'Hello Nepal will be targeted at lower income segment'
TeliaSonera (TS), a leading telecommunication company of Europe is a parent company of the largest GSM operator of the country- Ncell. It has acquired majority shares of rural telecommunication operator Nepal Satellite Telecom (NST) and is preparing to re-launch its Hello Nepal brand. Top officials of TS along with Lars Nyberg, CEO of TS and Tero Kivisaari, President of Business Area-Eurasia were in the capital on Monday for a press discussion. Samiksha Koirala of Republica caught up with Kivisaari to talk about the expansion plans of two different brands along with other telecommunications issues.
How do you evaluate the performance of Ncell compared to other different brands owned by TS in other countries?
I am very happy with the management of Ncell. Our employees are also delivering as per our expectation. It is an achievement to be a market leader in few years of operation and we are positive about bringing more investment. Although the voice penetration has reached to 60 percent of the population, the mobile data is still a big issue. The major focus of Ncell will be on mobile data. The first priority will remain the quality of the network and we will continue working towards making it better.
How has the presence of Ncell changed the scenario of telecommunications market?
The two major changes is in quality and tariff. With our presence the tariff has gone down and the quality of service has also improved.
What was the reason for acquiring another telecommunication operator at the time when your own brand is a market leader? What are your plans with NST?
This is part of our market consolidation. Hello Nepal is part of our regional offering and it targeted at lower income segment. The demand for telecommunications service is increasing in rural area and with Hello Nepal, we plan to reach those segments which are still away from the service. In order to make the service affordable for lower income group, the service will be simple and the tariff will be cheaper. There is a need for regional investment in this sector and targeting lower end segment will help us cover larger geographical region. On the other side, Ncell will continue as full service, high quality operator. TS already owns two different brands in other countries and both brands are successful. We don´t want to have a monopoly as we believe competition will ensure better price and quality.
Would you like to share the amount paid by TS for acquiring 75 percent stake in NST?
TS has purchased 75 percent share from Cyprus based Airbell company but not directly from NST. The terms of this purchase are confidential and we can´t disclose it.
Do you have plans to share infrastructure between Ncell and NST?
Legally and technically, licensing conditions of both Ncell and NST is different. We are studying the legal and technical possibilities for sharing infrastructure which we believe will be beneficial for companies and the country. We are in favor of sharing the infrastructure with other operators as well if the government provides legal ground for it.
What were the major challenges that you face while working in Nepal?
Political instability is definitely not a favorable situation for the business. We have faced many hurdles which delayed our expansion plans. Our equipments were in customs for months which was a very bad experience for us. We are hopping the constitutional drafting process will be completed and there will be political stability and telecommunications authority along with other government body will function more effectively.
Have you faced any discrimination compared to state-owned operator from Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA)?
Problems are there and the process is often delayed. But while talking about discrimination, all I can say is there is no discrimination in a major way.