LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – MENA, DUBAI: Turkcell has become something of a poster child for carriers attempting to become a true digital operator and used a keynote presentation today (27 November) to tout the benefits this strategy has delivered.

“Two years ago if I had told you that Turkcell’s revenue would grow around 60 per cent on a bi-annual basis, or our EBITDA would grow nearly 100 per cent [97 per cent] on this bi-annual basis, you would all have left,” said Aysem Ertopuz, EVP of digital services and solutions (pictured, standing).

The growth is the result of Turkcell launching a number of digital services traditionally associated with social media and internet companies in a bid to move away from being purely a technology provider.

“A few years ago we asked ourselves: Are we an operator or are we in the business of feelings, experiences, and people? We didn’t want to just be a tech-focused telecoms company, but instead in the business of providing services and experiences,” explained Ertopuz.

“We decided that the experiences we will provide to our customers will be differentiated with functions and features that only a licensed operator can provide. By becoming a digital operator, we can take the best of two worlds. We’re no longer in the raw data business, but the process data business. That’s how we moved into an era at Turkcell with providing our customers with digital services: digital TV; messenger apps; publishing; even a lifestyle service called BiP. That’s the basis of our transformation story.”

Ertopuz stated the operator had enjoyed strong quarterly performance in recent times, adding 591,000 subscribers year-on-year in its home market during Q2, with customers using an average of 7GB of data during June. She also touted 130 million core app downloads and said the average customer spends 250 minutes a day actively using Turkcell digital services.

The operator has also been a strong supporter of the GSMA’s Mobile Connect initiative, a GSM-based digital identity platform.

Lifecell Ventures
In September Turkcell chief Kaan Terzioglu said the company was in talks with “about 30 different operators” through its Lifecell Ventures arm, which is intended to share its digital services know-how and technology.

Ertopuz touched on the strategy here in Dubai, stating: “we don’t want to take our digital services internationally as competition to other operators in local markets. Instead we would like operators in other countries to see similar success to ours.”