00:37 | 19.01.10 | Interviews | exclusive 3637

“For more than 90% of the customers the quality will become very acceptable”

Exclusive interview of Orange Armenian CEO Bruno Duthoit to Mediamax Agency and Itel.am portal

- How would you assess the first results of Orange Armenia’s activity?

- I cannot assess it myself, or to speak for the customer. We are making regular analysis of the market and the last one was held in the end of December. We got positive feedback, our customers in general were quite happy with our service, though not everything was perfect.

One of our goals in the beginning was to also bring something new to the market, to the customer, give them more choice and more possibility to choose between products. I think in this case we succeed, because obviously, despite the fact that we yet have a small customer base, in general the residents of Armenia have more possibility and more choice in the market. And for the rest, the customer will decide.  

- How many subscribers does “Orange Armenia” have by now?

- By January 14th, we have around 10 thousand internet subscribers, and 150 thousand mobile customers.

- And what about the quality of your subscriber base or is it too early to speak about it? Who are your subscribers in general, are they using only your services or combining them with services of other market players?

- It’s difficult to say, because we are now in a competitive market and it’s clear that our customers are coming from every category and every age. We have a significant part of the customer base, which represents the youth, because young people enjoy access to more data, but we have also people, who are adult, senior, who use our special benefits. I think we have quite different representatives of Armenian society. 

- What do you think about the responses of other players to your entry to the market? What will be the nature of competition in the sphere during this year?

- What I saw in Armenia is that there was very fast reaction of our two competitors, immediately from November, particularly in internet offers. We proposed something new in terms of type of the offer, price. I respect our competitors very much and naturally they are reacting in order to protect their market share. Also, as to the traditional mobile service, there was reaction from the competitors. The competition works and there is more choice for the people and everybody is obliged to adapt to it as to what the company may offer to the market. What will happen this year? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s impossible to anticipate what we will do, or the competitor will do, but the main target of Orange is to have the market develop as to usage of internet and voice services.

I feel that the huge majority of customers use sometimes the services of two competitors; they are testing Orange, which is normal. It was expected. They are still using the services of two, sometimes even three operators. 

- France Telecom Vice-President Olaf Swantee stated in September, 2009, that Orange Armenia’s goal is to become Armenia’s number one internet provider and second in mobile telephony market. Are you planning to achieve these goals within 2010?

- It is totally impossible (laughs). Olaf Swantee was giving a sort of long-term ambition, but our current ambition, the short-term one, is not too much to be the first or the second, but to first deliver good quality service for the customer. And we have to work on that and once we have perfect service, the customer base will naturally increase and our company will enjoy a good place in the ranking as a mobile company in the country.

But it is not that much a priority for me. The priority is to deliver something good for the customers. 

- What do you think about the regulatory basis of the Armenian telecommunication market?

- Generally, Orange Armenia is very comfortable with conditions of work in the mobile market. One point, which was obviously a problem, was the issue of interconnect, and in fact in August-September PSRC decided to decrease the tariffs step-by-step, which would last for year and a half, and the process has started. This is very important and positive for the market, because it will reduce the barriers between operators.

- Is Orange interested in introducing mobile number portability (MNP) service in Armenia?

- It is good for the market in general. We need mobile number portability, and necessary investments should be shared among the operators.

- Although the company has been working to improve its internet connection quality, there are still many complaints from Orange Internet users in Armenia. What is the reason of these problems and when are you going to solve them?

- Yes, I am not fully satisfied with the quality of our internet yet. But you know, the main reason for this is that we have much more customers than we had expected. We were not very good in forecasts. We have ten thousand customers, while we expected from three to four thousands. And all these customers are individually using much more traffic than we expected. It was a big boom and we were obliged to urgently increase capacity, our network, radio, international capacity. It is done partly, but not fully. During holidays, the New Year period, just because people are at home, they used more traffic. We are now at the stage of very important increase of capacity, which will be done in mid-January. And with that, I believe that for more than 90% of the customers the quality will become very acceptable.

- When you expect Orange Armenia to become profitable?

- We expect profitability in 2012 or in 2013. It is very standard in mobile business. When you start running a company, you are to invest a lot, which is normal. In our case we spent more than 140mln EUR, including the license. We did not plan to have a positive result this year, but our definite target is to become positive as soon as possible.

- Many customers are inquiring about when you will launch iPhone sales.

- They know that we are to launch it, and we will keep our promise. We postponed it a little bit because we wanted to be sure it’s expedient. We were considering that probably December was not the best period. We are still to wait for a couple of weeks.