Latest Newsmore "The potential is significant, given the hunger for quality entertainment in the region

Interviews with speakers confirmed to attend the IPTV Forum Middle East & Africa, taking place in Dubai later this month, we speak to Roberto Kauffmann, Senior Manager Projects (Fixed Products) and Souhail Haddaji, Vice President of Marketing (Fixed Products) at UAE telco du.

Mr. Kaufmann is presently involved in replacing du's current IPTV service with a new customer proposition and platform. In previous roles, he helped blue-chip electronics and content companies to set up new-media businesses, created global alliances for a telecoms software start-up, developed home entertainment intelligence systems at Sony Europe, set up Sony Business Europe's e-business operation and Internet development group, worked as a global applications consultant for Oracle, set-up CompuServe's first German Internet products and recuperated government funds that vanished during the German re-unification.

‪Mr. Haddaji joined du in 2008 bringing over 15 years experience in the telecommunications and media industry. In his current role, Haddaji oversees the voice, data and IPTV new products' development and launch for consumer and enterprise customers. ‪Prior to du, Mr. Haddaji spent 9 years with Gemini Consulting Paris office, helping CxOs from EMEA leading telecom operators to design and launch new offers and to create value through large transformation programs, including: Orange, AOL, Canal+, Zain and Maroc Telecom.‬

Having recently revamped its IPTV offering, where does du now stand in terms of subscriber numbers and service footprint?

RK: Thanks to its strong value proposition, the launch of the new IPTV service by du (du TV+) has been a success and most welcomed by our customers. du TV+ is now available to new home customers in the areas covered by du’s fixed-line network. Existing du home customers are being migrated to du TV+ services in a phased manner by swapping the du TV decoders. In the third quarter of this year du total fixed-lines reached 358,000.

What growth have you experienced over the past 12 months, and do you think this growth can accelerate further?

Despite a difficult economic climate, du achieved in the fixed business in the third quarter of 2009 a strong growth compared to the same period in 2008. du will continue to focus on its customers, by providing them the best customer experience and the right products offers to accelerate its business growth.

What have been the major difficulties encountered so far?

Like any major transformation program, launching the new IPTV offer on a new platform and new decoders has been challenging from both a technology and business point of view: integrating with legacy systems, developing an intuitive and superior UI, obtaining reliable EPG data to enable the powerful search experience are some examples. However, du teams across all functions brightly overcame these challenges and delivered to the market a superior TV customer experience that has been praised by our customers.

Do consumers in the UAE seem enthusiastic for IPTV, given the prevalence of DTH services?

We conduct frequent customer research on all aspects of the du TV experience. Our customers consistently rate our new du TV service highly, with the majority of our new customers stating that it exceeds their TV experience with previous services elsewhere. DTH doesn’t provide the kind of service that a new generation of customers demand.

With some 300 free and pay channels, the largest choice of high-definition channels, the best possible EPG, a PVR able to record 2 parallel HD channels, pausing and rewinding live TV, we can confidently say that du today provides one of the most exciting home entertainment experiences in the Middle East.

What potential do you think IPTV has in the wider MEA region? How can companies and governments help support this?

The potential is significant, given the hunger for quality entertainment and information in the region. One of key the issue that needs to be addressed is obviously satellite and DVD piracy. Companies can help by tapping into the creative talent available in the region, growing a professional movie and media industry that takes advantage of the many new doors that IPTV can and will open.


Mr. Kaufmann will be delivering a presentation entitled 'Migrating customers and STBs from a legacy IPTV service' on Day 2 (November 16th) of this year's IPTV Forum MEA event, discussing the challenges of a large-scale CPE/customer migration, how to transform the user experience by upgrading equipment and overcoming technical limitations to provide a superior product.

This year's IPTV Forum MEA will take place in Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Hotel once more on November 15th-16th, offering 26 service provider presentations, as well as a focus on the Indian IPTV market, with conference sessions free to attend for operators from Africa and Southeast Asia. The event will give attendees a chance to meet the entire value chain for the region's IPTV market under one roof, including operators, ISPs, content providers, property developers and hoteliers, manufacturers, vendors, regulators and consultants.