Displaying items by tag: Virgin Mobile

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 09:55

Virgin Mobile UAE’s ‘customer-centric’ approach

Virgin Mobile UAE’s mobile plans are “totally customer-centric” said Product Manager Juraj Cangar speaking at the brand’s Design District HQ in Dubai on September 6. Customers can have their SIM card delivered to them “within an hour”, personalize their monthly mobile plan, and choose their own phone number, all via an in-house built app.

The fully app-based mobile service is part of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), the parent company of ‘du’. Both Virgin Mobile UAE and du will share EITC’s telecom network, allowing for Virgin Mobile to “focus more on customer experience and innovation rather than worrying about infrastructure,” said Managing Director Karim Benkirane.

Virgin Mobile UAE is unique in the sense that it doesn’t require customers to visit a physical store. Everything to do with your mobile plan is done through the app that was built by the Virgin Mobile UAE team. To join, you can simply download the app, register your details, and then choose your monthly plan (data package, international calling, international roaming, etc).

The best aspect of the app-based service is that you can edit your mobile package every month to suit your needs. For example, if you set your data plan at 1GB per month and realize it’s not enough, you can change it to 2GB (or higher/lower) for the next month. It’s important to note, though, that changes made to a plan won’t be implemented until the current plan has finished after 30 days.

Payment for the mobile package is made via credit card. Then, you must state whether you’re a visitor or a resident. This is a breakthrough feature for tourists coming to the UAE. Etisalat and du require Emirates identification to start a mobile plan which is often inconvenient for new arrivals to the UAE and tourists who want to temporarily use a local mobile network to make calls and use data.

If you’re a Virgin Mobile UAE customer and planning to travel abroad, you can pause your plan until you get back, rather than paying for a whole month’s worth of unused service. You can also customize your roaming package by selecting the country you plan to visit and choosing your package. What’s great is that the roaming package won’t begin until you start using the service in that country.

Another interesting feature Virgin Mobile UAE introduced is the ability to choose your own mobile number without having to visit a store. Following market research, the team discovered that “in the UAE people want to have their own personalized number,” said Mr. Cangar. “You can also bring your own number to Virgin Mobile. You don’t have to fill out any papers – just go through the app, find the number, and it’s yours,” he said.

Once you’ve registered your mobile plan (residents must scan a copy of their Emirates ID), your SIM card will be delivered directly to you. Virgin Mobile UAE partnered with ride-hailing firm Careem and trained some drivers to deliver the SIM cards. Drivers have an app that scans the customer’s information and then activates their SIM card. All Virgin Mobile UAE SIM cards are the same until a customer’s mobile plan is uploaded.

The Virgin Mobile UAE app can be downloaded via Google Play and Apple App Store. For now, the brand is focussing on Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, Mr. Benkirane said, and because it’s such a new service, he couldn’t offer any details about user numbers at this stage. Ultimately, the emergence of Virgin Mobile’s new service is an exciting step forward for the UAE as it continues to adopt a more digital and data-centric approach.

Published in Telecom Operators
Sunday, 10 September 2017 13:16

Virgin Mobile brand officially launches in UAE

The Virgin Mobile brand was officially launched by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) on August 5 in the UAE, bringing the first fully digital mobile service to the country. Virgin Mobile offers simple and transparent technology and a unique consumer experience through its innovative app-based service.

Earlier this year, following the announcement by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) to bring the Virgin Mobile brand to the UAE, Virgin founder and global entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson visited the UAE to see the digital service in development.

Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC, commented: “Today, we are delighted to add such a well-known global brand to our portfolio, which is critical to our strategy of offering more choice for consumers in the UAE. We feel privileged to have welcomed Richard Branson to the UAE earlier this year, and to have his passionate support for the brand.”  

“We have always worked hard to offer our customers the latest technologies and the best service, and we believe Virgin Mobile’s fully digital offering is ushering a new era in connectivity and customer-led service never seen before in the UAE,” he continued.

The Virgin Mobile UAE app signifies a paradigm shift in the mobile industry, digitally designed to simplify life for customers, and the unique Virgin Mobile distribution model allows customers to download the app and have the SIM card delivered to their homes or office throughout the UAE. The digital experience gives Virgin Mobile UAE customers flexibility and convenience, putting control of their mobile service back into the customer’s hands.

Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder said, “This is a very exciting time for us, and we are proud to announce the launch of the Virgin Mobile brand in the UAE. The digital service that Virgin Mobile is offering is world-class and cutting-edge. We have a fantastic team in place who I believe will make mobile better for customers across the UAE.”

The Virgin Mobile UAE app, which can be downloaded via the Google Play and Apple App Store, enables customers to hand-pick their own mobile number, custom-make a mobile plan, scan their ID, and have the Virgin Mobile UAE SIM card delivered anywhere in the UAE within an hour.

Using the Virgin Mobile UAE app, customers can port their mobile number without visiting a store, track their data and minute usage in real time, search and choose their favourite mobile number, set up monthly spend limits, and more. The subscription-based model means that there is no need for a contract, giving customers the flexibility to decide how they want to communicate with family and friends without being constrained by specific time bound terms and conditions. 

Consumers in the UAE are already passionate about the Virgin brand, as Virgin Megastore, Virgin Radio and Virgin Atlantic have all been setting the standard for innovation, service excellence and customer experience inherent in this leading global brand.

Beta users were the first to try out the Virgin Mobile digital experience, providing valuable feedback which the Virgin Mobile UAE team has used to add the final touches to its mobile app.

“After months of rigorous testing, we are pleased to bring the first fully digital mobile service to the UAE”, said Karim Benkirane, Managing Director of EITC’s Virgin Mobile business unit. “Our team has developed an innovative digital platform to create simple customer-focused solutions. For example, there is no longer the need to go to a shop for your mobile needs, just download the app and you can not only have your SIM delivered, but also manage your mobile plan through the app.” 

Published in Telecom Operators

Virgin Mobile, Vodacom and Bua Group are among companies potentially interested in buying 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, according to a report by ThisDay. 9mobile recently rebranded after the UAE’s Etisalat terminated its management agreement with its Nigerian unit, giving up its 45 percent stake to a trustee.

Etisalat pulled out of Nigeria after its firm couldn’t come to an agreement with its lenders to restructure its $1.2 billion debt after it missed payments. Following Etisalat’s exit, the Nigerian firm announced it had rebranded as 9mobile and said it is open to discussions with new investors.

According to the report, Virgin Mobile, Vodacom and Bua Group, a local diversified business with a stake in various sectors, all plan to submit their memoranda of interest and technical presentations to a consortium of banks which have appointed advisers to evaluate acquisition bids.

Virgin Mobile is said to be willing to absorb the balance of the $1.2 billion debt 9mobile owes to 13 financial institutions, and stands out as the likely winner. Virgin’s chances are also high because of Vodacom’s rivalry with South Africa’s MTN over the years, therefore several former MTN Nigeria executives are backing Virgin’s potential bid.

If Virgin successfully takes control of 9mobile, it will reportedly execute a development strategy in which every cell site will be upgraded to 3G or 4G. The move could be extremely beneficial for a nation that has mostly 2G cell sites.

9mobile has about a 13 percent share of Nigeria’s mobile market, according to GSMA Intelligence, behind MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel.

Published in Telecom Operators

Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (“du”) published its financial results on July 25 for the quarter ended 30 June 2017, and announced its plans to distribute AED 589.3 million of interim dividends to its shareholders for the first half of 2017 at 13 fils per share, subject to approval at the General Meeting in September 2017.

In its published financial results for the second quarter of 2017, the company delivered AED 3.26 billion in Revenue, up 6.2% from AED 3.07 billion in Q2 2016. Net Profit before royalty was AED 974 million for the period.

“EITC has made steady progress in the second quarter of 2017, with a 6.2% increase in Revenue and a slight improvement in Net Profit,” said CEO Osman Sultan. “Driven by growth in handset sales, wholesale and fixed revenues, total Revenue reached AED 3.26 billion in Q2 2017, representing a 6.2% increase over the same period last year. Revenue has also shown growth over the first six months of the year with a 4.3% increase to AED 6.42 billion.

Mr. Sultan added that the company’s mobile customer base increased 1.5% during Q2 2017 to 8.2 million customers, up from 8.1 million in Q2 2016. This was largely due, he said, to the company’s strategy of focusing more on attracting and retaining higher quality customers, with solid growth in post-paid customer additions.

