Q&A: Emre Erdem, Carrier Relations & Wholesale Director, Turkcell

Q&A: Emre Erdem, Carrier Relations & Wholesale Director, Turkcell

Emre Erdem, Turkcell's carrier relations & wholesale director, tells Capacity's Jason McGee-Abe about the operator's last 12 months, including a 4.5G launch and its wholesale-retail convergence drive

What have been the highlights and key developments for Turkcell in the region over the past 12 months?

It has been a critical time period with 12 months for us at Turkcell Group. First of all we have completed the organisational change in order to position Turkcell as a converged communications and technology services company. Turkcell has become a converged operator, intensifying the integration of its mobile and fixed businesses. This integration, combined with our services focus, means that our wholesale teams has also converged with both residential and cooperate businesses and now need to keep a closer eye on how to contribute to their targets on not only in the fixed side but also in the mobile side. Now our customers could benefit the quad play services which include voice, data and service with broadband on same platform.

We have launched 4.5G in Turkey as LTE-A services on April 1st. With the 4.5G launch, that enable our customers benefit from the mobile broadband services nationwide, we offer the fastest LTE speeds that are supported on commercial terminals globally. Combining this speed with the geographical scope of its coverage – spreading over 81 city centres in a country with a territory of 783,600km² (302,500 sq. miles)– makes Turkcell unique among its international peers.

Turkcell has invested heavily on its new generation IP-based communication platform BiP (instant messaging, VoIP, video-over-IP), music app Fizy and TV offering Turkcell TV+ (1.8 million app downloads). The world of services, especially the take-up rate of BiP – which has already reached about 10 million customers globally, close to 1 million outside of Turkey – means a different and new kind of rules to the game in the wholesale world.

We took meaningful steps in wholesale-retail convergence, with the special offers for our customers which allows Turkcell subscribers to use their local minutes, SMS’ and data bundles abroad when they are roaming.

In 2016 we have opened Turkey’s largest data centre in June (10,000m2 of white space) as a part of its strategy of offering state of the art data storage and analysis facilities to Turkish and regional businesses.

Last but not least, Turkcell bought out its local partner in Ukraine, becoming the sole owner of lifecell, which is the 3rd mobile operator in Ukraine, operates in Belarus through 80% owned subsidiary life:), has a fully owned subsidiary in Northern Cyprus and operates in Germany through a partnership. It has submitted a binding offer for four of the Central Asian markets that Telia is withdrawing from.

What are the challenges of operating in the Eurasia market and how are you looking to tackle those challenges?

Since day one we pertinaciously maintain investments for building a strong network infrastructure to turn Turkey into a regional hub of information and establishing a new Silk Road of information on our fibre backbone in the region. We constructed very important and valuable international partnerships. Now we can clearly say that we have a strong stand as Turkcell in the region, with our technology leadership and the experience we have.  Even though there are economic and regional challenges, we are determined to work for our strategies.

We don’t see OTT-like services as a challenge. There are important opportunities for Turkcell to create new services with our strong infrastructure to build a hyper connected world for its customers.

What are Turkcell’s strategic priorities as well as expansion plans for the region in 2016/2017?

We are ambitious to be the number one converged communications and technology services company in Turkey, in 2018. So 2016-2017 is a critical time period for us. With the aim we will focus on fix & mobile converged services for our customers. We’ll go on investing in value added services that are built on quad play such as BiP, Turkcell TV+ or fizy.

We aim to be one of the major regional players. We have a goal of serving 100 million customers in the region, including with digital services. So we’ll go on taking serious steps to invest on regional expansion. 

What major trends do you see occurring in the Eurasia market this year and how do you plan to capitalise on those?

Data privacy and personal data security is one of the major trends in the market. Countries are more aware of data privacy every day. In this context, they are aware of keeping national data in the borders of the countries. With the approach we opened Turkey’s largest data centre in Gebze, Istanbul.

The new data centre is spread over a total area of 33,000m2. The active area – known as the “white space” - consists of 20 rooms of 500m2 each. The building has 33,000m of fibre connections. As the leading provider of fiber services in Turkey, Turkcell cooperates with international partners like Deutche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telekom Austria Group, KPN, Tata Communications and GTT Communications. Turkcell network supports 2.4Tbps bandwidth in its international connections. In addition to the data traffic of Turkey, a major portion of the data traffic of our neighboring countries in the east is served through Turkcell network.

In addition to serving its local customers, Turkcell now aims to expand its international collaborations into providing cloud services for global content companies and act as a regional node for international data traffic.

With the new data centre in Gebze, Turkcell triples its total data centre space, reaching 52,000m2. We’ll also have plans to open two new data centres in Ankara and Izmir. Upon completion of these two data centres, Turkcell will have 107,000 m2 of data centre area.

What does your organisation hope to achieve by attending Capacity Eurasia 2016?

Capacity Eurasia has always been a major specific regional event for us to demonstrate and support our main strategy: “Turning Turkey into a regional hub of information by transforming Silk Road into Fibre Road and evolving İstanbul into the world’s newest Junction for hyper connected World.” On the other hand in Capacity Eurasia, as one of the most distinguished platforms to talk about the industrial challenges and solutions for them, we’re going to continue to develop our partnerships regarding our business plans.