VimpelCom said it is fighting back against “Silicon Valley upstarts” by reinventing itself as global tech company VEON providing a “revolutionary internet mobile platform” to hundreds of millions of customers.

The rebranding, which came as it announced higher annual revenues, includes partnerships with brands such as Deezer, Vivendi and Mastercard to “transform” the personal internet experience with video, music and payment services.

It is also partnering with musician will.i.am and his technology company i.am+, and integrating AneedA, a device-agnostic virtual assistant with a conversational interface to the internet, apps, streaming music and other services.

“This is the beginning of a new and exciting era,” said CEO Jean-Yves Charlier.

“The telecom industry is at a crossroads. It has lacked meaningful customer engagement and risks simply becoming dumb pipes for others as consumers and businesses communicate, share and socialise for free through fast-growing OTT players.

“The telecom sector has been backed into a corner by Silicon Valley upstarts. With VEON, we have chosen to disrupt ourselves from within.”

VEON said its new platform, also called VEON, will integrate data analytics and artificial intelligence and “tear down the archaic and inefficient bricks-and-mortar service and replace it with a smooth, easy, fun, contextual and intuitive experience where everything users need is at their fingertips”.

With zero rating as a fundamental component, VEON said users will be able to stay connected for free no matter the status of their data plan or credit.

“Gone are the days of queuing up in stores to top-up or waiting for a customer service agent, everything is online with VEON at a tap of the finger,” Charlier said.

“It offers users a variety of new personalised and opt-in contextual services from entertainment to financial services using data to predict consumer needs.”

It hopes to launch the service across all its 12 markets “in the near future”.

The rebrand came as the operator, which has is headquartered in Amsterdam, saw service revenues increase 0.5 percent to $8.4 billion.

The operator said the slight improvement was driven by the performance of its opcos in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Bangladesh. However, there were falls in Russia and Algeria.

EBITDA climbed 1.4 percent to $3.5 billion.

Its mobile customer base grew by 10.6 million subscribers to 206.9million during the year, driven by the consolidation of Warid’s customers in Pakistan from July 2016.

“Our fundamental transformation has accelerated,” said Charlier.

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