Telenor addresses Norwegian royalties: “We are here for long-term”

“This is actually one of the most advanced competitive markets in the world in my view,” said co-CEO of the mobile phone operator DTAC, Sigve Brekke.
     “We are happy to be here and here for long term. We want to develop this market further,” was the message from Telenor’s Chief Executive Officer Jon F Baksaas from Norway who was in Bangkok for the occasion of the official visit to Thailand of Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway.
     Addressing their royal fellow countrymen it was an overall positive and optimistic view that the Norwegian representatives gave of their joint Norwegian-Thai business venture, portraying it as a success. Sigve Brekke was able to present some figures – on target to reach the goal of increasing the number of subscribers with 1 million before the end of the year, a healthy growth and a profit increase of 130 percent during the first 9 months of 2004 compared to last year – as proof of that.
     Baksaas briefly presented Telenor’s business expansion in the world with a map and the news about a license award in Pakistan where Telenor will open mobile services during 2005. Today the company is already reaching more than 45 million customers and the expected growth within Telenor’s geography map is expected to have a magnitude of 100 million or more new mobile subscribers in the coming 2 to 3 years.
     Baksaas also pointed out that there never seems to be a ceiling for how much a market can grow, giving the Nordic countries as the example, where the penetration is now between 90 and 100 percent. When Telenor entered Thailand in 2000 the number of subscribers was 3 to 4 million and today’s figure is between 26 and 27 million.
     Brekke followed up on that recalling King Chulalongkorn’s visit to Norway almost 100 years ago. In 1907 the King was saying, while staying at Nordkap: “I miss my family so much. I’ve been travelling for several months and have not been able to get in touch with my family. And I wonder if I one day will be able to call my family in Thailand to get in touch with them, instead of waiting for several months to return back.”
     “That is quite amazing that the King said this in 1907. And I don’t think the King ever expected this picture for mobile telephony in Thailand,” said Brekke.
     Many people also get surprised when they learn about how competitive this market is with significant international telecom players involved.
     “In terms of services, products and applications this is one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world,” he told the audience.
     “I remember when I came out to Asia. I used to say that there is so much you can learn from the Scandinavian mobile market. I would say that during these 4-5 years this has changed dramatically, it is a lot that the European market now can learn from markets like the one in Thailand,” asserted Brekke.
     DTAC is the operator that has been the main factor in actually increasing the market by focusing on innovative solutions and new products, he also stated. They were the first one to unlock the SIM card, the first one to introduce billing per second, the first one with EDGE and so on. DTAC were also the first one, after Telenor joined the operation, to really understand and start segmenting the market from being just a mass market.
     Showing a night-time image of the Bangkok skyline Brekke also pointed out the significance of Thailand’s rural areas where most of the potential subscribers live and where mobile services can be useful as there are not even normal phone lines in the houses in many villages.
     “Many people think that this is Thailand. This is Bangkok, the City of Angels. People who know Bangkok or a few more big cities do not know Thailand, because most of the people, 70 percent, are actually living in the rural areas. And if you as a mobile operator don’t understand what is happening out there, you will never be able to be successful.”
     Therefore DTAC have really been trying hard to understand what the behaviour of this kind of customers is and what is driving their needs.
     DTAC’s commitment to work in social contribution activities is partly a way to really understand the culture and what are the needs, with the belief that there is another 10 million customers in this market to be part of.
     DTAC’s Chairman and the major shareholder, UCOM’s CEO Boonchai Bencharongkul, continued on the royal theme in his presentation their social responsibility programmes, recalling when UCOM was admitted an audience with His Majesty the King after the crisis that hit the country 7 years ago.
     “We base our thinking and visions on his Majesty’s philosophy. The King is called by the Thais ‘The Strength of the land’ [the meaning of the King’s name]. Often the King refers back that he is just one strength and there are many strengths in the country.”
     With that DTAC started its social programmes, focusing on educational development and environmental preservation by giving scholarships to a selection of students from the country’s all provinces and building schools through the Sam Nuek Rak Ban Kerd Foundation [love your hometown] etc.
     The aim is to find and connect the ‘strengths’ that are scattered throughout the land together to serve as a ‘hub’ of raising the level of development and create sufficiency.
     “In the rural areas, their livelihood is not so good, but I think with technology we can enhance their lives. The production people can meet the consumer without passing the heavy layer of middlemen,” said Boonchai.
     An audiovisual presentation that showed many of DTAC’s and its Chairman and CEO’s personal involvement in these activities, followed by the presentation of 3 scholars on stage, finalized the presentation.

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