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Interviews

Stefano Linari, Founder & CEO of Alleantia

Karim Hussami

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Stefano Linari

Internet of Thing (IoT) is a technology that will transform daily life. How does ISC software and Plug & Play integrate with any device?

What we agreed on since our inception in 2011, is an IoT integration platform, creating the tool needed to integrate industrial devices with enterprise application and cloud. It is a pretty unique proposition in the market because we neither produce data nor use it, but we are a gateway in the middle for the purpose of making the integration process as simple, fast, and as inexpensive as possible.

This can be done by creating the driver concept in an industrial space, like when you buy a $50 printer, you receive the driver inside the package or directly from a website. Every application can use this physical resource to the driver, and before Alleantia, the concept of drivers was aimed at commercial hardware not for an industrial one. Thus, we decided to propose our standard for this XPANGO format, meaning a driver which needs communication, semantics, commands, and other information that allow every application to use this industrial device independently from vendors and technology.

How does IoT help data acquisition and connection between machines? Increase speed and efficiency of applications?

This is the main objective for IoT: reducing the data input from humans, whilst someone can obtain precise and fast data about your production. As such, this is the first stage in which we are replacing human input with an automatic one. The second stage is trying to transfer massive quantity of data that humans are not able to acquire – creating big data whilst learning to understand how the machine can be optimized and how one machine can be integrated with others along the supply chain, up to predictive maintenance.

I don’t see that real implementation of predictive maintenance is able to predict a lot of failures, but the reason is not because the model is not running, but because you have to see when machines breakdown more often to configure items. It’s just a matter of time before we can accumulate our statistics and for this reason, which is our third rule, IoT can improve production by creating the database, which many companies are accumulating production data for.

Can you explain more about IoT apps and the way it helps connect IoT edge with any business application via cloud?

Let’s simplify it, we can consider our ISC software to be like the Android operating system and the gateway that ISC runs inside a machine to be like the smart phone carrying that OS. What we allow for our partners, is mainly independence of their vendor or software.

The app can be installed over the gateway together with our ISC accessing certain subsets of the whole data; just like when people install any app on their phones and it requests accessing the contacts, pictures etc. This is what Alleantia does. Then this data is streamed through this application.

The main advantage of this approach is you don’t create an umbrella environment when you get the gateway cloud platform or analytics from one tender but creating something that is more scalable. In this case, you can install an app for each specific usage.

Can IoT software prevent errors and problems from happening? And if problems are present, how can they be solved immediately?

IoT can prevent a certain set of mistakes. Thanks to a proper IoT app, when you launch a production of a certain material, all the recipes needed along the production chain are uploaded to each machine, thus the system is ready to prevent errors.

Another important thing is that what you can prevent is not really an error in terms of production but error in terms of procedure for cyber security. So you can upload files directly from the cloud to the machines.

“One click is enough to create a real revolution.” Give us more insight about the benefits of digitizing our activities?

What we are looking for is to create a simple solution that allow machines to speak with IT words in 60 seconds, in just one click. People have to select a name and an item from our catalogue then insert and click connect.

The first exercise that we suggest to our customers is when you have plenty of data from your machines, just take two of those and automatically fill them into our ISC software – that usually comes later. By just saving the data entry, which is possible in a few minutes, you can start to use other handles of data that you have. Ultimately, with a few clicks, you will change your organization.

Tell us about the XPANGO technology?

XPANGO technology is the idea from which Alleantia was born because we wanted to create a solution that really sets the standard, for the mere fact that every institution is focusing to create a common language in terms of “bit and bite”, to connect industrial devices together then connect them to the app.

No one at the moment is taking care of the semantic data, the usage of a certain value has to be treated in a certain way and this number translated from one unit to another, later transferred to all machines. All this information is addressed by XPANGO which is not just a matter of data exchange but information exchange.

How do we use the XPANGO driver?

When we have to connect the device, you have to select the proper driver like a printer for your pc and click connect; that’s it. If you have to connect to a new device that has never been connected to Alleantia, we provide driver editor and online tools for free, thus creating and distributing your driver over our public library. We are working on an ecosystem and promoting it to create drivers that are freely available.

