TBY talks to K. Gökhan Bozkurt, CEO of Türk Telekom, on the company's development since privatization, trends in the ICT sector, and the growing role of R&D.

K. Gökhan Bozkurt
K. Gökhan Bozkurt has a degree in Economics from Johns Hopkins University, and from 1999 to 2003 served in an international finance institution. In 2003, he joined Ziraat Bank as Head of International Affairs and Subsidiaries, and held positions at Ziraat Bank Moscow and Ziraat Bank International in Germany. He then joined Halkbank, working in various positions, playing a crucial role in the merger between Halkbank and Pamukbank. In 2006 he joined Türk Telekom as Vice-President of Human Resources, and since 2010 has served as the CEO of the company.

How has the company developed since privatization in 2005?

When Türk Telekom was privatized at the end of 2005, its main business was fixed line, and it had a 40% share in the smallest mobile operator in the market. Putting forward a convergence strategy and taking the necessary steps transformed Türk Telekom into the group of companies it is today. This transformation spanned from revisions to its business model, and the repositioning of its products and services utilizing a customer-focused approach, to human resources investments—accelerated in parallel with technology and infrastructure upgrades—and an international growth route supported by its group structure abroad. Türk Telekom offers not only landline, but also data and internet, as well as value-added services. The innovative technologies and services that complement fixed line and internet are developed by Türk Telekom and its subsidiaries, which are technology companies acquired with a convergent technology focus. Türk Telekom is well positioned to sustain this momentum and continue to build on its recent growth in 2011. We will continue to improve our services to the market, capitalizing on our advanced distribution channels, strong brand name, converged products, teamwork, and synergies. As a sign of customers' perception of all these products and services, Türk Telekom was ranked Turkey's most valuable brand by the international brand valuation consultancy, Brand Finance, in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

What trends can you identify in the Turkish ICT sector and how is Türk Telekom capitalizing on them?

We see the future in convergence technologies that facilitate people's lives, support social developments, and make contributions to the quality of life. This is also the fundamental reason to concentrate on convergence technologies and undertake leadership in this field. With convergence in mind, we are focusing on various communications services like voice, data, and video transmissions via a single platform and are providing fully integrated products and services that offer value to our customers. Convergence not only means a converged network for fixed and mobile, but it is also about the convergence of services such as education and entertainment. We aim to offer value-added products and services for everyone in the most advantageous and affordable ways, and we think this is the main challenge for the telecommunications sector. In addition, content and value-added services are the other engines affecting broadband growth. In this regard, we set our plan for convergence two years ago and positioned it as the central theme of our investments.

What role will Türk Telekom play in achieving the government's 2023 vision for broadband internet penetration?

Turkey's unique geographic location allows us to cover a vast area from Europe to the Middle East, and become a bridge and communications center. In 2010, we began to take advantage this opportunity with the acquisition of Pantel, one of the foremost independent wholesale data and capacity providers in Central and Southeastern Europe with its 27,000 kilometer-long fiber-optic network. Yet another important development for Türk Telekom and the country's telecommunications sector was the realization of the JADI LINK project, which aimed to establish a colossal integrated multi-pass, fiber-optic network encompassing the Middle East, Southern Europe, and the Far East. I firmly believe that Türk Telekom will become a much more active international player by 2023. Turkey is expected to continue with this success story by maintaining sustainable growth. The ICT sector will be one of the main driving forces behind this growth. We believe that telecommunications infrastructure and information technology are critical elements for Turkey's competitiveness.

What portion of Türk Telekom's budget is spent on R&D, and what is the scale of its research activities?

R&D is one of the most important growth centers in our transformation process. We not only need R&D in order to be in a position to follow technology trends, but also to lead it. In line with our vision to export Turkish technology all over the world, we attribute great importance to our R&D activities. We are undertaking our R&D efforts both through Türk Telekom and our group companies, such as Argela, İnnova, Sebit, and Sobee. These group companies play a pivotal role in the development of Türk Telekom's technological power and the export of convergence technologies.