29 Sep 2009

Turkey's telecoms market looking towards Western Europe

I am Istanbul to meet key operators and vendors ahead of our Eurasia Com event in the city in March, and it is interesting to have a first-hand view of the Turkish market.
One thing that I found particularly striking over the last couple of days is the prominence of Turkcell as the major telecom brand in Turkey. This position is usually held by the fixed-line incumbent and its mobile arm, particularly in recently liberalised markets (Turkey only liberalised in 2005). Here, Türk Telekom does own close to 100% of the fixed voice market, but its mobile subsidiary Avea is largely distanced by Turkcell, who leads the market in many ways: number one mobile operator in terms of subscriptions, mobile broadband leader (the operator launched HSPA at the same time as its 3G network earlier this year), and an omnipresent brand. Its strategy of targeting high-end segments has certainly paid off, as it is now seen as the high quality operator in the market.
Another thing I realised through the conversations I’ve had is how far Turkey has come as a telecoms market in the last few years. In just a few years of competition, the regulator and operators have wasted no time to catch up with developed markets, to the extent that Turkish companies now benchmark themselves against Western European markets rather than closer ones such as Eastern Europe. Here are a just a few areas to watch in Turkey’s maturing market:
- MVNOs: regulation should be effective in 2010 but in the meantime “pre-MVNOs” (most successfully football club brands) are already in place on a simpler reseller model, where the host operator still owns the SIM and the customers ; from next year, a fuller MVNO model should attract other types of brands such as retailers; mobile operators are gearing up for this new market, and SIM card vendors and MVNEs should also benefit from new opportunities;
- Convergence, with triple play and potentially quadplay offerings: Turkcell with the acquisition of ISP Superonline among other moves, Türk Telekom with fixed and wireless offerings and the potential launch of IPTV next year;
- New strategies to deal with increased competition: operators are expressing a strong interest in new ways of serving their customers with segmentation strategies and lifestyle offerings;
- Managed services in the ICT sector: as already done by alternative operators Koç.net and Superonline, Türk Telekom is looking into moving its wholesale strategy towards managed services to better serve its corporate clients.
Next year’s Eurasia Com event will include a special focus day on Turkey. The draft agenda will be published this week, to be followed by a call for speakers.