Despite a steady performance during the quarter and the first half of the year, EITC continues to be impacted by challenging market conditions, Mr. Sultan added, with pressure on mobile rates and data monetization. Consequently, EBITDA and Net Profit stand at the same level as Q2 2016.

“Looking towards a smart future, we have made further investments into Smart Dubai, the Virgin Mobile brand and adjacent markets,” he said. “We will continue to invest in the future generation capacity of the business; EITC is a digital enabler and will be able to create new revenue opportunity as digital transformation for both consumers and enterprises opens up new markets.”

A major highlight for the second quarter of the year for EITC was its progress with the introduction of the Virgin Mobile brand. During the period, the company began a program of pre-launch customer registration and conducted trial tests.

“We enrolled a few select number of UAE residents to test the product and its customer service, and are happy with the feedback received,” said Mr. Sultan. “We look forward to the full commercial launch of the Virgin Mobile brand in the UAE soon, and with it, bringing a fully digital and premium customer experience.”

He concluded, “Our results are backed by our commitment to the future development of a digitally-enabled ecosystem. During the period, we achieved a milestone development in connectivity technology, with the successful testing of a 5G solution that will significantly upgrade connectivity speed for our users. With this initiative and more to come, we remain committed to a smart future, and the Government’s vision for a smart nation.”

Published in Finance

Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA) has announced the appointment of Alan Gow as the Group CEO, to further bolster the existing management team. He will be based at the Group’s regional HQ in Dubai, UAE.

Mr. Gow comes with an extensive Virgin senior leadership profile, having been a co-founder of the original Virgin Mobile in the UK alongside Sir Richard Branson, and an architect of the company’s ground-breaking economic model as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

Speaking from Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa’s Dubai HQ, Mr. Gow said: “I am thrilled that my Virgin Mobile journey has brought me to the UAE to lead the dynamic Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa team. The Middle East and Africa region is entering an exciting phase in its evolution, and I look forward to working with this highly talented team as we pursue a strategy of digital transformation, and drive the launch of innovative products and services that put our people and customer experience at the heart of everything we do. “

Mr. Gow brings a wealth of experience in leading the Virgin Mobile brand into new markets, having been instrumental in growing Virgin Mobile in the UK from a start-up to a $1bn company in just under four years. He was also responsible for steering the company through a series of funding rounds and a highly successful IPO on the London Stock Exchange in 2004. This was followed in 2006 with a $1.6bn sale transaction to create the ‘Virgin Media’ group in the UK, a world leader in converged communications technologies.

He has subsequently advised on Virgin Mobile’s Latin American roll-out, and led the company’s expansion in Central & Eastern Europe as Group Chief Executive Officer.

Speaking at a recent visit to the UAE, Sir Richard Branson commented on the appointment of Mr. Gow: “Alan has been a key member of the Virgin Mobile family from the very beginning of the company and has delivered stunning results for the Group time and time again. With such an experienced and proven pair of hands at the helm I have no doubt that there will be exciting times ahead as Alan and his team lead the way in innovation and continue to shake up the telecoms industry in the region.”

Mr. Gow has over 20 years of experience in mobile telecoms in both the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) and MVNO sectors, having previously worked with the network operator T-Mobile in the UK. He holds an MBA with distinction from Manchester Business School and is a member of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Mr. Gow joins as Group CEO, while Mikkel Vinter remains in post as Founder & Director for Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa.

Published in Telecom Operators

Established in 2014 in Saudi Arabia, Virgin Mobile turns out to be successful in targeting the largest mobile market in the Middle East and especially the youth. In an interview, Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia's CEO, Fouad Halawi, talked about the company's achievement so far, the hosting of MVNO that boosted competition and its  close relationship with the young consumer.

Why was Virgin launched in Saudi Arabia in 2014? For example, what gaps did you see in the market where you saw a brand like Virgin Mobile could flourish?
Several factors contributed to Virgin's launch in Saudi Arabia, the most prominent of which include the CITC issuing of licenses for MVNO's to operate in the Kingdom, allowing us to access a huge market that was previously unavailable to us. Secondly, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest markets in the Middle East, especially when one takes into consideration the telecom industry within the country itself. Operators have access to an extremely diverse population that can be tapped into on several touch points.

