Telemach is the leading video provider and fastest growing mobile operator in Slovenia. How does it account for its success in what is a saturated telecom market and why has this been so prominent in the mobile sector?
In the world of tough competition, you must always do your best to stand out and make sure that your services are impeccable. It’s with only by being innovative, flexible, and agile that you can impress today’s demanding users. That is why we aim to be the trendsetter in the Slovenian telecommunications market. We were the first to introduce unlimited mobile data in our mobile packages VEC, we developed our own group TV platform EON, and we dabbled in new markets, all with one clear goal – to offer the best possible user experience.
The basis of our success is our strong infrastructure and network that we are constantly upgrading. We have already invested more than a €100 million in recent years in our network, and we will continue with similar upgrades to be ready for all future challenges. As a result, we are able to constantly increase fixed network internet speeds and introduce new and improved mobile packages. We are customer-centric oriented with a strong focus on customer experience – improving the services for existing as well as new users.
We don’t just offer 4P services, but include additional services such as our on demand video, called “Video klub”, that is included in your subscription, time shift and our Unifi and Unifi Travel services, which allow users to travel care-free using more than 120 million Wi-Fi spots around the world. People seem to receive this well as Telemach continues to be the best provider of multiple services and is approaching 80% of triple play penetration and crossing 40% of users who in addition to using our fixed services also use our mobile services.
We believe, that our success is founded upon satisfied, motivated and committed employees. This is why we are constantly investing in our employees, in their education, motivation, engagement and good working environment. Both employees and the network are the basis for our business, intertwine with each other and enable our overall growth.
This led to our success during the past couple of years when we became the fastest growing mobile operator. In the last 11 quarters our mobile market share grew quarter by a quarter from 18.6% in Q3 2017, to 22.95% in Q2 2020, which is more than 4% growth. Additionally, our revenue CAGR is 17%, our EBITDA CAGR is 12% and our RGUs CAGR is 15%. Even though we operate in a saturated and no-growth market we still continue to grow.
None of this could be possible without the support of our group – United Group, the largest telecommunications and media operator in Southeast Europe, which is always working to present new solutions. The recent acknowledgement Telemach received with the Umlaut’s certificate for the best network based on user experience and the study from Ookla, where the fastest network is Vivacom in Bulgaria, a member of UG, gives us drive to move forward even more boldly.
To what extent is the bundling of services a key factor in Telemach’s strategy?
As mentioned, our strategy as a company is to have the best possible user experience. This results in happy and satisfied users whom we strive to make everyday life a bit easier. That is why we offer all our services in one place, which for them, among other things, brings simpler communication and optimises their time as they can easily handle several things at once. We also encourage our users to use both fixed and mobile services by offering them special discounts. For example, if you use our fixed services, you can get our mobile services at a lower price.
Has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted negatively on Telemach’s business and what measures have you put in place to rectify this?
The epidemic has shown the importance of the ICT industry and in how all the major industries in the 21st century heavily rely on it. As the world went online, we experienced increased use of all our services. During this time fixed internet traffic rose by 30%, average internet traffic increased by as much as 200% between 8 AM and 6 PM, mobile data usage increased for about 25% and the number of voice calls increased by around 70% in the first weeks. Interconnection capacities were also heavily affected.
This was a true test for our networks and our organisation. However, we managed to make the right upgrades and organise remote work to assure good communication between users. In a very short amount of time. We increased all necessary capacities to allow unhindered traffic so that our users had almost no difficulties. We managed to double all capacities on both mobile and fixed networks in just a few days, since we were very well prepared for crises. Our performance parameters are the same as before but with significantly higher consumption by the user.
We are also very proud of all our employees; they are our heroes in this period. Together with them, we were well prepared for the new way of doing business so the transition of work was fast. Those who could, started working from home and we made sure all our employees who work in the field had proper protection, such as masks, disinfectants, and gloves. We also sent out a first aid kit to our employees, which contained disinfectants, masks, and vitamins.
Since our users were mostly working and staying at home, we were able to offer them additional bonuses. We opened our programme schemes and provided more content as well as mobile data. This way, we supported our users through these hard times. We also very quickly introduced advanced customer care tools, such as chat on our website, voice signing, and virtual shops. These are just some of the ways we made it easier for our users to function in the new environment and proved to be an excellent example of resolving the situation.
We were pleased to help as best we could. United Group donated $3 million to help countries in the region, of which $500,000 was intended for Slovenia for medical supplies. Telemach donated tablets with internet access to children and families who could not afford it.
Telemach has made significant investments in and improvements to its infrastructure in the last couple of years. Can you describe these and how they brought about the award of a “Best in Test” Network Certificate?
As infrastructure is one of the foundations of our business, we have a large team dealing with various segments – from planning and construction, through 24/7 monitoring and maintenance, to analysis for constant improvement. We are always improving and modernising our mobile network, designing, and building new base stations and improving existing ones. In 2015, we integrated mobile operator Tušmobil and performed a complete renovation, upgrading the entire 4G and 4G+ network with the latest IP SRAN technology.
