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Portugal 2019 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

Bringing 4G to nearly the entirety of Portugal and boosting its operational KPIs, market share, and customer base, Altice entered 2019 with robust expectations.

Alexandre Fonseca
BIOGRAPHY
With over 20 years of professional experience, Alexandre Fonseca has been CEO of Altice Portugal since 2017. He is also the Executive Manager for Altice Labs, the Portuguese-based technology research & development unit for Altice Group. He joined Altice in 2012, when the group entered Portugal. Previously, he was the CEO at ONI Portugal and ONI Mozambique, prior to which he was the CTO at Cabovisão. Between 1995 and 2007, he worked in the IT and telecommunications industries in senior management and management consulting positions for Coopers & Lybrant, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and IBM. He holds a bachelor’s in computer science engineering from Lisbon University and a master's degree in sales and marketing management from TeamView Institute.

What have been the main highlights since you were appointed as the company's CEO?

Altice was known as PT before it was acquired in 2015. One of the most important things for us with the new team was to change the way we were communicating or being perceived in the market. We increased our levels of communication and recognition in the market since we are leaders in almost every segment of the industry. That was one of the key challenges we tackled, nine months after which our recognition and communication levels showed tremendous improvements. On a more business-related level, we faced continuing and new challenges. Since 2015, the company has invested heavily in infrastructure for fiber-optic deployment and mobile network enhancement, and continues to invest in infrastructure development.

The mobile sector is being led by MEO with 7.9 million out of 10.3 million mobile customers. What is your strategy?

Altice's key strategy is to maintain a high ratio of investment in infrastructure because overall growth cannot be achieved unless we invest heavily in infrastructure development. Altice Portugal is the number-one investor with EUR1.2 billion invested over the last three fiscal years. It is due to our investments that our mobile network can cover 98.5% of the Portuguese population with 4G, a high number for European standards. Equally important, the same infrastructure enables 70% coverage for next generation 4G+ services; however, we want to be recognized not just for our investments in infrastructure but also for our high quality of service. To that end, we are enhancing customer experience and driving initiatives that allow people to have self-service and digital approaches to customer service interactions. In addition to that, our initiatives are focused on providing the best content, applications, and solutions for the B2B market; we aim to create a system that can be scaled for large enterprises and SMEs. Portugal's business segment is largely comprised of small companies, so we cannot simply replicate a service offered to a major Portuguese bank for a small accounting shop.

Altice is working with Huawei to make Portugal the European 5G leader. What can your customers expect from Altice in this regard?

We have divided the country into north and south and are working with Huawei in the south and Ericsson in the north. With both of them, we have established two individual programs, collectively named the Road to 5G. The project has a head start, as the current infrastructure covers 70% of the Portuguese population with 4G+, paving the path for an easy transition to 5G. We are now experimenting with technologies and CPEs with Huawei. Notably, we conducted the first live demo with live 5G equipment in 1H2018, and it was a huge success. The company is looking forward to the implementation of 5G on a national level. However, we are not as eager to implement 5G as regulators, governments, or technology manufacturers because we invested around EUR100 million in modernizing our mobile network in 2016 and first need to capitalize on that. We see 5G as a natural evolution that will come along in time and do not expect to have live commercial services before 2022. 5G is not about having more capacity—4G is sufficient for present demands—but about addressing a different set of challenges, such as density and the number of devices that can be connected within 1sqkm. I do not expect 5G to be massive for retail customers; it will be a good evolution for new sets of businesses that would incorporate the Internet of Things and Machine to Machine communication.