We could have done so many applications, but it has taken us a lot of time. That is the main challenge.""

This was followed by a keynote from Charles Yang, president, Huawei Middle East, who spoke about the value of the Middle East to Huawei's business and how the industry was in a state of transition.

The Summit also featured a number of thought provoking panel discussions led by the much awaited Telecom Leader's panel moderated by Ghazi Atallah, CEO neXgen; and featuring Linda Suvi, chairperson of the board of NxtVn Finland, member and ITU's Special Envoy for the BB Commission for Digital Development; Marc Halbfinger, CEO, PCCW Global; Hussein Rifai, chairman CEO, MDIC; Greg Young, CEO, Ooredoo; Luigi Gambardella, president, ChinaEU; Rafiah Ibrahim, president Ericsson ME & East Africa; Bernard Najm, VP Nokia ME & Africa; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al-Thani, CEO, Ooreedoo Kuwait; Mohamad Mourad, regional director MENA, Google; Jay Srage, president, Qualcomm Middle East, Africa and South East Asia; Khalifa Al Shamsi, chief digital services officer, Etisalat Group; and Dr. Homoud Mohammed Al Kusayer, vice president of Wholesale, STC.

Industry experts debated digital transformation, opportunities for telecom operators, mobility and customer experience and IOT services - enterprise digital transformation - role and potential revenue stream.

Following the Telecom Leader's panel, the event featured an opening keynote on the smart city stream by Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, director general, Smart Dubai, who gave key insights into Dubai's smart City objectives. She said: ""Smart Dubai provides a blueprint to a smart city for all stakeholders. From infasrastructure and data orchestration to service enablement and applications supporting improved city experience for all, we recognize that the smart city transformation would not be possible without the commitment of our strategic partners and valued collaborators across the public and private sectors. This year with the support of our partners we have completed the first phase of our mission to deliver over 100 smart initiatives and 1000 smart services for the city including the first ever smart district guidelines, a standard blueprint for all district developers ensuring seamless experience wherever you live and work in the city.""

Dr. Aisha's speech was followed by the ICT infrastructure and big data in a smart city panel discussion, which was moderated by Bilel Jamoussi, Chief Study Group Department, ITU, and featured Hatem Bamatraf, Group CTO, Etisalat; Tarek Saadi, VP ME and East Africa, Ericsson; Paul Berriman, Group CTO, HKT; Noel Kirkaldy, head of Vertical Solutions Middle East and Africa, Nokia Networks; Dirk Jungnickel, SVP Business Analytics & Big Data, du; Ihab Ghattas, assistant president, Huawei Middle East; and Visar Sala, Strategy Lead for Middle East and North Africa, Accenture. The panelists in the session debated who should invest in the smart city infrastructure, the role of operators and governments and how we can benefit from big data.

Following this debate was another smart city's discussion, entitled: ""Smart City Impact on City Dimension Panel: Smart Cities Leading to Smart Countries"" which was moderated by Ghazi Atallah, CEO neXgen and included topics such as economy, innovation, entrepreneurship; mobility, transport, traffic; living (health, education, etc.); and governance (citizens services, citizens engagement).

Later on into the afternoon, the CEO of Amsterdam Internet Exchange, Job Whitman, gave a keynote regarding internet exchange. He said: ""We are seeing new continents coming online; the world is getting smaller and people are starting to look at internet exchange as a value. We have built a pretty successful model with approximately 760 connected parties today and we are the biggest single exchange making us an international success.""

""It is not as simple as just recreating the internet exchange wherever you are in the world; there are some environments not fit for an internet exchange. It requires carrier neutral datacenters which is a concept that doesn't exist in many countries but is definitely something that is needed. There needs to be a mature telcos market with many providers; you cannot build an internet exchange for two or three players, it is simply not necessary. You need cable systems. It needs to be in a location that makes sense. You also need a trust worth government and stable political environment which is really key to host global players such as Google. But the most important thing is that the parties connected trust the operator.""

Connecting Things & Mobility Panel: Mobile Commerce & E-Commerce Trade Within Smart Cities, moderated by Ghassan Hasbani, followed, with panelists including Rambert Namy, VP Business Consulting director, Sofrecom; Mustapha Kaddoura, senior director, Digital Industries, Etisalat; Orvar Hurtig, VP and head of Business Line Industry and Society, Ericsson; Jose Valles, VP of Enterprise and Commerce, New Business and Innovation, du; Dr. Mohamed Nadder Hamdy, director Wireless Network Engineering, Commscope; Charbel Sarkis, Sector Lead Tech and Retail, MENA, Google; Baher Esmat, VP Middle East, ICANN; and Tom Loozen, managing director Global Communications Industry, Accenture.

This was followed by a panel on Data Traffic Growth: Security, Threats & Solutions - Role of Operators and Wholesale Carriers, moderated by Jeff Seal, editor in chief and managing partner, Telecom Review North America and included Daniel Kurgan, CEO, BICS; Khaled Sedrak, CEO, NxtVn; Dr. Homoud Mohammed Al Kusayer, vice president of Wholesale, STC; Ali Amiri, Group VP, Etisalat; Marcin Dabrowski, VP for Telecommunications, Comarch; Mahesh Jaishankar, VP, Datamena and Broadcast, du; and Marc Halbfinger, CEO, PCCW Global.

The final panel on Content and Mobility: The Mobility Changing the Concept of Media and Broadcast focused on topics such as the evolving media consumption habits and the migration of content viewing; video on the go enablement; and challenges and opportunities and new business models. It was moderated by Georges Dabaghi, head of TV & Media, Ericsson Middle East and featured panelists: Sami Boustany, CEO, Yahlive; Karim El Khazen, VP, Deutsche Telecom; Samer Geissah, VP of Consumer, New Business and Innovation, du; Ben Kinealy, CEO, Intigral; Tony Wong, head of FBB Business Consulting, Huawei; and Amr Eid, CCO, GBI.

As the must attend networking and conference event of the year, the Telecom Review Summit this year attracted more delegates and speakers than ever before from across the globe, finally celebrating excellence in the industry by awarding the leaders of telecom at the Telecom Review Summit Awards and promising to be back next year for another day of SMART networking.

See you next year!

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