22 Sep 2008

Russian telcos heading for Africa?

While I still have my hands full preparing for our GSM>3G Middle East conference in December, I will shortly be turning my attention more fully to Russia and the CIS. We host two gatherings in the first half of the year which are designed to draw together telecoms execs from markets across the former Soviet Union. The first, Eurasia Com, takes place in Istanbul in March, a natural travel and business hub for the Caspian and Central Asian regions the event serves. Further, Istanbul-headquartered Turkcell is a major player in these markets. The Turkish cellco is co-owner (with TeliaSonera) of Fintur Holdings, a company which manages MNOs in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan as well as Moldova. It's therefore important for the event that we get high-level support from Turkcell. In 2008, the company's Chief Strategy Officer Tayfun Cataltepe was among our speakers - and has gone on to become a valued supporter of the wider Com World Series. The previous year, we welcomed Turkcell's Chief Investment Officer Ms. Tulin Karabuk.

Coming up in June, we have another CIS-focused meeting: Russia & CIS Com in Moscow. This gets a different crowd - delegates mainly from the Russian Federation itself, as well as from Ukraine and Belarus. Regarding the latter country, we really boosted the level of the participation. Belarus's incumbent carrier Beltelecom was represented by General Director Konstantin Tikar, who made some very kind comments abou the usefulness of the trip.

At the last two iterations of Russia & CIS Com, we've heard more and more about the plans of some Russian cellcos in terms of exploring the growth potential of markets outside their usual CIS footprint. Earlier this year, a delegation from Iran was very visible, clearly hoping to remind prospective strategic investors of the impending sale of a 3rd national mobile licence in the Islamic Republic. We've also seen Russian telco people showing up at a conference we used to run in Vietnam, clearly interested in that particular market.

It wasn't, therefore, a big surprise to see a news item this morning which indicates that Russian telecoms investment firm Altimo has expressed an interest in Nigerian operator M-Tel/NITEL. We'll encourage Altimo and other Russian groups to get involved at our huge annual pan-Africa event in November: www.ComWorldSeries.com/africa.