What are the key IoT trends defining Industry 4.0?

Increase productivity for the end user and for factory owners, increase the OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency), reduce time and activate a predictive maintenance strategy.

IoT is used to increase the topline of your balance sheet, increase revenue, save money by reducing the number of employees in factories due to the coronavirus and enabling better remote ability and enhanced maintenance.

There are even banks that are interested in this process because if you have a smart product, you would pay in a smart way. If the machine is an industrial device, you need a financial institution that helps you create a sort of labor use. Many banks are integrating IoT in their financial services.

Data security and privacy is a growing concern. What is your company’s guarantee for protecting data?

We usually address and solve such problems, but there is always the risk of data theft by cyberattacks which requires adding multiple fire walls and many tools to prevent such malicious activities.

The main problem is data ownership. When one customer decides to use Alleantia, he/she is deciding to choose “access rights” when using IoT apps and who sees the data– similar to installing an app on your mobile.

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Journalist for 7 years in print media, with a bachelor degree in Political Science and International Affairs. Masters in Media communications.

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Interviews

Raghid Charara, Vice President and Khaled Chatila, VP of Business Development at ANALITICO

Inside Telecom Staff

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Analitico

ANALITICO is a newly established ICT company offering customized solutions for the telecoms and IT sector and providing full Digital Transformation services.

Inside Telecom sat down with the VP of ANALITICO Raghid Charara, and the company’s VP of Business Development Khaled Chatila for a closer look into their work and the prospects offered by the company.

Let’s jump right in.

Gentlemen, please introduce yourselves and tell us how ANALITICO was formed?

I am Raghid Charara, an expert in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) with over 20 years of experience in managing big projects covering both the telecoms and banking Sectors in different regions of the world.

I hold a double degree in Statistics and Computer Science from the American University of Beirut (AUB), and I am an alumnus of INSEAD having completed several executive education certificates in leadership, general management, and transformation. In addition, I work as a learning coach at INSEAD, teaching different courses such as innovation, strategy, and FinTech to MBA students and high-profile executives.

I am Khaled Chatila, a senior Operations and IT expert with a diverse experience in management and technology. Throughout my career, I assumed different managerial roles centered around operations and information & communication technology such as information security, system administration, IT management, software development, networking, and telecoms.

I also worked in different fields such as education, logistics and manufacturing in a handful of different countries. I spearheaded digital transformation as well as developed and integrated IT solutions which increase efficiency. I hold a Bachelor’s in computer science from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and a master’s degree in information security from the University of London, Royal Holloway.

We have been friends for a long time and we both share a passion for technology. We were always keeping up with and closely following the telecoms market trends, from there we identified several gaps which we were confident that we could cover through our knowledge, experience, and know-how.

When the right time and conditions came our way, we were able to create ANALITICO using our individual long track records in ICT and management, our synergy at work, in addition to our wide range of exposure and rich portfolio of relationships. The company was creating alongside world-class professional executives with accomplishments in business on international scale under their belts.

ANALITICO’s offering provides a set list of services, what areas of operations currently interest you the most?

We provide customized and innovative turn-key solutions that assist and empower different sectors including governmental institutions, banking, and telecom sector (government, regulators, and mobile operators).

Our portfolio includes services such as digital transformation, Equipment Identity Register (EIR), International Traffic Management, Carrier Services, Fraud Management Solution (FMS), Technical Audit (TA) and Revenue Assurance (RA), Traceability of Items (mainly for pharmaceutical, tires, and many others), and Value-Added Services (VAS).

Our offering can be on Premises (OnPrem) or Cloud-based and can cover Software as a service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a service (IaaS). We believe in the power of data and we heavily focus on the outcome and patterns extracted from Big Data through our analytical tools and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.      

Each one of our team members, has a long track record of projects and has deployed different kinds of solutions in different parts of the world. Most of the projects we’ve done are located in West Africa (Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Mali, and Togo) and Central Africa (Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Cameroon) and some of them in the Middle East (Kuwait, Oman and others) as well as other projects in different parts of the world (Latin America and APAC).

