10 Oct 2008

Orange to enter Armenian market?

While conducting our research into developments across the Caspian Sea and Central Asia regions, we've dug out some interesting nuggets of information and opinion from a number of the individual markets concerned. Expect to see all of this reflected in the theme of the discussions at our annual Eurasia Com conference in Istanbul, 31st March & 1st April 2009.

One country we've found particularly fruitful in terms of research respondents is Armenia. One respondent there seems quite confident that the country's mobile market will be joined by a new player in the near future and that the new entrant will be Orange. The France Telecom cellular brand is not a total stranger to former Soviet territory, having established a foothold in Moldova, via the 2007 rebranding of Voxtel. Our friend in Armenia also felt that the entrant is likely to deploy WiMAX in additon to a GSM/W-CDMA network.

Armenia, home to fewer than 3.5 million people, is not a huge market to split between three mobile operators. In the context of the region around it, the country has also been quite well penetrated by the existing two MNOs, one of which is a part of the MTS empire. The other, Armentel (now branded Beeline) is the incumbent fixed-line operator as well as offering mobile services. Beeline, a well-known name across CIS markets, is the brand of the company's new owners, Vimpelcom of Russia.

I wonder, therefore, what any new entrant will be planning in terms of ways to grab market share from these two established players.

9 Oct 2008

3G, MNP, MVNOs set to shake up Turkish mobile market?

Preparations are now well underway for our annual Eurasia Com conference, the next iteration of which will take place 31st March & 1st April 2009 at the Mövenpick Hotel in Istanbul. I am pleased that after two years of hosting this event in venues on the fringes of the world's third largest city, we are now able to hold the discussions and networking in a more central location. Next year's venue is in easy striking distance of the Taksim Square shopping and entertainment hub at the heart of Istanbul. This will make life easier for sponsors and exhibitors looking to entertain telco operator clients in the evenings and should boost the number of visitors we get from the many Turkish telco sector companies with headquarters in the city.

The conference is definitely a draw for major Turkish telcos. In the last two years, we've welcomed luminaries such as Tayfun Çataltepe (Chief Strategy/International Expansion Officer at Turkcell), Tulin Karabuk (Chief Investment Officer, Turkcell) and Mehmet Toros (COO, Türk Telekom). However, many of our sponsors support the event not only to reach out to Turkish companies, but also to tap into the high growth CIS markets of the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia. We therefore need to make the event attractive for visitors from these countries. While a pleasant downtown location is perhaps not the most important factor, it can't hurt - so I was happy to shower praise on our operations/venues people for securing this welcome upgrade.

I've been joined this week by a newly-hired Russian-speaking colleague who, as I write this, is on the phone gathering the lastest market intelligence from countries including Azerbijan, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan. Every day, I am handed valuable nuggets of information which will definitely impact on the content and format of the Eurasia Com conference agenda. We are getting a clearer sense than ever before of the challenges and opportunities facing operators in these markets and I think we now know what to do in terms of creating a must-attend event which should gather the region's telcos in ever better numbers.

Meanwhile, I am catching up with contacts in Turkey, with a view to finding out which issues are keeping telco execs in that country awake at night. One of the most interesting conversations I've had this week was with someone at one of Turkey's mobile services distributors. Among the things I was told:
  • Mobile Number Portability will be implemented very soon; my respondent felt that the country's 3rd placed mobile operator is welcoming this as a great opportunity to build market share through more aggressive competition on price.
  • Two of Turkey's three MNOs are testing their 3G networks, which my respondent expects to go live in Q2 2009; my respondent predicts that Turkcell will move fastest to get the networking up and running, largely because of an urgent need to address network capacity issues.
  • After some buzz of interest in the possible launch of MVNOs, there is now concern that the current tax regime is set to make the business case less attractive that once hoped.

The next time I get the opportunity to write something here, I aim to share a few snippet about what's happening across the wider Eurasia region our conference and exhibition will serve.