Interview: Hakam Kanafani

In your opinion, what kind of impact will fibre network expansion have on Turkey’s economic growth over the long term?

HAKAM KANAFANI: Supported by a young and dynamic population, Turkey has become a rising star among European economies. This is particularly evident in the domestic telecommunications sector, which is undergoing rapid expansion and is playing a huge role in facilitating the country’s transition to an information society. Fibre network expansion is critical to this transformation, which is why substantial investments have been made in high-speed and high-capacity line development over the past several years. Through its fibre transformation programme, Türk Telekom Group has installed a fibre network currently measuring 168,000 km. Furthermore, the group has now reached 1.9m home access passes through its fibre-to-the-home/building service.

Turkish consumers and companies across every industry now have access to state-of-the-art telecoms products and services. Indeed, the telecoms industry is unique because, like the energy sector, it serves every form of business – from finance to manufacturing. In the field of education, telecoms technologies are positioned to transform school environments nationwide through the FAT‹H project, which will bring high-speed internet to more than 600,000 classrooms and replace many textbooks with tablets, allowing for a more dynamic and interactive learning experience for students.

Moving forward, continued progress will require all telecoms operators in Turkey to aggressively pursue research and development (R&D) opportunities. In practice, this means developing R&D incubation centres to foster creative thinking and support the emergence of new technologies. This means working with financial institutions to obtain R&D funding – something we have accomplished through our partnership with the European Investment Bank. This means collaborating with universities to promote open innovation and closer interaction between scientists, policy makers and private sector executives, helping to create the next era of growth.

In what way has the rise of internet and digital communication changed Turkish culture, society and business activities?

KANAFANI: No individual or company can remain competitive in today’s modern business environment without digital access.

According to a market report recently produced by the research firm Ipsos, there is at least one internet-enabled device in about 10m of the 19m total households in Turkey. Indeed, the country still has high potential for increased usage and penetration.

In fact, Turkey is already among the countries that make the most active use of the internet. According to internet usage statistics gathered in 2012, around 85% of internet users in Turkey go online at least once a day, and over 45% spend more than three hours per day online. That is remarkable, though perhaps unsurprising given that the average person in Turkey is under 30 years of age.

The impact of rising connectivity is clear when you consider social media trends in our nation. Turkey is among the world’s leaders in social media use, which has forced local companies to change their advertising campaigns, public relations strategies and customer service solutions by integrating them into the digital space. Communications has fundamentally changed, and businesses must adapt or perish.

Of course, telecoms operators must adapt even faster – they have to drive innovation, or at least be ahead of the curve. This requires innovation in services and pricing; over the past few years, providing consumers with unique multi-play packages that bundle high-speed internet, mobile broadband and Wi-Fi services has been especially important in the telecoms competitive landscape. In addition, now more than ever, pricing must be simple and transparent.