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Dr Sultan A. Bahabri, chairman Hits Telecom

Dr Sultan A. Bahabri, chairman Hits Telecom

A medical doctor by training, Sultan A.Bahabri was drawn to the telecommunications field by the possibilities it offered for e-health initiatives. He founded Hits Telecom to bid for the second GSM licence in Saudi Arabia in 2003. While his bid was unsuccessful (as was a second attempt, losing to Zain in 2007), Hits went into business with licence winner Etisalat, providing customer care and distribution services.

The firm now operates in Tanzania, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea and the DRC in Africa, has a presence in Spain and an operation in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.

Bahabri describes Hits as a “version 3.0 company”, with a global presence from the first days of operation. He insists the firm is highly adaptable and is open to a variety of models for its expansion. Physical networks and asset ownership may work in one market, while an MVNO launch may suit another. Bahabri has hinted at a move into the Chinese market, but has offered no details as to the form it would take.

He wants to target the mid tier of communications consumers, and argues that in doing so he will create “a new league” of operators.

Cost management is key to Hits and Bahabri warns against the “dangerous combination of ego and cash” that “leads to so many mistakes” from operators investing in new markets. His medical background remains key to Hits Telecom, he told MCI in June, and the firm is planning a major e-health initiative in partnership with at least one large medical non-profit organisation.

This should launch in one African market before the end of the year, he said, with more to follow in 2010. Bahabri believes that carriers’ key assets today are intangible, that the network has become a commodity and that most of the big western vendors are set to disappear soon. He claims his firm’s finances are solid, it’s not leveraged and his plans for expansion, while changing all the time in reaction to world economic markets, remain very much on track. If this is the case, definitely one to watch.


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