Total Telecom spoke to Turk Telekom’s CEO, Dr Paul Doany, ahead of the Broadband World Forum event in Berlin, to discover how the company is planning to boost internet penetration levels and prepare for the arrival of 5G in Turkey
Tell us a little about the broadband market in Turkey. What is Turk Telekom doing to boost penetration rates?
As the main internet provider in Turkey, Turk Telekom provides 268 thousand kilometers of fiber infrastructure to 81 cities in Turkey. At this point, it is our responsibility to introduce as many people as we can to the internet. While internet usage is rapidly increasing in Turkey, the broadband penetration rate is 52%, while the same rate is at 73% in Europe. Therefore, one of our most prioritized goal is to increase broadband penetration in order to ensure everyone can benefit from the internet equally.
In line with this goal, we provide attractive and affordable tariffs for our citizens in line with the campaign ‘Let There Be No Homes without Internet’ started by the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication Ministry in 2017. Plus, we offer this package with no profit to other internet service providers so they can also offer the same tariffs to their end clients at the same price
What’s more, we have educated countless citizens on how to use the internet as part of our corporate social responsibility project, ‘Life is Simple with Internet’. To date, approximately 30 thousand people have become internet-literate and have begun implementing the internet in their daily lives thanks to this project we started in 2013.
As Turk Telekom, our mission is not to just reach and match the internet penetration rate in Europe. Our main goal is ensuring that both the East and Western cities in Turkey are able to benefit from the blessings of the internet equally. In other words, we are working towards closing the digital divide in our country.
As Turkey’s leading information and communication technologies company and the backbone of the nation’s communication infrastructure that has accomplished many successful projects in this area, we will continue working towards boosting penetration rates of our country and bridging the digital divide in Turkey.
Why is it important to boost penetration levels – what benefits will it bring to the country?
There is no denying that we are in the Digital Age. Now, people are able to receive education, market their products, and carry out banking transactions or purchase goods via the internet. Producers are able to deliver their products and are able to meet the demands of even more consumers, which creates new economies. Thus, the national economy grows, which in turn supports and contributes to the development of the country and the welfare of its citizens.
The internet is a gift with endless benefits; when an entrepreneur is able to locate financing for his/her new idea, the innovation in the country develops. With innovation and entrepreneurs contributing to the formation of multiple companies across various fields, not only does the entrepreneurial ecosystem grow but our nation’s economy and the welfare of the citizens will develop.
For all of this to happen, penetration levels in the country need to increase. We are aware that the people in the East deserve access to the internet just as much as the people in the West of the country. Therefore, as a company that places great importance on the development of Turkey and carries out its projects in line with the 2023 national goals of the country, we are constantly working towards bridging the digital divide between the East and the West of the country as well as the North and South of the country; therefore, boosting internet penetration levels.
Let’s talk a little about the emergence of IoT technology in the industrial sectors. What’s Turk Telekom doing to facilitate the rollout of IoT solutions for industry?
Digitalization for businesses has become the driving force within the industrial transformation. With digital transformation, the areas business owners are focusing heavily on are operational improvement, the ability of rapid response to changing customer demands, efficiency increase and cost decrease. Amongst the tangible requests are efficiency increasing and production loss preventing solutions for the production lines of manufacturing companies. In addition, Public Enterprises and Local Authorities are requesting digital transformation in order to provide closer service to citizens, manage the infrastructure online, economise on energy and irrigation, and provide online services in transport and other services.
The digital transformation that is able to meet the needs of business owners, Public Enterprises and Local Authorities mainly consists of technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing. As Turk Telekom, we are standing by business owners with our many products in these areas.
Additionally, in order for next generation technologies like IoT, AI, Cyber Security or Cloud Computing to be utilized, a strong infrastructure is vital. This is where Turk Telekom comes in to play. As the leading operator in Turkey, we currently have 268 thousand kilometers of fiber infrastructure that covers all 81 cities in Turkey. This infrastructure provides these technologies with low-latency and high capacity qualities as well as ensuring minimum interruption in connectivity.
As Turkey’s leading operator, we are providing the best environments in preparation for next generation technologies and work with all our might in extending these environments to the furthest points in Turkey.
Tell us a little about the mobile market in Turkey – What are your plans for 5G?
With over 79.5 million mobile subscribers and a mobile penetration rate of 98.4%, the mobile market in Turkey is a fast developing sector. The technology behind mobile is developing even faster. Foreseeing this, we as Turk Telekom have laid down 268 thousand kilometers of fiber infrastructure in preparation for the 5G rollout. When you take into consideration the fact that the entire length of fiber infrastructure in Turkey is just over 338 thousand kilometers, our contribution to Turkey’s telecommunication network is incontrovertible.
