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When e& began its journey as a technology company to truly embrace the new paradigm, the group with a (nearly) 50-year legacy set out on a vision to build on this foundation.

This year the theme at the Mobile World Congress is ‘Future First,’ focusing on the need to unite industries, continents, technologies and communities to unlock the potential of the future.

“The power of collaboration is integral in today’s interconnected world, as it fosters innovation, accelerates progress, and drives meaningful change. By working together, we can leverage our collective expertise and resources to address complex challenges, unlock new opportunities, and ultimately shape a brighter future for all. In 2023, e&’s Q3 financial results reflect our resilience in the face of macro-economic challenges. We reported AED 7.7 billion net profit; the highest in the history of the Group in a nine-month period and a 4.6% jump in reported currency year-over-year,” said Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO, e&.

At MWC this year, e& will join its global counterparts in this global conversation sharing its experiences from its transformation journey. It will also join its peers and technology leaders to gain insights on the innovation that has driven every industry through advanced technologies— from manufacturing, retail and healthcare to automotive, utilities and entertainment.

Through immersive technologies, 5G is taking center stage along with technologies that make a sustainable impact; it is changing the way we live, work and consume information.

e& is at the heart of this evolution, taking great strides in enabling innovations in the physical, digital and virtual worlds. This will also be a great platform to explore how we can completely transform customer experience and unlock immense possibilities by bringing people closer together.

Global Expansion and the Pursuit of Innovation

“Our relentless focus on excellence and innovation has allowed us to thrive in the dynamic landscape of the telecommunications and technology sectors.  We continued to focus on the power of our technology prowess to form new paths, disrupt industries and transform the way we do business on a global scale. Our expansions through the year were a combination of our innovative, customer-centric strategies and investments into technologies and new markets,” explained Dowidar.

e& broadened its horizons with investments in Vodafone, followed by a binding agreement to acquire a majority stake in PPF Telecom Group, expanding into Central and Eastern Europe (mainly Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia).

Most recently, we expanded our operations in Pakistan with the 100% acquisition of Telenor Pakistan, bringing together the strengths and expertise of both PTCL and Telenor Pakistan; and creating synergies that will drive innovation, bolster the market, and enable them to reach a broader customer base, accelerating their digital transformation journey.

The USD 400 million investment in Careem was another strategic move that aligned with our ambitious strategy, expanding our range of services and digital offerings for consumers, while propelling transformation into a global technology group.

Through strategic acquisitions like elGrocer, Smartworld, and a merger with Khazna, e& is expanding beyond telecom into diverse sectors. The STARZPLAY acquisition demonstrates our commitment to international expansion in the entertainment and financial technology domains.

Beyond telecoms, e& is strengthening its presence in fintech, entertainment, and SuperApps, simplifying digital interactions and shaping the future of personalized digital experiences worldwide.

Leading the digital transformation journey across the business sector, e& enterprise made considerable achievements through acquisitions and strategic partnerships to deliver the best technologies that empower businesses across the region.

e& enterprise acquired a majority stake in Beehive— MENA’s leading peer-to-peer digital platform— to tap into opportunities in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) lending market. This also marked the next step in e& enterprise’s expansion, as the move demonstrates our commitment to opening new avenues of growth across the UAE and in the region, while enabling Beehive to scale its business and expand its offerings.

Our venture capital arm, e& capital, led the investment round for companies varying from video learning production companies (like almentor making a mark in the Middle East with Arabic content) to Ikigai Labs (who are on a mission to democratize AI and make it more accessible).

Navigating the Transition From Telecom to Technology

The transformation of e& from a giant telco to a trusted global technology and investment group has been a journey filled with breaking boundaries, envisioning futuristic ideas that will change the world, and deploying next-generation technologies that will impact every industry. This year alone, e& has taken massive strides in entering strategic partnerships and has made several acquisitions for future business growth, driven by its relentless commitment to providing innovative solutions for the benefit of its customers: while offering long-term sustainable investment opportunities for its investors.

“One of the main aspects of our ambitious strategy is to enhance customer experiences across all segments by ideating, designing, and delivering a range of innovative and breakthrough technologies, driven by its track record of success. This strategy is aimed at accelerating growth through the creation of a resilient business model that represents the Group’s main business pillars,” said Dowidar.

At e&, we have always done things differently since our foundation 48 years ago. The same focus has always remained: how can we enrich the lives of customers in the markets where we operate? Through our specialist business pillars, we are able to make a difference in progressing from multimedia to health to tech to sustainability, and more.

Looking back at the ever-evolving landscape of business and technology, it has become imperative to embrace the transformative power of AI and autonomous technologies. In this era of innovation, e&’s success hinges not only on our ability to adapt but also our willingness to adopt the limitless possibilities of these advancements. At e&, we have seamlessly integrated AI into our strategy and business, paving the way for the future of intelligent automation.