Several of our completed projects, were originally outsourced to us by local companies in those countries or through third parties. The interesting part is that our solutions and services are universal and needed worldwide and there are no geographical limitations or barriers. We have offices and representatives in several regions, mainly: London (UK), Paris (France), Beirut (Lebanon) and Douala (Cameroon).   

From a competitive standpoint, how does ANALITICO stand out in the face of its competition?

We use the latest technologies and the best tools and methodologies, and our team is composed of experts that hold the highest certifications in their fields. We are flexible and adaptive to our client’s requirements thus making our solutions competitive and affordable, yet, we always add our innovative recommendations bridging between different fields and technologies while offering state-of-the-art solutions.

Our long track record and wide experience and knowledge enable us to provide custom made solutions that ensure our customers’ satisfaction and always deliver far more than what the customer wanted initially; that’s the essence of transformation, as opposed to change.

Our company culture believes in “customer obsession” opposed to “customer focus.”

Is your business strategy keeping pace with the market? What challenges are you facing at the moment?     

Technology is evolving fast and there is a high demand for digital transformation.

The challenges we face come in two-fold; the first being to always keep up with the swiftness of technological advances, new services, and innovations. While these are manageable, we consider ourselves to have the right setup, tools, and mindset to adapt, expand, and introduce changes as we go.

The second is more client-oriented, where we can group the challenges in 3 categories: resistance, culture, and budget.

Usually, employees of companies undertaking a transformation resist the introduction of new solutions and methodologies and they fight back. We ensure to communicate, train, and involve them in this transformation journey and provide all the coaching needed.

Next, some companies’ cultures are robust and do not facilitate transformation and we always need the support of the top management and the flexibility in introducing new processes to enable the change.

Finally, is the budget, as companies see it as a big bulk one shot amount, and to resolve this point, we provide a comparison showing them the cost of the traditional setup they have over 5 years versus the cost of the transformation and the cost of the new digital setup for 5 years and they can clearly see the difference.

The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the pace of transformation. To what extent will digital workspace growth push cloud adoption and spending?

Since cloud computing empowers digital business transformation, the cloud became the catalyst for this transformation. It is used to improve the scalability of the capabilities while reducing cost and risk. So, it is a crucial element since the success of the transformation relies on it.

We fully understand this need, and that is why we tailored our offering to include the three main service models of cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).

How do you plan on accelerating business growth?

To accelerate our business growth, we ensure to include the key skills and resources that are needed for our continuity and success. We believe that employees are key assets and part of the

journey, and we strongly invest in our team while embracing continuous learning to ensure they are up to date with the latest skills and technology trends.

As explained above, our business model allows us to be adaptable to the technology changes and at the same time to our clients demands and given our agility we can easily accommodate this and always expand our products and services. Finally, we believe that we should always think ahead.

Telcos across the world have suffered heavily due to cyberattacks especially since the pandemic began, how can your services help providers defend themselves against such threats?

First, it is important to highlight that cybersecurity is a combination of technologies, processes, and practices that we work on heavily and deeply. In parallel, we encourage our clients to follow the top-down approach to cybersecurity where management leads the line across all business practices.

We focus with our clients on identifying the threats and risks facing their data and information; and outlining the damage their organization would incur should that data be lost or wrongfully exposed.

We also analyze how was the data collected, stored, and secured, in parallel, our cyber security offerings include Encryption, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), Access management, Firewalls, Anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, Web filtering and Risk and compliance management. Those solutions can be in-house or outsourced, while providing security as a software as a service (SaaS), available via the cloud. To reach out to ANALITICO: info@analitico.tech.

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Interviews

Michel Robert, CEO of Epsilon

Inside Telecom Staff

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Michel Robert, CEO of Epsilon
Tell us about your partnership with Aviatrix to provide the latest multi-cloud networking service?

We recently partnered with Aviatrix to deliver our own multi-cloud solution. It’s an end-to-end multi-cloud service running on Epsilon’s global network with the automation, operational visibility and control that enterprises need to simplify cloud networking.

Epsilon Cloud Networking addresses the real challenges in enterprise networking within and across the clouds. We’ve combined our expertise in global connectivity with Aviatrix’s cloud orchestration platform to deliver an end-to-end multi-cloud service, and we’re confident in delivering a best-in-class cloud networking solution for our customers.

