Interview of Dr. Orhan Coşkun, General Director of ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile to Monitor magazine
The two companies toward the Joint operation. The high investments in infrastructure (up to 150 million Euros so far) are leading to the creation of the New Generation Network, which will provide customers with many services through revolutionary system. Dr. Orhan Coskun, General Director of ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile, has taken the leadership of the two companies in a key moment. The companies of fix and mobile telephony, ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile, have initiated a Joint Process between them, which is expected to create a positive synergy for the customers. High investments are being made in technology (up to 150 million Euros so far), which will provide services of the New Generation (Fast internet, Cloud Computing, Interactive TV, WiFi, etc.) Although he has been directing ALBtelecom & Eagle Mobile for only three months, Dr. Coskun is quite familiar to Albania. As President of Çalık Holding for the Balkans and Southeast Europe, (position he still holds), he has lived in Albania since 2009. Moreover, he is married to an Albanian woman and has two daughters who speak very good Albanian, while he lectures in the English language in one of the private universities in Albania. His long experience as Director of the Telephony Market in the USA, and the Internet in Turkey (with the companies VESTEL, TTNET, Turk Telecom), is another element which comes in handy to the plans for transformation of ALBtelecom & Eagle Mobile, which he reveals in an interview for MONITOR.
How was the performance of both, Eagle Mobile and ALBtelecom, in recent years and specifically the data for 2010 (incomes, EBITDA rate, the number of subscribers, the investments made so far for each of the companies)?
2010 was a success year of ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile. We are talking about a year that the world economy was in crisis. The revenue of ALBtelecom was 73.4 million euros. The EBIDTA rate was 40.7 %. The family of our subscribers increased all around Albania. On 31 December 2010, the fix line and internet subscribers'' number summed up to 346,969 which is a record for us. Since privatization we've invested 150 million euro in telecom infrastructure. At the other side Eagle Mobile is the only company in mobile telephony market that increased its revenues. The revenue of Eagle was 37.7 million euros, and the subscribers number 870 000. Since privatization we've invested 150 million euro in telecom infrastructure. As you can see the results, we worked hard to bring the best and the latest services to Albanians and they believed in us. This trend has continued also in the first half of 2011.
Why it was decided to merge the two companies. How will the process continue and much will it continue and what are the advantages or disadvantages and will bring such a merge for the company as well as for clients?
Telecom sector is experiencing a global transformation. Internet is the key enabler of this transformation. Customers want to access the service anywhere anytime. While a customer is watching a TV episode on his entertainment set, he might want to continue watching the same episode on his notebook or on his smart phone. Customers don't want to care about the access technology or the device they are using. While the distinction between fix and mobile access technologies are disappearing, it makes sense to restructure the telecom companies according to customer needs. This transformation has also reflections on the financials of the companies. On the one side mobile and fix voice services are converging, on the other side voice revenues are deteriorating. Revenue is shifting from voice to data. So what is the recipe to grow? The recipe to grow has many ingredients. First and foremost thing that we focus is our customers. We listen them, understand them and offer them more services with high quality at reasonable prices. The second ingredient is the investment. In order to offer high quality services, we are continuously investing in infrastructure. So far our just infrastructure investment has reached 150 million euro. The third ingredient is the human capital and the organization. The organization should reflect our customer orientation. While we are heavily investing in telecom in Albania, we are also checking the telecom opportunities in the region. It might be an acquisition or building a network from scratch. As a result of our customer orientation and growth strategy, we are seriously considering to merge ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile. We are assessing every aspect of merge operation and we are working with world-class consultants. Our initial assessment results show that the winner of the merge operation is going to be our customers. From one-shop, customers will be able to get all kind of services. We will make their life easier. They will experience a real freedom where they will be able to access any content anywhere they want. As Albania is getting closer to be an EU member, I believe it deserves an operator organized as the successful telecom operators in the world. From France Telecom (Orange), to AT&T in US, to SK in Korea almost all big telecom players are operating their mobile and fix units under one umbrella as one company.
How is going to work the directing system of the company?
We are doing a revolutionary transformation. I don't see the companies as fix telecom and mobile telecom companies. I only see my residential customers, business customers, etc. So I will be directing customer units. That means our commercial team will be organized on a customer-centric manner rather than a technology or functional centric. Technology part is already converging. We are upgrading our technology to Next Generation Network in which all ten network elements will be connected to each other via our latest technology IP/MPLS network which will enable us to provide all of the services via the same transport network. We are also establishing unified content delivery network. Now everything in telecom technology is converging. Consequently, telecom companies are having one technology department. As we are investing in the latest state of the art telecom technologies, the operation of technical part is getting easier and easier. We are getting aligned to serve all these new technologies for the satisfaction of our customers.
What are the development plans in terms of investment, customer services, etc.?
As fiber optic backbone distribution and capacity is very important for any telecommunication and ICT service, we are investing now heavily on the expansion of national fiber optic lines and also in the development of metropolitan network. At the same time we are increasing the capacity of all of our existing capacity. Latest achievement is the upgrade of the link between Albania and Italy.As I said before, we are building a converged Next Generation Network which will enable our customers to enjoy converged services. Details of these services will be communicated with the market as the services are ready soon. This NGN network will also enable delivering of the fastest internet service, as fast as more than 50 Mbps to any of our customer, business or residential. This transformation will enable ALBtelecom and Eagle Mobile networks to be one of the most modern telecommunication networks not only in the region but also in Europe. We are working on a DataCenter to provide hosting and Cloud Computing Services. This will help the enterprises to reach to the latest software applications via minimum expenditure and to have their IT run smoothly as all of the ICT demands of these enterprises will be managed by us. Another exiting project is the IPTV project which will revolutionarily change the TV experience of Albanian citizens because they will have the full control of their TVs. It will be ready by the 1st quarter of 2012. We have already installed some WiFi hotspots in some cities; we are working now to distribute the WiFi hotspots all over Albania which will enable our customers to reach to internet wherever they need.
How would you evaluate the developments in telecommunications market (fixed, mobile, internet) in Albania? After the penetration increase, especially in mobile telephony, how will you compete in the market? What are your plans in terms of "number portability" and "authorization of third generation”?
At this point, I would like to talk about the revolution that we achieved in telecom sector in last 3 years. We upgraded the entire fiber infrastructure and increased the length of fiber by %200. In 2007, international IP capacity is 300Mbps, now it is 22Gbps: a 73 times increase which is unprecedented. When ALBtelecom was privatized, broadband internet capacity was only 1500, now we've reached 150 000 capacity and 75 000 broadband internet customers: a 100 times increase in capacity. Speed of internet was 256kbps back then, now our minimum speed is 2Mbps: an 8 times increase. We have focused on the services now not on the technology, whether it is mobile or fixed. Therefore our best advantage will be ease to access and ease to use services. We see that there is still a big potential for internet and internet based services. Therefore we are not only modernizing our network but also increasing the capacities to be able to provide the demand of the market. Mobile Number Portability is already doing quite well for Eagle Mobile. We are market leader in terms of acquisitions in Number Portability. We gave a big boost to mobile penetration. We brought down the prices to a COMPETITIVE level. Actually now the tariffs are even lower than where it should be. Third generation license is vital for us because we want to provide the internet service to our customers both fixed and mobile. In fact we are already doing it via our ADSL and EDGE technology and we have the biggest market share in both. However we want to deliver more to the market.
“MONITOR” Magazine, July 2011