Com World Series: How is your company positioned in the regional market and how do you expect it to evolve over the next couple of years?
Marc Zirca: Bakcell is a wholly Azerbaijani company, we do not have a regional reach however we are being looked at as a leading example in the region. Bakcell steadily and significantly contributed to the Azerbaijani market, which is reflected growth trend of its subscriber base and market share and provided new and interesting services to its customers within a very short period of time.
We were able to do this by keeping a satisfactory level of our financial KPI’s that were set by our board. We are a team who can think global and act local. We are proud of being a 100% Azerbaijani company that is able to compete with big regional players.
Our market is striving for new technologies and for exciting services. Although our market is somehow highly penetrated, we believe that Data services and other non-traditional telecom services will the ones driving the growth in the next couple of years.
Com World Series: What is most affecting profitability for operators in the region and how are you working to improve it?
Marc Zirca: Our region is not different to any other region and general factors which have an impact on profitability remain the same for us. We are trying to manage our cost in an efficient way and make sure that it is well optimized to serve our business.
Com World Series: How is the demand for data impacting your business and how are you taking advantage of it?
Marc Zirca: I would say that Data services are the Star of the telecom industry. With the launch of Bakcell’s 3G Sür@ services in 2011 a new era in the mobile internet started in Azerbaijan. Today, we are proud to say that Bakcell is the leader mobile data services provider in the Azerbaijani market.
We managed to answer the demand for small and large screens.
Our advantage is that we understand the needs of our subscribers. We are here to listen to them and to thrive to serve them better. And one of our newest successes is the launch of our branded smartphones (Android) that made a hit in the market. This is a clear indication that the demand for data will continue to grow.
Moreover, we are committed to constantly upgrade our network, and our new project will be the launch of the LTE services during 2014. LTE is going to provide our subscribers (consumers and corporate) with high data speed capabilities that will allow them to use more data hungry services.
Com World Series: What is still needed in terms of networks and infrastructure across the region?
Marc Zirca: We can say that our region is improving constantly. We have witnessed the launch of several 3G and LTE networks in several countries. Almost all the operators are up to the level to provide high quality services.
A possible way for improvement would be the backend infrastructure. Such as more performing and flexible billing systems, better reporting and monitoring tools. This kind of infrastructure is necessary for us to provide a better customer experience.
We are proud to say that Bakcell started since 2012 investing in such infrastructure and we will be continuing to do so in the future.
Com World Series: How is LTE changing the market and what is your company’s strategy in regards to this technology?
Marc Zirca: LTE is a technology that all operators will be launching in our market. The imminent need for LTE capabilities are not there yet. However the role of the mobile operator is to introduce new technologies to its subscribers and help to answer some specific needs.
LTE is still very young in our market, and we cannot say that it was created a shift in the customer behaviour yet. We believe that it will take few more years before we see the real rush towards LTE and this is mainly due to the availability of reasonably priced LTE handsets and devices.
The faster the OEM’s move on providing good and affordable LTE handsets, the quicker the adoption rate will be. LTE is on our radar and will be launched in 2014.
Attend EurasiaCom to hear Marc Zirka’s take part in the Opening Keynote – Panel Discussion on “How have data and technology developments become game-changers for Telcos?”, taking place on Day 1 at 09:30.