The President and CEO of the Telenor Group, Sigve Brekke, made his second visit to Pakistan on 30th Oct in a consecutive year. PhoneWorld Team had an opportunity to interview Sigve and discuss Pakistan’s telecom market and more. Let’s have a look at the question answer session with Sigve Brekke:
- What is Telenor’s mantra for success being one of the world’s major mobile operators?
Telenor Group’s fundamental vision across the globe is to empower societies and it’s not about money, of course we are in a business and we need to return to our shareholders but above all we strongly believe that as a global telecom operator we have to empower societies, people and communities at large and make a difference. And that is basically in Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and in Norway where we are struggling hard to connect people to the world of opportunities. These are little big words but this is our core philosophy and that is why we are focusing on Pakistan i.e. farmers particularly. Not because of the money, we are not making a lot of money on such projects but we want to connect the farmers to the internet world so they can improve their way of harvesting. This is only one example.
Pakistan is Very Important Part of the Telenor Group-Sigve Brekke
Another example is the project that Telenor ran with UNICEF in Pakistan, where the company undertook the task of birth registration in areas where new births could’ve gone unregistered. Again, this was not for the money, but to make a difference, a contribution towards bringing a change in society.
2. This is your second visit to Pakistan in a consecutive year, how important is Pakistan’s telecom sector for the Telenor Group in terms of future investments?
Yes, Pakistan is very important part of the Telenor Group and there are three reasons for that. Firstly, the size of the market 200 million people and we have 40 million customers so it’s only Bangladesh that is bigger and then of course Pakistan. So in that sense it is a large market and we see it as a growing market, it’s not saturated like we have seen in other markets.
Secondly, we have seen our subsidiary in the country, Telenor Pakistan as the most innovative and there is the spirit of innovation in Telenor Pakistan as there are a lot of the things they are doing here first and then we take it to the other parts of the world e.g. they are very good at customer analytics what we call “Business Intelligence (BI)”, Agricultural field innovations that we are taking to other market like Bangladesh & Myanmar, Employee App in which employees do all activities like meetings timings, attendance, checking their salaries etc. and we don’t have this App in the rest of Telenor markets. So there is a lot of innovations happening here.
Thirdly, Pakistan is the country where we do have great tech talent so if you look around Pakistanis are greatly contributing in the Telenor Group.
Suggestions for the Government of Pakistan:
3. Can you please enlist few suggestions to the Govt. of Pakistan that can benefit the overall telecom sector in the country and more specially can help to increase the 3/4G penetration rate?
Definitely I would like to recommend two things. The Pakistani government should consider rationalizing taxes for the telecom sector as the current tax levels for telecom services in Pakistan are way too high. He said that:
“We are paying almost 40% tax for telecom services, at a rate that’s one of the highest in the world.”
Sigve added that:
“Our proposal behind levying a reasonable tax is not because we want to make more money. On the contrary, this will in fact make our services more affordable since right now, it is the consumers who are bearing the brunt of these taxes.”
We believe that consumers would be the ultimate beneficiaries if taxes were brought to more reasonable levels.
Secondly, the government have to make the spectrum more accessible and at a better price too. Because a broader and better spectrum for telecom operators will mean that the market will move on to more advanced data services, where more and more individuals will be able to consume data at affordable prices.
While giving recommendation, Sigve that:
“This is just the beginning of data and digital revolution in Pakistan as internet penetration is still not high and a lot of masses are yet to be connected to the internet.”
The Pakistani government must strike the right balance between getting paid for a national resource and the cost it would have to pay by keep its citizens away from faster and better internet.
Pricing matters for telecom operators a lot as currently we are exiting the Indian market due to the unsustainable spectrum policies there. Additionally, we have consciously stayed away from some spectrum auctions in Pakistan.
“The Pakistani government will have to find a balance to safeguard its revenues as well as the consumers’ benefits and the returns of telecom operators.”
Telenor Pakistan’s Take on 850MHz Spectrum:
While answering to a question regarding the last year 850 MHz spectrum acquisition of Telenor Pakistan, Sigve said that:
“Telenor Pakistan is very happy with the 850MHz spectrum. Yes, not all handsets come with 850MHz compatibility, but all new handsets do offer 850MHz band thus offering a better proposition for us.”
He further added that we think that the beauty of the 850 MHz spectrum is that it will allow Telenor Pakistan to offer a wider coverage, even in rural and remote areas, where it is more efficient than 1800 MHz or 2100 MHz band. And since we know that the rural market is a stronghold for Telenor, 850MHz is the perfect tool for the company. So this is a plus point for us.
Future Plans of the Telenor Group:
In future Telenor has no plans to convert itself from a telecom operator to a technology company; we will remain stick to our core approach which is of course is “Consumer Centric”. Telenor Group, is more than just a business that wants to be commercially successful. He stressed that Telenor is also about making a difference by empowering societies in markets where it operates, including Pakistan, Myanmar and Norway for that matter.
Let’s have a look at the pictures of Sigve Brekke visit of Telenor Pakistan new office “345” in Gulberg Green, Islamabad: