TBY talks to Anatoliy Popov, General Manager of Beeline Kazakhstan, on the telecommunications sector, 3G, and medium-term targets.
TBY Beeline came to the Kazakhstani telecoms market in the 2004. After six years in Kazakhstan, what position does your company hold in the market?
ANATOLIY POPOV We are currently a close second in the market. We have a substantial subscriber base, and we are the leading operator in five regions out of 14 in Kazakhstan. Our development has been swift, and we are happy with the growth we have seen.
What has set Beeline apart from its competition in the short time it has been active in the country?
We are a unique universal player in the Kazakhstani market, present in almost all telecoms segments, with very few exceptions. We are a cellular operator, and a broadband internet provider with business as well as family subscribers. We are fiber-optic operators, having already built over 5,000 kilometers of fiber-optical lines that connect key cities in Kazakhstan. We are also increasingly offering satellite and some more specific telecoms services. None of our competitors can really boast of such a diverse range of services.
How would you evaluate the telecommunications sector’s climate over the last three years?
The climate has been solid. The industry has managed to grow at a much faster rate than GDP over the last couple of years. In 2009 GDP growth was approximately 1%, and telecoms sector growth was around 8%. This was followed by 10% growth in the telecoms sector in 2010, beating all GDP estimates dramatically. Such figures are a good indicator of the positive climate for the telecoms industry.
To what extent has the acquisition of smaller competitors been in your growth strategy?
It has traditionally been a part of our growth strategy, as it is quite difficult to survive in a market with such strong players present. Currently, we are dominating the sector, and we have some successful subsidiary companies that we have acquired in recent years. We shall continue to look for potential opportunities if the target is attractive; however, that kind of activity will be somewhat limited from now on.
Do you believe the mobile sector has reached saturation point, and how will the market evolve from here?
The penetration rate of the mobile sector in SIM cards is around 123%. This doesn’t offer many opportunities for newcomers. It does, however, allow key players to offer a broad range of services to subscribers. Kazakhstan is still relatively underdeveloped in terms of the use of internet in business. This is a big opportunity for us. In this regard, we hope to meet our targets by continuing the implementation of new standards such as 3G.
What position do you currently occupy in the 3G market, and what potential does the platform have?
We have been very aggressive in our internet rollout program. We were the first operator in Kazakhstan to offer nationwide 3G. We are already operating in 32 cities, and we built this network in about one month. We see great opportunity, especially for people with a high profile of usage. We need to cover their demands. They are tired of slow internet, and so the pressure is on to provide the same levels of service seen in other countries. There is also a second option that we need to understand—internet access isn’t prevalent in small cities. Business-wise, it’s not practical to build an optical network for family homes spaced far apart. The 3G service offers more remote locations the right speed and the right quality of internet, and a very simple and accessible way to connect to the worldwide network.
© The Business Year