With a 5G spectrum auction expected this year, Telekom Srbija is dedicated to boosting its digital infrastructure in its home country and beyond.
Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Belgrade, Telekom Srbija has undergone several digital transformations and market expansions, consistently linking its business goals with Serbia’s digital vision. Additionally, with a recent service launch in Germany, the operator has further global plans to expand its services and brand outside its home market.
In this Q&A, Vladimir Lučić, Chief Executive Officer of Telekom Srbija, discusses several recent milestones while looking ahead at their long-term expansion strategy. Further, he explains the importance of collaboration and partnerships as he looks forward to the 5G spectrum auctions in the Western Balkans.
Please share a brief overview of Telekom Srbija and its vision.
Telekom Srbija is Serbia’s largest telecommunications and multimedia provider and a market leader in South-East Europe. Telekom Srbija Group provides a wide range of communication services – fixed-line, mobile, internet, TV content to over 11 million subscribers. Our business employs more than 12,000 people.
Our company’s operations extend beyond Serbia to seven other countries – Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. The ninth market is to be launched by the end of this year – Turkey.
Meanwhile, our guiding vision is to be a trusted global partner in the new digital era. As part of our dynamic, customer driven mission, we are transforming and continuously advancing customer satisfaction through customer centricity, innovation, and passion for excellence.
At the same time, we remain resolute in creating exciting socio-economic opportunities through sustainable growth. We are focusing our efforts on accelerating the digital transformation of the Serbian economy and society, in line with the national digitisation priorities outlined in the Serbian Digital Agenda.
How will 5G help digitise and transform the Western Balkans?
Telekom Srbija is committed to boosting its infrastructure through 5G, fibre-optics and data storage capacity. Enhancing our network with the introduction of 5G will make it possible for us to greatly increase the efficiency of our operations, optimise costs and improve the customer experience in the coming year. These are key priorities for our digital transformation strategy.
We are preparing for a forthcoming 5G spectrum auction, following which we will implement our 5G network primarily in Serbia, but also in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This will be an important building block of a digitised infrastructure fit for a bright digital future throughout the Western Balkans and beyond.
60% of Serbian residents will be able to gain access to the latest 5G network. Alongside this, we will also expand 4G providing multiple benefits to nearly everyone in the country, in both urban and rural areas. These new and improved networks give all residents ultra-fast internet speeds and better access to premium content. They will also enable local companies to offer advanced digital services, accelerate their competitiveness and productivity, and boost private sector development.
Investment for the 5G roll out will be provided via a EUR 70 million loan to Telekom Srbija from the European Investment Bank (EIB). Our own EUR 25 million Corporate Venture Capital Fund will also invest in the most promising start-ups offering advanced digital services, many of which will be optimised for 5G.
What strategy is Telekom Srbija following to help expand in the European Union (EU)?
We are already operating beyond Serbia in seven other European countries and remain focused on an ambitious growth strategy in the context of stable and sustainable economic growth, committed to the highest ESG standards, attractive market consolidation and EU accession dynamics.
On 17th July we launched MTEL Germany, which now provides mobile voice and data services to our customers in the region, alongside an existing multimedia offering. The launch follows our successful MTEL launches in Austria and Switzerland. We now offer coverage across the entire DACH region, broadening access to our services among the Serbian diaspora.
Vodafone is our strategic partner for mobile telephony services via MTEL Germany. Telekom Srbija has an existing strategic partnership with Vodafone which was established in 2021.
We also opened our new Brussels office earlier this year on 7th February 2023. Our presence in Brussels and in Germany is part of an exciting long-term strategy to expand in the EU. Telekom Srbija operates a Corporate Governance Code in accordance with EU best industry practice and OECD principles.
Who are your partners and why are they important to your business?
In alignment with our vision to be a trusted global partner in the new digital era, we have built partnerships with some of the most respected global businesses in telecoms, technology, finance and content.
We are proud of our collaboration with Vodafone, covering Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This partnership will provide us with access to all important resources and knowledge in the sphere of digital transformation and 5G.
Cisco and Microsoft
We have partnered with leading global technology vendors such as Cisco and Microsoft, in order to build resilience and ensure data security and integrity throughout our network.
European Investment Bank (EIB)
As previously mentioned, our valued partnership with the EIB has resulted in a EUR 70 million loan to Telekom Srbija. This will be used for the rollout of the 5G telecommunications network and the extension of the existing 4G network across the Republic of Serbia, consolidating our position as a key market leader in the region.
Bloomberg and Euronews
We are proud to host independent global news media brands such as Bloomberg and Euronews.
With the launch of Bloomberg Adria, we aim to create Southeast Europe’s first pan-regional, multi-platform business news network, with hubs across Western Balkans. In this way, we aim to expand our geographic reach, as well as address our considerable global diaspora of 15 million people.
Euronews Serbia is available to Telekom Srbija subscribers in Serbia and the region, in EU countries, as well as North America for the Serbian-speaking diaspora. This high-quality news channel with a European focus, firmly reflects European values. Euronews maintains independent editorial control over Euronews Serbia.
How is Telekom Srbija investing in its future and how do you see that future developing?
Our presence in the centre of Europe is crucial for the further development of our recently launched corporate venture capital fund, which is the first of its kind in Serbia and the wider region. We will align our fund with other European funds and assist in the financing of startup ideas with global potential.
Through the fund, Telekom Srbija will continue to invest in multiple business areas in 2023, including AI, big data, fintech, e-commerce, IoT, adtech, software-as-a-service and blockchain technology.
We are implementing plans for expansion by investing in mobile telephony launches in Switzerland, North Macedonia, Germany as well as launches planned for North American markets in 2024.
We are also committed to the delivery of premium content to our valued subscribers and continue to invest in the acquisition of world-class content. We have launched four new Euro Cinema TV channels, broadcasting iconic films and TV series in French, German, Italian and Spanish. We are also actively searching for partners in the US to give our subscribers access to compelling, high quality, entertainment, premium sports and news programming on our broadcast channels.
As market conditions change, we will continue to adapt and look for ways to realise our vision for the future of telecoms. As part of this we are working towards bringing our services to new markets. Our efforts are succeeding in south-eastern Europe, and we also have ambitions for global expansion.