The company formerly known as Etisalat has partnered with the company formerly known as Facebook, essentially to highlight the significance of its recent rebrand.
Meanwhile, the company formerly known as Etisalat’s domestic arm in the UAE, which is still known as Etisalat, has inked a 5G private networks partnership with Nokia, which hasn’t had a name change since the 1800s…unless you count that brief Siemens dalliance.
In a move that engendered a collective ‘eh? what?’ from the telecoms press, Etisalat changed its group identity just over a month ago to a name it believes better encapsulates its role as a global tech firm and investment conglomerate, rather than a mere telco. As such, Etisalat Group is now known as e&. Yes, really. For the record, it’s pronounced ‘E and,’ which is worth pointing out lest anyone else spends a good few precious minutes trying to work out if there’s a pun on the word ampersand in there.
Once you get past the horror of the visual impact of it, the brand does basically make sense. Where once Etisalat was a telecoms operator group, now it is turning its attention to the ‘and’ – next-gen technologies, digital experiences, financial services, the cloud, IoT, AI and so forth. Essentially, everything that all major telco groups are looking at now… albeit without feeling the need to ditch their actual name in favour of an ampersand. There’s a video here for those that can stomach it.
As if to justify its decision, e& is now trumpeting a partnership with Meta – master of the recent rebrand – that will see the pair work together on digital transformation. The telco made an announcement to that effect, awash with buzzwords, but without actually giving much in the way of details.
“E& (formerly known as Etisalat Group) and Meta will work together on use cases that integrate with the latest Meta products and solutions, consumer channel digitalisation, enhancing Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and conversational commerce throughout its digital communication plans,” the telco said.
“An important element in our partnership with Meta is to design powerful, seamless digital experiences for all our customers so that they are empowered to advance their own digital transformation agenda with our support. Our advanced 5G network will ensure that we provide a platform that will combine multiple technologies to bring the internet to life and help our customers embrace a digital-first lifestyle more efficiently,” added Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO at e&.
E& is following a pattern set by other big telcos in deepening ties with the tech giants. The Meta deal comes less than a fortnight after e& announced the expansion of its partnership with Microsoft with a deal to integrate its 5G networks with Microsoft’s cloud, AI, edge and data services.
But possibly the most interesting angle of its rebrand is e&’s decision to describe itself as an investment conglomerate.
To backtrack a little, e& is now set up under four pillars. The first, telecom, is pretty self-explanatory; it covers the group’s existing telecoms operations, which will retain the Etisalat branding, and the firm’s plans to expand into new markets.
E& life and e& enterprise are the second and third pillars, covering new digital services and experiences in the consumer and business markets respectively. The fourth is e& capital, and that’s where the investor angle comes in.
“E& capital will act as a pillar for growth for the Group as it drives new acquisitions and mergers in line with its vision for investing in ideas that make the future,” the firm said. Those types of announcements from e& will make genuinely interesting reading.
In the meantime, the company is not resting on its laurels in telecoms.
It has brokered a private 5G networks deal with Nokia in its home market. The pair will work together to roll out private networks for enterprise customers across Abu Dhabi, targeting industries including ports, oil and gas, as well as government and critical infrastructure. Solutions will include Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), Modular Private Wireless (MPW) and Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC), the companies said. They have already rolled out a private 5G network based on the DAC platform at Etisalat’s innovation centre in Abu Dhabi to enable them to demonstrate use cases to enterprise customers.
“This partnership will assist Etisalat in increasing revenue while leveraging 5G spectrum and deployment,” noted Rima Manna, Vice President of Middle East Business at Nokia.
And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Questionable rebrand or otherwise.