Radwan Moussalli and his transformative cable-to-cloud journey

Ehtesham Shahid

Published: Updated:

Even by Dubai’s cosmopolitan standards, it is not easy to find someone with as diverse a background as Radwan Moussalli. He was born in Damascus, studied in the UK and is now a Canadian national.

Radwan had brief stints working in Kuwait and the US before moving to Dubai. In 1996, Radwan joined Teleglobe Canada and was with the company until 2006 when Indian tech giant Tata Communications acquired the company.

As a result, Radwan became Tata Communication’s employee number 1 in the region. He worked from home for the first year. Since the company did not have a license to operate, working with partners became part of its DNA.

There has been no looking back since then and he has now got so well entrenched that his acquaintance often call him “a museum”, in jest of course. Radwan is now the company’s Senior Vice President looking after Middle East, Central Asia and Africa regions.

From cable to cloud

Here is a measure of Radwan’s longevity in the industry. During his early days, 2 megabits of data would cost $40,000, compared to less than $200 today. Radwan sees this not only as transformative to the core but also a sign of things to come.

“We are the only generation to have seen both Telex and Whatsapp and we are able to digest the changes and be able to transform”. Radwan also remembers the first trans-Atlantic cable system that was built by Teleglobe Canada in the late 80s and the early 90s.

“It was probably the first or second submarine cable system of 5 Gegabits capacity. People in the industry were questioning our CEO about his wisdom behind building cable of such capacity”.

“I have seen the technology evolve and it has been a really interesting and exciting journey,” he says while hosting an Iftar event at the Armani Hotel, which Tata Communications has made into an annual affair.

The Group

Radwan’s profile truly complements the organization he represents in the region. Tata Communications is part of the $103 billion Tata Group, and among a lot of other things, owns and operates the largest submarine cable system around the world. Its global subsea and terrestrial network covers 710,000 km.

As many as 1,600 telcos, 70 percent of the world’s mobile network operators, use the network and the company has invested $1.19 billion on the project. Over 24 percent of the world’s internet routes are on Tata Communications’ network.

The nature of business not just keeps Radwan and his team busy with maintenance and upkeep they have to constantly anticipate. “No matter how many cables you build, no matter what’s the capacity of these cables, we are still upgrading the systems every 2 years”, he says.

This is why the company believes in building the infrastructure and moving into value added services, into cloud services, managed security and media services. “The infrastructure is the cable system and that is where majority of our investment has gone,” Radwan adds.

Radwan hosting an annual Iftar event for media personnel at the Armani Hotel. (Photo courtesy: Tata Communications)
Radwan hosting an annual Iftar event for media personnel at the Armani Hotel. (Photo courtesy: Tata Communications)

Building partnerships

Tata Communications CEO set the agenda few years ago by stating that the company wants to see at least 25 percent its revenues coming from partnership relationships.

“Today, as far as my region is concerned, 40 percent of the revenue comes from partnerships which exceeds the company’s expectations. However, this has happened naturally as we have no other choice but to go with partners.”

Not surprisingly, cloud services present the most lucrative business opportunities in Radwan’s territories. “Basically managed hosting, services, storage and media cloud services are very fast and we call them gross services. I think these will continue growing as we go along,” he says.

Formula One

Besides the cables and clouds that form the backbone of the digital world, Tata Communications takes a lot of pride in another unique relationship they have with the region. It has completed the fifth year of contract with Formula One, providing connectivity for the 20 races that F1 does all over the world.

“Here in the region we also work very closely with our partners…as they are 2 races that happen here – in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. So we work with Etisalat here and with Batelco in Bahrain to provide connectivity for the race,” says Radwan.

What next?

Over and above the core of providing telecommunications solutions and services, Tata Communications routinely helps clients sail through a phase of transformation.

“For digital transformation, you need to work closely with your partners and clients to help them go through digital transformation. Also for your company – you really need to transform yourself to adhere to these digital transformation requirements,” he says.

All this means helping customers become borderless, more cost effective, secure and so forth. The theme that guides them today is “how to provide solutions for customers to go through these digital transformation”.

But, business apart, how is a day in the life of Radwan Moussalli? “A cable cut can make it a very busy day and if there is a new DDoS attack, it’s an even busier day,” Radwan says with a broad grin.

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