A major step in this direction was the launch of the world’s first AI-powered autonomous telecom store, ‘EASE’ — the self-service store in Dubai— a first in the country.

EASE stores leverage e&’s expertise and technological capabilities to align with future customer needs to offer a unique shopping experience. Offering access to all consumer products and services including mobile devices and accessories, the fully-automated store utilizes cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), sensors, smart gates, digital touch points, and autonomous device and trade-in machines. These technologies work together to provide customers with a seamless shopping journey.

This is a significant milestone in e&’s journey of becoming a digital telco and is a testament to our constant endeavour to implement innovative digital solutions. With the launch of the EASE store, e& proudly became the world's first telecom company to offer such a distinctive customer experience.

“Today we stand at the intersection of innovation and sustainability, and it is only fitting that we take this moment to reflect on the profound impact of technological advancement on our world. Technology plays a pivotal role in shaping the way we live, work and interact,” said Dowidar. “We are committed to embracing this responsibility wholeheartedly and have taken a major step to support electric mobility in the UAE with the launch of ‘Charge&Go.’ Through Charge&Go, e& isn't just part of the conversation; we're leading it. It signifies our commitment to shaping a sustainable future and cements e&’s position at the helm of the electric mobility metamorphosis.”

The momentum behind electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to grow exponentially, with global sales soaring— and the UAE is making significant strides.

e& expects an annual EV demand growth of 30% from 2022 to 2028. Charge&Go is more than just a charging station network; it's a commitment to a greener future, and part of this commitment is to reach net zero within UAE operations by 2030. These stations will be strategically placed nationwide to offer users a dependable, affordable, and easily accessible charging solution. The initiative aligns e& with transformative goals such as the Emirates Net Zero 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy (DIES) 2030.

This ecosystem is a result of collaborative ventures with key energy stakeholders, which aims to provide a reliable, user-focused charging journey. e& aims to establish one of the largest electric vehicle charging ecosystems, collaborating with both government and private sectors to achieve this vision.

“At e&, we don't just envision a greener tomorrow; we're actively enabling it. We're working collaboratively to realize the UAE's vision to become the most expansive EV charging network. Through Charge&Go, we're promoting electric mobility and building a holistic, end-to-end EV charging solution that's both reliable and accessible,” highlighted Dowidar.

e&: Leading Innovation

In line with our ambitions, e& maintains a strong focus on AI and 5G, recognizing them as the two most pivotal innovations of our time. The powerful synergy created by AI and 5G is rapidly reshaping our world. e& is deeply immersed on both fronts, delivering high-speed, low-latency 5G data (the lifeblood of AI algorithms) and deploying AI technologies to drive automation, efficiencies, and sustainability in our operations and as-a-service to other businesses.

Dowidar acknowledges the enduring significance of telcos but believes the rapidly evolving landscape, coupled with potential disruption from next-gen communication technologies, requires constant adaptation and a departure from traditional business practices.

“In any industry, it is essential to avoid complacency, and instead, be prepared and agile enough to evolve your objectives and strategies,” he explained. “While the telecommunications industry has traditionally thrived on established business models, staying ahead in today’s dynamic environment requires agility and adaptation. Embracing this mindset, we’ve diversified revenue sources, enhanced stakeholder value, and embarked on a journey of organizational transformation and meaningful service creation.”

As e& shifts its focus from being a telco-first company to a technology company, we are making many investments in AI and offering it as-a-service to our enterprise customers. e& enterprise provides comprehensive consultancy services that specialize in tailoring holistic end-to-end digital transformation solutions— from design to implementation and operation. These innovations cover various capabilities, such as cloud computing, data and AI, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things (IoT). With a strong belief in the ability of AI to enhance efficiencies, the Group has recently appointed its first Chief AI & Data Officer to execute the master strategy.

“AI is at the core of our operations and has transformed the way we operate and address customer needs. Through our experience, AI has enhanced the quality of our services, network efficiency, and cost efficiency simultaneously,” said Dowidar.

e& has consistently been a frontrunner in adopting new technologies. The company rapidly implements advanced tools and solutions to address resource gaps encountered by enterprises. AI and robotics have empowered e& customers to take control of their experience. “Our AI-powered chatbot agents and self-service portals swiftly resolve issues and access information round the clock. This allows our customer service agents to focus on providing personalized support for complex inquiries, leading to faster resolutions, improved customer satisfaction, and a more convenient experience for all,” said Dowidar.

e&’s most momentous AI-driven initiative was the launch of EASE.  The innovative project showcased e&’s commitment to anticipating and exceeding customer needs through machine learning (ML) and represents a paradigm shift in the telecom industry, offering a differentiated and entirely AI-driven customer experience.