This year we’re really focusing on our partner strategy. We already have a strong ecosystem of networks, cloud service providers and internet exchange partners stretching across 260+ points of presence (PoPs) in 41 cities globally.  We are looking to enhance our services by working with great technical partners, like Aviatrix, to enhance our interconnection services. There are not many companies out there that can offer their customers the comprehensive end-to-end solutions like we do, with rapid responsiveness and one point of contact.

How can Epsilon customers benefit?

Our solution makes multi-cloud networking simple for enterprises. Epsilon Cloud Networking leverages a multi-cloud network architecture with a common network data and operational control plane. Through point and click workflows and infrastructure as code automation, enterprises using the multi-cloud service no longer need to undertake the complex and manual processes of native cloud networking. The service provides everything an enterprise needs to transform their cloud networking through a single relationship.

Our solution really accelerates cloud network deployments to support the pace of business and application owners, which is a key benefit for customers. Our customers can move faster to meet demands at the click of a button. This provides full visibility across the clouds, simplifies their cloud network operations and can identify and resolve problems rapidly.

Security and troubleshooting are also a big part of the solution. Our managed service provider and enterprise customers can easily solve multi-cloud networking, security and troubleshooting issues. The multi-cloud network architecture has a common network data and operational control plane that gives them the full control they need.

What kind of challenges do you hope to overcome with this new multi-cloud service?

More and more enterprise IT organisations are using public cloud to support business transformation. The pandemic has really increased the pace of transformation for many companies, and enterprises are facing challenges including limited visibility, lack of network control and skill gaps, when connecting applications and data in the cloud.

A lot of enterprises don’t achieve expected return on investment (ROI) in cloud because of operational and network complexity. While many enterprises have started application migrations to the cloud, cost management remains an issue. On top of this, many cloud providers don’t provide the tools for operational visibility, control or security. Our new multi-cloud solution seeks to help businesses tackle these challenges more effectively.

It makes cloud networking simple for enterprises, with everything they need to transform their cloud networking through a single relationship with Epsilon.

Is the multi-cloud environment suitable for all enterprises?

Yes. In general, all industries have adopted the cloud, but individual companies will have to assess which applications are the most suitable to migrate to cloud platforms depending on types of the business applications and data, security and compliance requirements.

Our multi-cloud networking solution can be used by all kinds of enterprises across verticals, from technology to automotive, manufacturing or hospitality. Any enterprise looking to benefit from a multi-cloud environment can simplify their journey by using our solution. We provide connectivity from the last mile locations all the way to the cloud.

Talk us through Epsilon’s Network as a Service (NaaS) strategy? How will it play a role in the enterprise market in 2021?

Infiny currently offers three powerful networking solutions: Interconnection between leading data centres, direct connection to cloud providers and access to the world’s largest internet exchanges. We also have an Access solution for connecting branch offices, on-prem data centres and partner locations around the world to the Epsilon network and its cloud networking and interconnection services.

Infiny makes it much simpler for businesses of all kinds to meet their connectivity needs in one place, by removing the need to manage multiple vendor relationships. As the networking ecosystem gets more and more complex, I think businesses will be looking out for the simplest and fastest way to connect globally, which we’re able to do.

I believe in 2021, we’ll see drive towards platform-centric connectivity such as NaaS. These platforms deliver global connectivity using a self-service model, allowing the customers to buy and manage their network services on-demand.

By building solutions through partnerships, we can deliver best-of-breed solutions to our customers, more quickly and more scalable than if we had built the solution ourselves. Rather than competing against specialists in certain fields, we believe in partnering with some of these companies to offer the best possible solutions to our customers.

Partnerships are a big part of our business strategy. Our differentiator is that we can offer our customers the best-in-class solutions with high levels of responsiveness and flexibility. A huge part of that comes from partnering with top companies across different tech sectors, which can provide us with the tools we need to serve even more of our customers’ needs.

