TBY talks to Ali Ağan, CEO of Azercell, on its contribution to the mobile sector and the need to gear up for Eurovision 2012.
TBY What has been Azercell’s contribution to the development of the mobile sector?
ALİ AĞAN From the very beginning of its operations, Azercell has played a monumental role in bringing in and integrating the latest ICT technology into Azerbaijan. Azercell is the first mobile operator to cover almost 100% of the population, including subways and oil rigs out in the Caspian Sea. Azercell has pioneered an important number of innovations in Azerbaijan, including the first 24/7 customer center, Blackberry service, missed call alert, one-stop-shop service offices, online customer services, RFID technologies, GPS navigation, and more. Back in 1998, Azercell introduced pre-paid services to the market, making it one of the first in the world to do so. This innovative payment method opened up the mobile world to millions of low-income people and boosted mobile penetration. Azercell’s one-stop shop offices—Azercell Express—now number 38, of which 22 are in the regions of Azerbaijan. The world-class service standards implemented by us are an example for other international companies providing such services in our country. We have also established the first innovation incubation center—called “Barama,” or Cocoon—in the region, and a 4G research laboratory at Qafqaz University.
Azercell is the main partner of Eurovision 2012. How will the company assist in such a major event?
This is a great opportunity for Azerbaijan to introduce the country to many foreign visitors that will come for the event. Being a presenting partner of the Eurovision Song Contest and promoting Azerbaijan’s image is an honor for us as a company. We shall provide all the support needed in this regard. This is a great achievement for the country, and we are happy to share this joy and happiness with our people. This project doesn’t bring any commercial benefit for the company, moreover, we are going to spend even more of our human, financial, and technical resources to make sure that all visitors will have the best technological experience that any company in the world can provide. Being the leading innovator in the country in our field gives us an opportunity to present a wide range of our products and services at the highest level.
What projects are you developing to further Azercell’s growth and presence in the sector?
At the moment the focus is on increasing mobile data in the country, and ensuring that the country has high-speed 3G Max presented by Azercell. At the same time, in May 2012, right before the Eurovision Song Contest, we are planning to provide LTE technology and we have already agreed with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies that a 4G license will be issued to us due to the importance of the event. We also feel obliged to be the first to introduce this service to the Azerbaijani people. As you know, our main shareholder, the Teliasonera Group of Companies, was the first in the world to introduce 4G, and it is very logical that we should be the first one to introduce it to our people. Moreover, we intend to increase the number of one-stop-shop offices in order to get even closer to our customers in case they need any assistance.
What is your general outlook for the mobile sector in Azerbaijan for 2012?
This year will be very special for Azerbaijan, as the country is hosting the biggest event in its history, the Eurovision Song Contest. As the main sponsor of the event, Azercell will ensure that both our guests from abroad and our customers in the country enjoy a seamless and impeccable mobile communication experience and also get special promotions and services dedicated to the event. Apart from that, in 2012, mobile number portability (MNP) will be introduced as required by the regulator, which will add a new dimension to competition in this sector. We hope that the competition will increase and be based on value-adding, which is essential for healthy industry growth and the timely introduction of new technology.
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