Ziad Shatara

Ziad Shatara

CEO of Umniah

Telecom & IT / Jordan

“We are leading Jordan’s foray into the modern digital era”

When Umniah entered Jordan, it was a fierce and challenging market, but the telecom operator, a 96%-owned venture by Bahrain’s Batelco, has proven to be formidable. The company has since made an indelible mark in home broadband market and is now planning to explore entertainment content development. Ziad Shatara, CEO of Umniah, explains.

What are some facts and figures that best tell Umniah’s story?
In 2005, Umniah became the third telecommunications network to enter a highly competitive market where the purchasing power is low, the population is relatively small, and two international players already compete. In order to appeal to all consumer demographics, Umniah positioned its prices to a point that was affordable to everyone. By 2015, we reached 3 million mobile subscribers, which generate 70% of our revenue. We also have a home broadband and SME business, representing a 30% market share and generating around 20% of our revenue. Our third segment is enterprise services, in which we continue to raise the bar in terms of ICT services including Security, Data Center and Cloud Communications services, and we continue to be one of the strongest providers of these services for the financial sector and the government.

In 2017, we finalized the largest MPLS networking project in Jordan’s history, implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Special Communications Commission of the Jordanian Armed Forces. In addition to connecting the ministry to more than 2764 schools and education directorates nationwide, we also provided free high-speed safe internet connectivity to more than 1.3 million students and 100,000 teachers and staff. Since then, the number of connected schools has risen to 3,000.

Why did Batelco consider bids to sell Umniah stakes in 2016?
What Batelco wanted to do is go to the market and assess their asset. They did the assessment and withdrew the offer. Instead, Batelco remained and invested around $100 million to establish Umniah’s 4G network infrastructure in 2016.  Recently, Batelco invested an additional $300 million in network infrastructure to build our fixed wireless networks and mobile 4G infrastructure. Since then, our penetration has risen to a market share of 26% for mobile and 30% for fixed home broadband, and we are now ranked second in terms of fixed broadband communication after only thirty months of launching the service.

How did Umniah become a fixed home broadband leader?
Umniah’s strategy has always focused on two key areas: value for money and consistent network expansion. This is what has allowed us to thrive in this highly competitive market, besides the offers were simple and clear.

In terms of network expansion, we invested heavily in our fixed LTE network, which allowed us to provide fast and reliable home broadband services since 2016. This is one the main success stories for Umniah and the broadband internet market in Jordan, where internet penetration is among the highest in the region. We did not wish to use the mobile network for home use as this would have led to compromises in speed and reliability, particularly in densely populated areas. Instead, we adopted a dual-network approach, with our fixed internet network operating on the 3500 MHz spectrum and our mobile wireless network operating on the 1800 MHz spectrum.

How are you shaping the company going forward?
We believe that the future lies in the digital world, and we have been leading the industry in terms of digital transformation. This is why we have been working proactively to adjust our business model to meet the demands of our changing landscape, implementing aggressive and forward-thinking strategies to transform the customer journey into a purely digital experience and creating a versatile platform for mobile payment. We have also reinforced our efforts to establish frameworks to enhance our understanding of our customer data in order to build well-rounded databases for use across multiple expansion strategies.

Meanwhile, we continue to mark new milestones in enterprise services, also driven by a digital-focused strategy. Umniah’s Security Operations Center (SOC), for example, provides an array of integrated services including unified threat management, web application security, DNS security, DDOS mitigation, vulnerability management. All these services are managed security services over the cloud in partnerships with major players in the security industry, such as Fortinet, Rapid7, ARBOR, Netsparker and RSA. We also operate Tier III data centers to manage our cloud-based services, which is yet another asset for Jordan’s growing business landscape.

On the other hand, Umniah has always been associated with a firm focus on the youth segment. In addition to introducing a wide array of technologies specifically catering to the needs of the youth, Umniah has consistently focused on maintaining pricing and bundling strategies that make our services more accessible to younger customers. We want to be a lifestyle operator rather than just a telecom operator. We’re investing in sports, music and entertainment, and we’ve become the first to introduce live games in Jordan.

These services combined make Umniah a one-stop-shop for individuals and businesses of all sizes. Our strategy moving forward will be to invest in what customers want and to offer an integrated suite of services that allow all demographics in Jordan to embrace the modern digital revolution.