The deployment of cloud-based services and virtual networks as e&’s backend infrastructure has ensured that the company can scale its AI activities securely while enabling it to pursue cutting-edge projects that hold the potential for generating future revenue streams. The proliferation of connected devices and data generation (due to 5G) will require advancements in cloud and edge computing to efficiently process and store data. As more devices and systems connect to the network, robust cybersecurity measures will be essential to safeguard against cyberattacks and privacy breaches.

Acknowledging AI's potential as a ‘super brain’ is undeniable, Dowidar said its integration into society requires a more cautious approach. "True progress involves establishing a healthy relationship with AI, where its capabilities augment, complement, and amplify human strengths while mitigating potential risks."

While e&’s GCEO asserts the significant role of strong governance and effective regulation in ensuring AI is a force for good, he also recognizes that effective implementation begins at home.

"The rapid adoption of AI presents both challenges and opportunities.  As industry leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that safety and ethics keep pace with the urgency to roll out new technologies. Establishing a clear ethics framework can mitigate risks and facilitate responsible AI use cases. Pilot programmes play a crucial role in understanding and addressing weaknesses before the widespread implementation of AI-driven services. Cybersecurity is paramount, particularly in interconnected data systems, and we're prioritizing the integration of security considerations into all our AI-driven initiatives."

e& prioritizes ethical considerations at every stage of AI development and deployment. We aim to unlock its true potential to solve complex challenges, drive sustainable development, and create a more equitable world by moving beyond simplistic notions of AI dominance and embracing human-centred design principles.

Achieving Positive and Tangible Change for Climate Action

Our business today is committed to contributing towards climate challenges and actively participating in the global climate action agenda. Sustainability is a key factor in our overall mission towards maintaining Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards.

e&’s commitments to achieving zero carbon emissions across its own operations (Scope 1 and 2) in all markets by 2040 entails embarking on a decisive journey towards environmental sustainability, building on the company’s previous commitment to become net zero across its own operations in the UAE by 2030.

e& also remains committed to net zero emissions across its entire value chain (Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions) by 2050, reducing the Group's total emissions in absolute terms and mitigating the remaining emissions through high-quality carbon offsetting.

“Our strategy is multi-faceted: improving energy efficiency, investing in renewable energy, minimizing grid waste and promoting responsible procurement. In addition, our Sustainability-as-a-Service initiative enables businesses to minimize their environmental impact, underlining our role as a catalyst in global sustainability efforts,” highlights Dowidar.

COP28 was an exceptional event for e& to unite efforts and work with partners to achieve positive and tangible change. e& also showcased a range of sustainable initiatives, from green connectivity solutions to innovative IoT applications for climate resilience. These initiatives underscore e&'s role in driving sustainable digital transformation, and its commitment to a greener future. 

In fact, the venue of the global event demonstrated a complete net zero 5G Massive MIMO site deployment— a first in the MENA region. The venue was powered entirely by renewable energy. This 5G site represents the convergence of sustainability and cutting-edge wireless technology. This collaboration ushers in a new era of green network infrastructure, demonstrating the region's most energy-efficient 100% off-grid 5G site to date, powered by an innovative AI-based energy management system (which is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by around 26 tonnes per year). In the UAE, e& also integrated a zero-footprint RAN site within its network, focusing on eliminating carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency, and conserving resources, in alignment with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.

Another major initiative that reduces carbon emissions was the stride towards replacing light vehicles with electric vehicles utlizing Charge&Go. This forms part of a pilot plan to be implemented in phases by 2030, with the first phase starting with the replacement of 100 vehicles. Prior to the event, over half a million Green SIM cards were made available to visitors and attendees in the UAE for the COP28 event.

In an effort to spearhead the decarbonization of the telecom industry and significantly reduce our carbon footprint, e& (in collaboration with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Sustainability Alliance) unveiled the Innovation Hub for Power Solutions, created in partnership with regional and international partners like stc, Zain, Beyon, Ooredoo, Omantel, du, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and Intel. As a central platform and collaborative ecosystem for sharing expertise and green solutions, it will play a vital role in aligning with e&'s long-term strategy of incorporating sustainable energy sources and achieving net-zero emissions.

In a move that aims to support sustainable solutions and efforts towards climate action, e& also joined the Green Digital Action Initiative (convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with over 40 partners)— marking another step forward in e&'s strategy to achieve net-zero targets and support efforts aimed at a sustainable future.

The signing of a sustainable loan of AED 366 million, was another landmark moment during COP28 aligning with our ambitious climate action commitments at the event. This is an important step towards financing sustainable projects that have a positive, real-time impact on communities.

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