We have succeeded in developing 5G and beyond technologies with local resources and have gained new competitive advantages. In addition to infrastructure, we are designing 5G compatible base stations that will be used worldwide and are coding software with ProgRAN; a product developed by our R&D Company, Argela in the Software Defined Network (SDN) area. Through mobile network slicing, ProgRAN provides a significant increase in infrastructure efficiency.
At the 5G Center of Excellence, which we founded in February of 2017, we are continuing to develop 5G technologies with the valuable contributions of over 30 academicians from various universities. Therefore creating a local and national touch in next generation technologies.
Within the international 5G arena, we are part of various formations founded with the aim of developing 5G technologies on a global scale such as 5GPPP (5G Public-Private Partnership), Networld 2020, ETSI NFV (European Telecommunication Standards Institute Network Functions Virtualization), ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform) and ONF (Open Network Foundation). Through these formations, we are maintaining our studies and works with global players as part of the scope of creating the standards and development of 5G technologies.
ONF is viewed as the Champions League of the telecommunication sector due to its members and the projects the foundation has actualized to date. In addition, ONAP is a Linux Trust project that brings together leading member operators and technology suppliers on a global scale.
Turk Telekom’s membership to ONF and ONAP contributes greatly to the increase of Turkey’s local and national production as well as export targets. Turk Telekom teams don’t just develop new technologies for 5G, SDN and NFV; they exchange know-how and benefit from the best applications.
What new markets are particularly interesting to Turk Telekom at the moment? Are you looking to expand overseas?
Currently, Turk Telekom operations and projects are focused on the domestic market. However, Turk Telekom has a wholly owned subsidiary; Turk Telekom International, which has active presence in various countries. The Turk Telekom International has over 45 thousand kilometers of fiber optic network and is Turkey’s and Turk Telekom’s telecommunication bridge between Europe and Asia.
Turk Telekom International’s activities are not limited to data and the internet market; international wholesale audio and roaming functions are also carried out. Turk Telekom International has wholesale audio deals with over 180 operator and telecom companies as well as mutual roaming agreements with 720 operators across 208 countries for Turk Telekom mobile services.
Most significantly, Turk Telekom International is a full member of the SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium, a fifth generation undersea fiber optic cable system project of the SEA-ME-WE System. The SEA-ME-WE-5 undersea cable system covers 20 thousand kilometers from Singapore to Marseilles and connects 17 countries with high capacity fiber cables. In Europe, the first connection point to land is in Marmaris, Mugla; a city in Turkey.
Besides being the first undersea fiber connection to be constructed between Europe and Asia, SEA-ME-WE-5 possesses the lowest latency in data traffic, a high quality audio and a high level technology. With this project, Turk Telekom International reinforced Turkey’s position of being an inter-continental telecommunication bridge.
Lastly, amidst the intense competitive environment in other countries, we meet our customers’ expectations in the most efficient way with our service quality, alternative routes and different sale approaches. We are already focusing on different and brand new projects that will allow Turk Telekom International to have a broader position in the telecommunication world in the years ahead.
What predictions do you have for Turkey’s telecoms sector over the next 12 – 18 months?
In 2019, preparations for the 5G rollout will continue throughout the entire broadband industry. Besides ensuring the infrastructure is ready for the 5G rollout, Turk Telekom’s one other main focus area for 2019 will be increasing internet penetration in Turkey. Especially the rapid increase of the penetration ratio by reaching those with limited economic means via attractive penetration increasing offers. We, as Turk Telekom are ready to provide the support the market needs in the wholesale universe as well.
In fact, we had already started a support system in mid-2017, in the form of a penetration campaign aimed at the whole of Turkey. According to a poll carried out by research company Barem in June 2018, with Turk Telekom customers who benefit from our ‘Let There Be No Home without Internet’ campaign, 77% of the participants admitted to purchasing internet for their home for the first time. This is proof that we, as Turk Telekom are touching many people’s lives across Turkey like never before and are introducing countless families to the blessings of the internet. But that isn’t all; in the near term, we will also present regional offers to districts that have an internet penetration rate under 30% as well as providing added support to these districts.
One other prediction I have for 2019 is that the home internet sector will enter a transformation period. In line with our regulator ICTA’s decision to do away with the Fair Usage Quota (FUQ), both Turk Telekom and other internet service providers will alter their current package structures. And we will be shaping brand new customer gain oriented tariffs and campaigns by taking customers’ needs and our company goals in to account. We expect there to be a quota in the market for actual non-limited offers.