Finally, one of the major pulls for launching in KSA was the youth segment in the Kingdom which is by far the largest segment of all, representing around 50% of the total population. Given that no operator in KSA targets the youth specifically, we thought it was just perfect to do so given the size of this segment, especially given the fact that Virgin Mobile is a youth brand at heart, and our product offering is tailor made for the youth's wants and needs.

How did the CITC's decision in 2014 to make each of KSA's three mobile operators host an MVNO to boost competition affect the industry in Saudi Arabia?
The KSA mobile market has seen extraordinary growth over the last 10 years. Today, there are around 48 million mobile subscriptions compared to around 25 million in 2006. That growth led directly to the government's decision to allow MVNOs to enter the market which, in and of itself, has led to market disruption. MVNOs have shown the way forward for other operators - they're more agile, nimbler and more willing to take risks. Their youth means that they have less to lose and that has allowed them to compete against their well-established and often better-funded competitors.

For Virgin Mobile, the challenge of taking on the incumbents has been accepted wholeheartedly, from the way it looks after its customers to the look and feel of the stores to the customer-specified bundles. All aspects of the brand and service have been designed to appeal to the large swathe of people not satisfied with what they were getting from their operators. Virgin Mobile has been able to tap into the need for change felt by many young consumers and with its less-cumbersome structures and processes; it has been able to meet those needs.

Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia passed a significant milestone this year: crossing the 2 million customer mark. What does this achievement mean in terms of the company's growth?
Our philosophy has always been very straightforward: simple and fair propositions underpinned by a great customer experience. That has really resonated with Saudis - the Saudi youth in particular - and has been at the heart of our success since our launch just two years ago. Virgin Mobile's success lies in an absolute focus on innovation, both in its plans and customer experience. With one of the youngest populations on the planet and the highest smartphone penetration in the world, we have been able to capitalize on the demand for data due to shifting customer preference. As far as what this achievement means in terms of the company's future growth, we see two major points:

Broader Customer Base: Our company growth has the advantage of exposing Virgin Mobile to a wider audience. Customers, like employees, are important in operating a successful company. Our growth will place Virgin Mobile in the forefront of many customers' minds.

New Personnel: One clear advantage our businesses growth is the opportunity to staff the company with new, qualified Saudi youth. Since our people are our most important and valuable assets, acquiring new and talented personnel is a clear-cut advantage for Virgin Mobile. These people will bring fresh ideas to the organization and bring a sense of camaraderie to the organization.

Where are you seeing growth spots in Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia's customer range, and in what areas is the company innovating?
Virgin mobile Saudi Arabia is focusing on two main areas; first is improving the customer journey through major partnerships, the most recent one is partnering with Genesys in order to elevate the customer journey experience through a digital engagement center. This center will address issues and queries in a speedy and "informed" matter. Virgin believes it will increase efficiency and mostly increase customer satisfaction. The second area is youth engagement, through many initiatives and sponsorship of youth activities across the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has a large youth population. How does Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia appeal to the youth?
Virgin Mobile's success has been to break out of its original demographic heartland into a broader customer base. It no longer counts just the Saudi youth as it customers and a typical Virgin Mobile user is as likely to be in their 40s as 20s. What does mark out all Virgin Mobile customers is that they want to be - and be seen as - different. And Virgin Mobile has given them a natural home to express their differences; whether that's the bundle they choose for themselves or the way in which they interact with the company.

Published in Interviews

Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, the parent of the brand du which was launched ten years ago, announced the launch of Virgin Mobile in the UAE on January 31 in Dubai. EITC chief executive Osman Sultan stressed the fact that Virgin Mobile is not being launched as a new telecom operator in the UAE, but a new brand under EITC, aiming to cater to digital natives who live on their mobile phones. More details of the services that Virgin Mobile will offer in the UAE will come soon.

"It gives me great pleasure and great happiness to launch another brand by EITC, and that brand is Virgin Mobile," said Mr. Sultan at the press conference. "A new baby is born for EITC and we are privileged that we have the use of this brand. I think that everybody knows the Virgin Mobile brand and everybody knows we thrive for being customer-centric. We believe this makes perfect sense and it's a perfect match."

