19 Aug 2008

Vodafone stake to grow in CEE region's largest market?

My team defines CEE (Central & Eastern Europe) as a bloc of markets consisting of the three Baltic States, the Visegrad Group of countries at the heart of Europe, the two most recent EU entrants and the numerous small states of the Balkans. For the purposes of organising our telecoms industry region-specific conference/exhibition events, we align states such as Ukraine and Belarus with the Russian Federation for our Russia & CIS Com property.

So, in the context of the CEE region as we define it, Poland is the largest market by some margin. Telecoms news coming out of that country is therefore something in which I always take an interest - and my interest is sharpened by the special connection I feel to Poland. I spent four very happy and rewarding years living in Kielce and Kraków back in the early 1990s. I made many last friendships along the way and grabbed the opportunity to explore the country and its neighbours pretty thoroughly.

So my eye was caught late last week by reports of Vodafone looking to up its stake in Polish MNO Polkomtel. Even if this deal does go through, I am unclear whether the various shareholders would be thinking in terms of the Vodafone brand name being used by the operator, whose current brand name is 'Plus'. If this is not the case, Plus/Polkomtel would be set to remain the only one of Poland three longest-established MNOs using a local brand name. PTK Centertel has been known as Orange Polska since 2005, ditching its former Idea brand name in favour of harmonisation with the mobile brands of parent company France Telecom. I've also heard it said that Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa will drop its current 'Era' brand fairly soon, moving more obviously into the T-Mobile fold.

These developments are likely to get an airing at our CEE Com event in Prague, 17-18 September. Remember that those of you who represent a telecoms operator/service provider may attend free of charge.