PARTNER INTERVIEW: Kazakhtelecom had a large presence at the recent MWC19 event in Shanghai, during which it signed a major deal expanding the scope of transit services in the country with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator.

Leonid MuravJov, director of Kazakhtelecom B2B products development (pictured), likened the deal to the establishment of a new Silk Road between China and Europe, highlighting the importance of the operators’ agreement.

However, MuravJov added the agreement also highlights the importance of being on the ground at events like MWC19, as the company seeks out, and finds, new partners in all areas of its development to boost not only Kazakhstan, but the entire Central Asia region.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, the executive explained it used MWC19 to demonstrate its leadership in international data transit, an area he noted Kazakhtelecom is already cooperating with a number of large Chinese operators to deliver connections between China and Europe, using a channel he said offers low latency and high reliability.

Was data transit the main focus of Kazakhtelecom’s presence at MWC19?
Of course, no. We are now one of the pioneering companies in the 5G field. Due to the fact that we have invested a lot in optical infrastructure in recent years, we are almost ready to introduce 5G, and even more than many other operators in developed countries. Searching for partners and establishing cooperation in this market segment is another big task. We are looking for partners to interact in other areas. We need to understand that we are a large operator, occupying about 70 per cent of the market in almost all telecom areas in Kazakhstan, and we are always open to new ideas. For us, MWC19 is one of the opportunities to communicate directly with the whole world in order to apply the latest, best and highest quality solutions.

What is the direction of your business development?
We are working across all technology developments, but specifically at MWC19, for example, we watched many cases on smart cities, those cases that were used by other telecoms operators, primarily Chinese ones. The same work was carried out both in video surveillance systems and in smart city management systems; we reviewed a lot of modern equipment. We were very interested in various things in the field of financial technologies, since we are a company that is the main operator of fiscal data in the country, and we are also quite interested in the development of this area.

So what prevailed at the event: commercial interests or adoption of best practice?
These always are complementary things: on the one hand, exhibitions and congresses always affect our commercial activity, in which we act as a partner for other telecom operators in the field of data transit. On the other hand, any event is our passion for everything new, what is needed in order to keep up with the whole world and ensure the digitalisation process in the country for which we, as the largest telecom company in Kazakhstan, will be responsible in the end. Kazakhstan is making a big bet on digitalisation and bringing new technologies to the country, which is also a part of our commercial activity. These two components build our desire to participate in large international events, in which we take part quite often. Shanghai is not the first GSMA event in which we participated, having attended MWC in Barcelona, along with a number of smaller events such as Mobile360 Russia and CIS in Moscow.

Besides the commercial returns, what else made MWC19 Shanghai stand out?
We managed to reach an agreement with China Mobile International, the subsidiary of China Mobile responsible for all of its international agreements, to increase the capacity of our channel by almost six-times, which is a big effect for us and for our Chinese partners. It is important that now, with our land channel, we are actively competing with suppliers of maritime communication channels, because technologically we have reached such a level that we were able to provide a sufficiently high level of price with an incredibly higher level of quality in terms of delay and reliability. If the sea channel recovers in a few weeks in case of damage, then it will take only a few hours here, which is interesting to our Chinese partners, especially considering the very reasonable price. And they are attracted by the lower delay of 72 milliseconds in the direction from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, which is the best indicator in this dimension between these two points when compared with any suppliers of the transit channel.

So in fact, are you building a new digital Silk Road now?
Yes, Kazakhtelecom and Kazakhstan wholly is working to restore the Silk Road, which existed since time immemorial and was used for transporting goods, but now it is a new digital Silk Road, used for data transfer.

Is Kazakhtelecom now the de facto leader in all areas in Central Asia?
Yes, Kazakhtelecom is not only a country leader, but also a regional leader in almost all areas of the modern telecom industry: in fixed and mobile communication; in IPTV; and in building a system of smart cities, video surveillance systems. In addition, we are actively represented in such complex industries as financial technology. Practically everything that a modern operator does, we do in Kazakhstan. We plan to develop and, possibly, with all of this, enter other countries of Central Asia.

From this point of view, participation in international events is obligatory for us, because we represent not only Kazakhstan, but also the whole of Central Asia. We are now a leading player in telecommunications in the regional market, a rapidly growing, dynamic market with a total number of subscribers approaching 60 million people in total in five Central Asian countries. And to implement these plans of ours, we participate in exhibitions to exchange experience, to build up a network of international partners, to absorb all the best that is being done in the world in our industry and, accordingly, to bring all this to our region.