During the announcement, Mr. Sultan introduced Karim Benkirane, Managing Director of Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, who previously held the CEO position at Virgin Mobile KSA. Karim will be the "Managing Director of Virgin Mobile UAE in charge of operations working within EITC and reporting to me," said Mr. Sultan. He said in a few weeks more details about what services the Virgin Mobile brand will offer in the UAE will be released.

"I'm really proud to be part of EITC," said Mr. Benkirane. "I'm really proud to be part of this historic moment in this country. Virgin Mobile is a global brand and it's a consumer mobile brand. We have great experience in so many countries and we are trying to bring this experience and our expertise to the UAE market. We want to bring a differentiated experience, one that truly embraces digitalization."

"Digital transformation is our main focus and we believe that the digital revolution has changed completely our needs, so there is a niche market of people who live their lives on mobile, and Virgin would like to make their lives much easier and also make sure that we can make mobile better," Mr. Benkirane added.

EITC has full ownership, management, and operation of Virgin Mobile in the UAE, said Mr. Sultan. "Let me be very clear: This is not a third operator," he explained. "This is not a new license. This is not an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). EITC is introducing another brand - Virgin Mobile - after having acquired the rights to use the Virgin brand in the United Arab Emirates."

Sultan stressed the importance of understanding that the new brand doesn't represent a new telecom operator. No entity other than ETIC has any stake in the operations of the new brand. Just like du, Virgin Mobile will use the network and other infrastructure of EITC. It has the right to use the brand in the UAE.

All customer contracts, like du customers, will be in the name of EITC, the license operator, which eleven years ago, signed a contract with the TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority). EITC became a telecom operator in the UAE before the du brand existed. All regulatory obligations within the framework will be under the responsibility of EITC.

"Within EITC, we created a separate business unit," said Sultan, explaining the origins of Virgin Mobile as part of EITC. "This unit will do all of the marketing and interfacing, sales, customer care, product development, looking at customer experience, etc."

"In 2017, we are now in a world that is fast-changing, and I don't think I need a lot of words to convince you that this change is really radical," said Mr. Sultan, discussing the varying needs of digital natives today. "There is nothing that we do in our daily lives that is not being transformed by this digital universe," he said, adding that there is a need for customers to have services converged more smoothly - interconnected and converged services. Therefore, Virgin Mobile could be the answer for this.

Sultan said he has been observing the world we live in today, which ultimately led him to launch a new brand in the UAE similar to how EITC- a licensed operator - launched du ten years ago. "Launching another brand alongside du will cater to the needs of a segment and will be appealing to a large segment of the market and will fit totally with the DNA of EITC," he said.

"Almost ten years ago, EITC launched telecom services through the du brand," said Sultan, reflecting on the success of du. "It is true that we were not the first in this country or this region as a telco. But we have a solid history of firsts, certainly in this region and probably at a global level."

EITC was one of the first operators to offer Full Triple Play, and was one of the first operators globally to have used a full optical fiber network to go to homes or to businesses. Using fiber was a bet, but it was the right bet, said Sultan.

EITC was also the first operator in the region to offer Pay by the Second, and was the first to launch a multiple benefit recharge card. "Because we are dedicated to the UAE market, as a telecom operator, we were also the first to launch an Emirati plan dedicated to the specific needs of Emiratis," said Sultan.

"We look at our customers and we are driven by their needs, by what they like, what they want," he said. "We were the first to start payment on mobile, which indicated the way we were seeing how these instruments we carry will become transformative in our lives, and that you can do much more than just receive calls or send messages. We are an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the country."

"We were one of the first in the world to roll our Fiber to the Home (FTTH) - this is now mainstream for all telcos," Mr. Sultan continued. "On the other side of the spectrum, we were the first to deploy smart street lights in Dubai Silicon Oasis recently. Also, we are very proud to be the partner of the Dubai Smart Office, and proud that we launched WiFi UAE all across the nation. We are proud to be an enabler of this journey."

For more information on EITC's new brand 'Virgin Mobile', visit: www.virginmobile.ae

Published in Telecom Operators