Our goal is to enable businesses to connect to the global cloud infrastructure they need in a simple and powerful way. We’re excited to announce more partnerships that we’ve got planned for the near future, which will enhance our offering further.

The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the pace of transformation. To what extent will digital workspace growth push cloud adoption and spending?

2020 was definitely a year of transformation. With a surge in the number of people working from home, there’s been huge demand for digital workspace solutions. As a result, cloud adoption and spending has increased dramatically, and it’s looking like this will continue in 2021. Remote working will start to become the new normal as businesses of all kinds have realised this year that productivity can continue even without having teams in an office all the time. It will definitely be interesting to see how this accelerates cloud transformation in 2021 – I think we’ll continue to see growth, but at a steadier pace than 2020.

How does the new networking service enable customers to meet their security needs?

Our Cloud Networking solution provides enterprises with added security for distributed cloud environments. To get into the details, it offers advance security features including multi-cloud network segmentation, high-performance encryption, firewall insertion, CloudWAN, secure user access, secure site-to-cloud and ingress and egress. We provide all the tools that enterprises and managed service providers need to secure their customers’ cloud deployments and benefit from a multi-cloud environment, via our private network.

What are some of the unique challenges we face with cloud adoption?

Cloud adoption isn’t always straightforward, especially when enterprises are trying to connect within and between multiple different clouds and regions. Some of these challenges include skills gaps, limited visibility, lack of network control and operational complexity. Not all enterprises are experts in cloud, so without an expert partner it can be difficult to really unlock the potential of their cloud environments.

Many enterprises have invested large amounts of resources in building business applications within a public cloud environment but end up neglecting the connectivity underlay. Any application performance will ultimately be underpinned by the network it’s delivered on. Enterprises are needing more than basic connectivity from the standard internet connections, and that can be a challenge without the right partner.

 How will 5G rollout take cloud computing to the next level?

5G will be an alternative access technology for connecting the end users. It will contribute towards making a whole load of technologies more efficient, including cloud computing. With the rollout of 5G accelerating in 2021, cloud computing is really going to go to the next level. 5G can provide speeds 100x higher and capacity 100x more than 4G, on top of much lower latencies. This is going to transform customer experiences and improve business operations too.

I’m excited to see the impact of 5G on cloud-based applications and services, and just how much faster it will be to move data between locations. With better efficiencies come the opportunity to spend more time innovating too, so 5G could really be the key to new innovation in cloud native business and consumer applications that we don’t even know about yet.

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Interviews

Mohanned Alosta, CEO of Libyana Telecom

Inside Telecom Staff

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Mohanned Alosta CEO of Libyana Telecom
How has Libyana handled the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? What were the main challenges? And how were they met?

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted the entire world, we, at Libyana, faced challenging issues on both the service providing and operation sides; however, we find ourselves in the right direction facing all of them.

On the service side, the lockdown naturally boosted network traffic, we were ready for this specifically since Libyana started network expansion in 2019, and continuously till this day, to ensure service quality for our customers. Our network expands simultaneously with users’ demand, maintaining the best user experience and enhancing it.

On the management side, our main focus centers on protecting our employees and partners aiming to minimize the risk of infection, by restructuring our operations throughout 2020, keeping only 30 percent of employees working from the office, with the remaining team working remotely.

At the same time, we utilized all solutions such as ERP, Online Dealer, Online Meeting to keep the business running normally regardless of all these circumstances. This proved to be an experience full of lessons learnt which will help us achieve our digital transformation plans.

In 2019, Libyana partnered with Expertise France to boost the local startup scene. Can you tell us more about this initiative? And what other efforts have been made to push startups forward?

Libyana gives special attention to innovation and entrepreneurship as a part of its social responsibility; the initiative with Expertise France aims to establish a first-of-its-kind center, which includes a business incubator and accelerator, called FabLab. In addition, we launched a new project, called Stream, offering all sorts of services and training to support entrepreneurs and MSMEs in Libya.

Stream provides training and support both technical and financial to 101 participants from 10 different cities through 7 programs over the course of 15 months. Through this project, 21 idea holders have managed to successfully transform their ideas into startups, while 76 percent of the startups that previously participated in the program stated that they experienced an increase in revenue following enrollment allowing for the creation of 126 jobs.

