Boris Nemsic is ceo of mobilkom austria and its 100% owner, Telekom Austria. mobilkom – which has had a commercial 3G network since 2003 and commercial HSDPA services since 2005 – is regarded as a technically innovative operator. It has around 3.6 million subscribers, as well as a further 5.5 million in its subsidiaries in Bulgaria (Mobiltel), Croatia (vipnet), Lichtenstein (mobikom liechtenstein) and Slovenia (si.mobil). Mobile Europe caught up with him as he prepared for 3GSM.
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• With 3GSM approaching, what do you expect to get out of the event?
3GSM is a meeting of the industry, operators and vendors and the service industry and I can’t imagine a year without it. It gives me a chance to see the plans for the industry. As an industry it is a good opportunity going forward to find a way to transform the growth we have. Europe is experiencing lower growth and I think one of the more interesting things will be to see how the next phase of growth will be achieved in Europe.
Other issues will be HSDPA – which is providing an excellent base for mobile broadband. Mobile TV will be an issue. Will there be previews of the iPhone ? And we’re going to see how the industry reacts to that.
• How do you think operators will react to Apple seeking exclusive deals for the iPhone?
In our industry, exclusivity is not a real issue. It’s more a question of which operator could take advantage of the characteristics of the iPhone. As the phone is EDGE enabled it would make sense to see deployment in EDGE networks before 3G.
• Do you think the mobile TV debate will move on this year from the technical issues to business issues, and how operators can make money from the service?
Mobile TV is a very specific service to which the operator is crucial. On our side we deliver a subsidy for the mobile phones, and billing and charging in a convenient way for the customer and content provider. So we are the natural partner.
I think it’s not only a question of how we will make money from mobile TV. We create added value for the customer and there needs to be a fair share to the content owner and the mobile operator.
One one side there is the critical issue of subsidising phones. Second, we can charge a flat fee or price on an authenticated user basis. Id and authentication is our business. So we can make different charging models
• You mentioned future strategies for growth. How do mobile operators extract further growth in the current market?
What we have in Austria is 115% penetration and still growing. Yet we have added 280,000 new subscribers this year, which is 7% of the customer base, despite that penetration. On the contract side we doubled growth to add 14%, so that’s great news. Also, the average usage per customer is 150 minutes per month, which is five minutes a day, so there’s a lot of possibilities there. Second, part of this growth is from mobile data, which is becoming more normal as we have 140,000 mobile data cards and USB modems under management.
At the moment, 21% of our revenues come from all data services, and 8-9% of revenues come from SMS, so we are now generating much more revenue from data other than SMS.
• You are ceo of Telekom Austria as well as mobilkom. Do you anticipate joining the trend to converge fixed and mobile services?
No. With convergence, I don’t feel this as a given in itself. The regulatory environment is a hurdle because the fixed line area is fully regulated, and if you bundle and mix the two then you are completely regulated. I believe more that pieces of service will substitute each other.
Take voice: mobile voice is substituting fixed voice, so there’s no convergence in the sense of putting the two together, there’s no convergence in the understood sense of the word. Users need a simple terminal and one device –you don’t need dual mode services and devices. I’m sceptical about that.