Bakcell CEO: Next stage in development of cellular communications in Azerbaijan will be expansion of data services (INTERVIEW)
Interview with CEO of Bakcell, Mr. Richard Shearer.
Azerbaijan, Baku, 18 May / Trend correspondent H.Valiyev /
Mr. Shearer, we know that you have a broad experience in managing the largest telecomm companies of the world. You have already studied the mobile telecoms market of Azerbaijan, and would like to learn your assessment of it.
The telecommunications market of Azerbaijan is a lively market. There are three mobile operators, each with different market share and their own approach to the market. Bakcell is well placed in the market and always uses innovative approaches in its operations. We've increased our market share up to 35 percent for the last year. We are not intending to stop, and will increase this figure.
The next big wave of growth in the market will be development of data services. Today, the Internet is developing quite dynamically. However, its penetration level is not significant enough. The demand is obvious and I think, bringing more internet access and usage into everyday life is one of the objectives of the industry and Azerbaijan's telecommunication market will develop in this direction.
Today, addressable mobile telecom market has already exceeded the 100 percent threshold. Which phase is next according to your opinion?
It is encouraging that the mobile market has exceeded the 100 percent threshold. This, of course will have a positive effect on the development of our company. I believe that the next stage of market development will be the expansion of data services. More and more consumers prefer to access the Internet via portable devices, and that's the exact category of users we will target.
It is known that last year the company completed the network construction. Taking into account the urgency of 3G standard, we think that replacing old base stations for the new ones supporting 3G standard will be the main issue for the company. How many new generation base stations have been already deployed in Bakcell network?
We began renovating our network in 2008-2009. All the base stations we purchased and installed have the ability to support both 2G and 3G communication standards. That means, as a matter of fact, we've purchased two types of equipment at one price. Our network's features make it possible to provide data transmission services, and our EDGE services are available today across the territory of Azerbaijan.
We have completed the works on network enhancement, which was mainly the installation of software and antennas on the base stations. Today, I can say with confidence that the network of Bakcell is ready for the provision of third generation services. We are waiting for the necessary radio frequency and license in order to launch the 3G services. I really hope that we'll be able to get the license this year.
What do you do, as an operator to increase cellular communications usage level by your subscribers?
We've recently moved all our CIN subscribers to money tariff system. We just had a big price change. I believe it will create flexibility of mobile communications usage for the subscribers. As people will increasingly use mobile communications, the fixed network's traffic will gradually migrate to the mobile network. Much of the credit for that belongs to the younger generation, because they are the ones, who prefer to use the mobile networks.
You mentioned about price changes. Shall we expect further reduction of tariffs for Internet services?
Currently, our tariff prices for data services are competitive enough. Of course, we will continue to offer new possibilities for mobile Internet users. We are constantly researching the given market segment and studying the needs of mobile users, which is the base for our tariff policy.
How about roaming tariffs? Will there be any changes?
Not at this stage, but expected. As is known, roaming services in the European market are under the great attention today and strictly regulated. If other countries will follow this path, I think that it will lead to the reduction of tariffs across the world. Unfortunately, I can say nothing special on this occasion.