TEST OF FIBER

Costa Rica 2019 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

Offering 5G services and video streaming services is the key to staying competitive for Costa Rica's state-owned telecoms company, Kölbi.

Jaime Palermo Quesada
BIOGRAPHY
Jaime Palermo Quesada is the General Manager of the telecommunications area of ICE and Kölbi. He is also president of the boards of directors of Radiográfica Costarricense SA and Cable Vision of Costa Rica, CRICSA, and ICETEL. He joined ICE in 1982 and has over 30 years’ experience in the telecommunications sector. He is an industrial engineer with an MBA with an emphasis in marketing, specializing in improvement of administrative management. He also has a specialization in marketing from the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University.

What is your opinion on the current state of the telecommunications sector?

Despite having a monopoly in the past and entering a new structure where we need to keep our clients, in the last decade the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) has been able to retain its clients through a process of adjustment and establishing new ways of marketing and retaining customers. In the first year, we had 1,600 clients, and now we have over 4 million; it has been a difficult adjustment, though as a result of our human resources and the training it has received, we have been able to maintain the level of demand and the high level of efficiency required. ICE—similar to the case of ANTEL in Uruguay—is the only state company that was able to survive in this new environment of competition.

How is Kölbi adapting its business model to include new trends such as IoT?

We have invested a great deal in order to be able to face this migration from old technologies to this new world of IP. All our networks, transport, and communications are now evolving based on the internet. We are able to provide certain services in terms of IoT. We have LTE Advanced, and there is high penetration with the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) that we have been working on in previous years. In terms of IoT, we have already made some important steps, for example with services such as surveillance and security for local governments. In 2020, we expect to have the first tests using 5G technology. At the same time, we also want to start installing TDD, a service that is fixed but also mobile and uses 4.5 or 5G. Kölbi is truly adapting in order to better provide its customers with all their IoT requirements.

What responsibility does Kölbi have, being the only state-owned enterprise in the sector?

Originally, many predicted ICE would be a tool for the development of the country. New generations are the ones that need to be persuaded, as they do not have the attachment to the company and do not know how far we have come. ICE and Kölbi are still expected to provide services to the entire country, so we still have that responsibility because that is part of our DNA.

What was the process of developing the Kölbi brand like?

In 2008, when the telecommunications market was opened up, ICE was a greatly respected brand, though it had a formal identity. We felt the need to create a fresh, dynamic, and flexible brand in order to compete in this environment. In 2009, we created Kölbi, which means frog in the language of the Cabécar indigenous group. We lead the market with 60% market share and continue to make investments in our network. Recently, Open Signal rated Kölbi as having the best infrastructures or technologies in 3G and 4G, which has helped us to not only attract clients but also win clients away from other companies. We are aware that we need to continue to invest—as we have done since 2011—in order to maintain Kölbi's privileged position.

What are your plans for the 10th anniversary of Kölbi?

We plan to have 1 million homes connected to fiber optic. We expect to have at least half of that by 2019 in addition to platforms for over-the-top (OTT) and television in all households. We want to continue to be at the forefront of technology in Central America. Costa Rica was the first country to introduce 3G and 4G, and plans are in place to achieve the same with 4.5 and 5G in 2019. We plan to expand all our services to every corner of Costa Rica.