How are you planning to accelerate the company’s growth in 2021?

As the main telecom operator in Libya with all circumstances currently facing us and the telecoms industry, it is a big challenge for Libyana to keep stable growth in 2021.

First, as all online traffic increases due to lockdowns, we will focus on maintaining our network expansion and optimization efforts in an all-level capacity, capability, and stability, to be ready for any sudden traffic increase.

Second, we will continue our digital transformation journey for both our subscriber services and company operations, to improve the user experience and company efficiency during and after the pandemic.

Due to the effect of the on-going worldwide economic depression by the coronavirus, ARPU degradation is expected, thus, we are building more digital services to provide diverse service offerings to our subscribers.

With the African continent being heavily reliant on FinTech, are there any plans for Libyana to jump into the financial services sector?

As part of Libyana’s vision of enhancing our customers’ lives by connecting people in every way shape or form, we are planning to enter the FinTech sector by offering several solutions such as mobile money and online payments, which are part of our digital transformation strategy. The financial sector in Libya faces several issues, which is why our aim is to fill this gap and connect all Libyans on the financial scope as we do in telecommunications.

With 5G being the talk of the town in the telecoms industry, can you tell us about Libyana’s 5G efforts within the country?

Libyana is ready to embrace 5G, where the current network supports 5G evolution smoothly. Currently, we are analyzing the best business models for 5G and its application for Libya’s needs, as we are aiming to provide excellent service experiences and best service value to all Libyans.

Are there plans for the company to expand outside of Libya?

Currently, we are working for more cooperation with global operators to improve the subscriber roaming experience. For the time being, expanding into other markets is not considered a top priority on our list since times are still fragile due to the economic recession and the COVID-19 situation, but we continue to keep eyes on the global situation and all opportunities around us.

As technological advancements such as 5G, IoT, AI, AR, VR, and the like are starting to hit the mainstream, which one interests you the most? Why?

Both 5G and IoT are our highest priority, where the demand for M2M and massive data has drastically increased. A massive country such as Libya, which mainly leans on its oil and gas industry, needs to discover new opportunities in order to be ready for the 4th Industrial revolution.

Cybersecurity has become a must for all ICT/tech companies, especially during the COVID-era. How has Libyana strengthened its defenses against cybercriminals?

Cybersecurity is one of the highest priorities for us at Libyana, as we have three lines of defense:

  • The first line is all employees implement self-control over the cybersecurity of products such as strong cypher, VPN, identity authentication, and so on.
  • The second line is identifying and protecting all the service units against any cybersecurity risks to systems, assets, data, and capabilities to ensure delivery of critical infrastructure services.
  • The third line is a Detect and Respond mechanism, implemented appropriately into our activities to identify the occurrence of a cyber breach and take action on it immediately.
What is your stance regarding the ban on Huawei in some countries?

We understand the decision of some operators to exclude Huawei, however, its worthy to note that the ban has caused an interruption within Huawei’s supply chain. This has made the Chinese telco enter “survival mode,” which makes it face uncertain risks within its network operations and evolution, especially to operators that exclusively purchase equipment from Huawei.

Huawei is considered a titan in the telcoms world due to its strong comprehensive strengths, which is why we, at Libyana, have constructed parts of our network with Huawei equipment. In parallel, we can only hope that the company resolves its disputes with the United States as fast as possible to avoid the operating risk of its customers, and to protect investments and maintain competitiveness in the 5G era.

How did Libyana weather the storm during years of war and a struggling local economy?

Nowadays, telecoms is considered one of the most important sectors in Libya, keeping our customers connected regardless of the current fractured society, providing services to the whole country during all crises.

In case of any force majeure, we do our best to solve issues immediately guaranteeing civilians the communication they need. As the ceasefire agreement was signed earlier this year, it is expected that next year the satiation in Libya will hopefully become better and Libyana will continue its work to provide stable services.

We do not only consider ourselves as a telecom operator, but more of a basic society service provider; thus, regardless of what happens, Libyana’s main target is to always guarantee high-quality service to our subscribers while maintaining our contribution to the country.

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