PARTNER CONTENT: Atac Tansug, Chief Digital Services and Solutions Officer of Turkcell, told Huawei Win Win Live the operator is reaping the early benefits of switching focus away from providing only connectivity towards delivering a broad portfolio of digital services.

In an interview, Tansug explained Turkcell began investing in the digital sphere more than a decade ago, developing services covering messaging, IPTV, publishing, cloud systems and more: whatever time its customers spend on the internet, “we are there”, he said.

Tansug noted Turkcell’s efforts go beyond consumer services, with a suite of services spanning email, video conferencing, and a document management and storage platform created for the enterprise sector.

He compared the digital company’s efforts to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of products.

Turkcell’s strategy is paying off, with its various digital initiatives contributing to a 56.7 per cent year-on-year rise in overall revenue during Q3.

Within this, its digital business services revenue increased 107.1 per cent, while its consumer side was up 29.2 per cent as it continued to attract fresh subscribers which Turkcell indicated in financial documents were unique to the digital business.

Tansug hailed the IPTV offering, explaining it launched in 2014 and “is one of our most successful services”. He said Turkcell’s IPTV and OTT services “reach around 2.2 million subscribers”.

Turkcell placed the figure at 1.2 million in its Q3 statement, with Erkan noting official statistics placed it as the only IPTV service in Turkey to gain market share in the previous quarter.

Across the enterprise and consumer digital services, Turkcell reaped more than TRY1 billion in revenue, around $53.8 million, in the recent quarter.

Global potential
Turkcell’s transition from a pure-play provider of connectivity to a turnkey supplier of digital services offered benefits beyond its domestic market, Tansug noted: “our digital services can be downloaded and used everywhere in the world”.

The executive explained Turkcell is seeking to tap international markets through collaboration with operators in those territories, though noted this was more to do with the limitations of brand reach than the actual connectivity or services on offer.

“To increase our customer base, to penetrate the other markets, we are doing operator cooperation. Because at Turkcell we have limited marketing power outside of Turkey”.

Tansug added Turkcell’s deals with operators outside its domestic nation enable it to tap those companies’ greater experience in terms of tailoring the marketing of products to their customers and people.

It is a particularly productive relationship, enabling partner companies to utilise the work Turkcell has done to develop its portfolio of consumer and enterprise digital offerings without necessarily encountering the same costs as the Turkish company.

Tansug noted great interest in such partnerships, literally creating a win-win by allowing Turkcell to swiftly expand the potential market for its digital services portfolio. He explained the approach today means his company’s services are available in almost every nation in the world, a figure based purely on the product suite developed and excluding its content services.

Tackling challenges head on
For many operators, the emergence of over-the-top (OTT) services proved a blow in terms of revenue generation. Services including WhatsApp cannibalised income, with most service providers unable to capitalise on the increase in mobile data traffic they created.

Tansug explained Turkcell realised there was an opportunity to address this imbalance by including OTT services within its broader digital strategy: “where the infrastructure is independent, we can increase more rapidly”.

Turkcell’s approach sees it “beating the global competitors” with services including its TV offering along with the insight gained when the company was a pure-play provider of connectivity.

Tansug highlighted the TV service’s success was built on “giving enhanced customer experience” to Turkcell’s users, a key part of which is the content it offers alongside bundled tariffs combining the TV element with its broader contracts. “This is differentiation of our services against the competition”.

But the digital services executive noted Turkcell’s networks were another key piece of the pie when it comes to competing with OTTs.

“They are already giant, right?” he quipped, referring to the “billions of customers worldwide” leading OTT service providers have racked up, a sum seemingly insurmountable for a company with its roots in fixed and mobile telephony.

However, Tansug explained Turkcell’s strength “is our telecom muscles”. It has established a beachhead by “doing operator integrations, the network integrations”, all aspects its very history leaves the company well-placed to achieve.

Of course, relying on the past to forge a path to the future is not sufficient by itself, and perhaps not even in-keeping with the ethos of Turkcell’s own digital transformation. Tansug noted the underlying strength also required to develop its own services to compete with those provided by OTT players head-on.

“Let me give you an example…let’s take the instant messaging application like WhatsApp. We have an instant messaging application, BiP. We are making the operator integrations for BiP. And what can you do via this operator integration? You can make real GSM calls, real fixed-line calls. You can receive calls. You can manage a second number…And you can actually use your fixed number on your mobile when you are at your home”.

The service is a real world example of how Turkcell is employing its historic strengths to take the fight to OTT companies, another element in its strategy of delivering a differentiated experience which only a digitised operator can deliver.

Of course, another element a company which began in traditional communications holds is its relationships with equipment vendors.

Tansug noted Huawei was Turkcell’s biggest strategic partner, a relationship the company can use to develop future use cases.

There is also a further international element to Turkcell’s close partnership with Huawei, in terms of tapping the equipment vendor’s global markets and experience of operating in a broad range of countries.

Tansug noted the strategy Turkcell adopted is “not easy” but is “a must” for traditional telecoms players. In addition to delivering an enhanced customer experience, the digital-first strategy is also positioning the company to capitalise on the emerging value of data, potentially opening another avenue in its widening revenue strategy.