The investments enabled us to track core systems and the growth of data transmission traffic, and consequently the inclusion of new services for users –VoLTE, Nb-IoT. This also reflects in the transport network, which supports the growth of the use of services and new IP technologies. All this increases the amount of data transfer in our packages. This is crucial for today’s users since it represents the future of communications.
Telemach also upgraded its fixed network (cable and FTTH) and as a result built its own GIGA network with the largest NGN footprint in Slovenia. This led to Umlaut’s study of Slovenian users showing that Telemach’s network quality and user satisfaction is the highest in the country. It tested the elements of the mobile network (voice service coverage, data coverage, LTE /4G coverage, data transfer rate to users, data transfer rate from users, and data network availability) and fixed network (throughput and latency) and Telemach received best scores of any of his competitors.
Telemach recently launched a new and improved version of its EON service. Can you describe how EON first came about and the improved version?
With the intention of providing the best service and constantly offering something new, our group, United Group, the largest telecommunications and media operator in SSE built its own development and innovation centre United Cloud with more than 200 developers, UX specialist and other tech experts. They work around the clock to innovate and constantly upgrade our services. In this way we can always understand our users’ needs and provide them the best user experience possible. As part of their research and collected data we developed our own platform EON in 2017 (first as a multiscreen app and later as the EON Smart Box, which enables every TV to become a Smart TV. We gave our users the ability to watch all Telemach’s channels, access apps such as YouTube, download games from the Google Play Store and use other Android aps on their TV.
Since the world is changing, the competition is tough and the expectations are very high, we are constantly upgrading it and offering new content. This year’s version has seen the biggest change thus far, however new upgrades are always on the way. The new and improved EON, which we just launched, allows the creation of personal profiles, and even recommends content based on what the users were watching in the past. The youngest viewers are able to watch everything they want without worries, as EON Kids will only show them content which is appropriate for their age. For additional security, parents can also set a PIN code password, to prevent them from accessing other profiles.
In addition to all of this, we offer the highest speed in our initial package and our users have the option to view back their favourite missed content for up to seven days. We offer a video on demand library “Video klub”, which provides access more than 18,000 films, series and documentaries. EON also has the largest number of HD channels on the Slovenian market.
Mobile packages VEC are on the market for 5 years and you constantly upgraded them. For the first time in Slovenia you introduced a package with unlimited data plan. How did the users respond and did this turn the market somehow?
We aim to be the trendsetter and introduce new packages and offers before anyone else. In 2015, we introduced new mobile packages VEC – three simple, transparent packages, with no hidden costs, and forever changed the Slovenian market.
We have always been data oriented, since we believe this is crucial for users today. Integrated television, more and more social media content, e-mails, all of this requires data, and we want to allow our users to use our mobile services without worries and limitations. And the users were quick to welcome it, which is clearly visible in the changed percentage between packages. The percentage of users who decided to use NAJVEC (the package with unlimited data), has sharply risen in comparison to our smaller packages VEC and ŠE VEC. Since users are expecting more and more data we are constantly surprising them with data shock, steadily increasing the amount of mobile data they can use, but keeping the prices affordable.
The competition obviously took notice and reacted by increasing data transfer in their packages, which they are constantly still doing. However, at the time we are still the only provider in the Slovenian market who offers unlimited data to their users.
Unlike the competition, every single upgrade we make on our packages we do for new and also existing users. This is something that users appreciate.
Does Telemach have any more new products in the pipeline?
Telemach is an innovator and, coupled with being part of the United Group, the leading multi-play telecoms and media provider in SEE, providing customers with a full range of telecommunications services, always develops new products and services that can improve the lives of our users. We are constantly diversifying our portfolio – such were the last cases of adding WiFi Mesh and the eSIM card.
We will also continue upgrading our mobile packages, focusing on our current as well as new users and working on our platform EON so it will continue be the best in the market. We can exclusively announce that this year we will be unveiling EON Connect new and the most advanced In Home Network (Wi-Fi and LAN) Management with user profiles and Security & Parental control.
On the fixed network, additional higher speeds can be expected, and our users can also look forward to new additions of channels in our already rich programme schemes.
I must also point out our data centre, which was recently built according to the highest world standards, with the most modern equipment. We will continue to make such investments in the future, as this is the only way we can provide our users with the best services.
Looking to the future, how do you see Telemach’s position in the Slovenian market in the next few years? Are there any specific targets/goals you are aiming for?
Together with United Group we will continue to push boundaries, grow our network, work on user experience, and strive to be the best on the market. Our business goal is to become the first choice of Slovenian users who are looking for telecommunications services and, more specifically, the number one broadband provider and the second mobile provider in Slovenia. We strongly believe in our employees which are motivated, dedicated and great experts. This is a bullet proof guarantee of further success.