It was another busy day for Elie Hanna, as The Manila Times found him peering through some paperwork in his desk, while checking his computer every now and then. The air that permeated the workplace seemed to project a vibrant atmosphere with a vibe that can only come from a company with a brand name easily recognizable around the world. Hanna is the president and country unit head of Ericsson Philippines and the Pacific Islands. He joined Ericsson Philippines straight from the company’s headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, in July of 2011.
“We’re the fifth-largest software company in the world,” Hanna said, describing how Ericsson had evolved through the centuries, from a Swedish telegraph equipment repair shop in 1876, to becoming one of the world’s leading provider of technology services to telecommunication operators.
“Our vision is that by 2020, we will have 50 billion connected devices to our networks and the telephone will just be one of the many connected devices,” he said, explaining the direction to where Ericsson as a company is headed. In fact, Hanna said that Ericsson recently announced at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada, that together with US telecom company AT&T and Volvo, they have developed the first connected car. Like most in their industry, Hanna believes that connectivity among numerous devices is fast becoming a reality, as he pointed out that even home appliances have now been equipped with smart features like refrigerators and smart television.
Hanna describes Ericsson’s business as divided into three business units: the Networks, which is the largest of the three units; the Services unit; and the third is the Managed services. The Network infrastructure provides the fundamentals for people to communicate. In the Philippines, Ericsson has helped local telecom companies build the infrastructure for the supply, design and implementation of Smart’s TACS network, Smart’s LEC network and Sun Cellular’s LEC network.
They were also responsible for Smart’s LTE rollout for Northern and Southern Luzon. At the same time, they were a major partner for PLDT’s Zero Backlog Program. In 1999, Ericsson did the Globe GSM Network expansion projects for Visayas and Mindanao. The company also counts the major television networks in the country, specifically ABS-CBN and TV5 as their customers. Apart from the Philippines, Hanna said that they were also tasked to undertake the LTE rollout of Digicel Pacific’s network in nearby Papua New Guinea.
In the Managed Services unit, Hanna said that they manage the networks and operations from their customers, where they just recently achieved a milestone by reaching one billion subscribers under this unit across the world. The company also offers support solutions, where they develop and deliver software-based solutions for operations and business support systems (OSS and BSS), real-time multi-screen and on demand TV and Media solutions, as well as solutions and services for the emerging M-commerce which include banking, remittances and the like.
Hanna said that another trend that they are closely watching is in TV and Media. “We believe the media and TV will very soon merge with telecoms. Already you see many telecom operators who are also broadcasters and vice versa,” he added. Thus, the need for more business support solutions, because the data is growing, he explained.
“A few years back, an operator’s life was much easier. Their job was just to charge, bill and market only for voice and SMS [short messaging service]. Now with all the data, it becomes much more difficult, because you need to package their data.” What this means, Hanna said, is that telcos need to modernize their OSS and billing systems, and that’s where Ericsson comes in.
When he first came to the Philippines in 2011, Hanna said that Ericsson’s business was primarily in the networks area and in the services connected to those networks. One of his tasks was to diversify the business, to which he said he had been quite successful. His aim is to continue to achieve a moderate growth, while at the same time seeing to it that the company grows faster than the other markets. His third major task, he said, is to transform the organization by building competencies for the new areas.
Ready for challenges
For many, these would seem like daunting tasks, but Hanna said that he welcomes these types of challenges and sees them as a chance to grow. An engineer by profession, he said that looking back, he never thought of himself being where he is now, and is very thankful for the experience.
He added that he just liked to travel, and wanted a job that can take him to other places. But he said that he never actually thought he would be able to live in several countries, bringing his family with him as he furthers his career. It is certainly an enviable job for most, and one that he truly grateful for.
Despite a hectic schedule, Hanna said that he still finds time for the things that matter to him the most—spending as much time with his family and his two young kids as much as he can, and pursue a little sports on the side, such as golf and basketball. And though he has been to most parts of the world, he admits to falling in love with the Philippines.
Someday, he said that he wishes to hopefully have his own place here, apart from Montreal, Canada where his wife is from. He even wishes for his two-year-old son who was born here to acquire Philippine citizenship.
But these will be all in good time, he said. For now, the young company president said that he just wants to enjoy working with his amazing team in Ericsson Philippines while taking the company to the direction where his chief executive officer wants it to be.