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“Decision to foray into CDMA space is with an eye on data services” says Sistema Shyam’s CEO

Mr.Vsevolod Rozanov
SSTL President and CEO
  TT Correspondent |  New Delhi | 01/07/2009

Of all the new entrants, Sistem Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) is the only one which has set the ball rolling and is aggressively expanding its footprint across the country. SSTL President and CEO Mr.Vsevolod Rozanov shares the company’s vision in an interaction with TelecomTiger


Q1) Your decision to offer mobile services on CDMA platform surprises most of the people. How do you address these concerns especially considering the fact that even incumbent CDMA operators are migrating to the GSM platform?

Ans: We do not believe there is that much of a difference between GSM (global system for mobile communications) and CDMA (code division multiple access). Customers using CDMA technology are approximately one quarter of all. Given the size of the Indian market, this is quite a good percentage of the population.


Another important consideration for choosing CDMA was the fact that the demand for data services is the expected to grow meteorically, for which CDMA is better suited. We have plans to foray into this segment and garner significant market share. 


Being a Greenfield player, our go-to-market strategy, for the India foray was to break the price barrier while maintaining quality standard and connectivity. CDMA has tremendous potential and we will continue to develop its market with pan-India coverage of our service brand MTS.   


Q2) Subscribers often complain of lack of wider options while choosing CDMA handset terminals. What are your plans to offer subscribers with a wider bouquet of options?

Ans: I think is more of a problem of perception. CDMA handsets are no longer the bulky and aesthetically less-appealing devices that we saw early on in the market. As a result of continued innovations in designing and manufacturing, the CDMA handsets today look sleeker, and are equipped with advanced features that have the capability to support data-rich applications and next generation networks- which were otherwise perceived to be only GSM’s strong point.


We have partnered with ZTE, Samsung, and Huawei to offer attractive range of handsets compatible with the MTS network.


We have a range of 16 handsets for customers to choose from, starting from Rs 999-16,999. We are offering connection with and without handsets, giving customers the choice of either using our SIM on any CDMA handset available in the market or alternatively buying one from our range.


Q3)  Do you intend to offer mobile services on GSM platform as well in future since you have necessary licenses?

Ans: While we have UASL (Unified Access Service License), which enables us to operate in both CDMA and GSM technologies, we have no immediate plans to announce or launch anything in GSM, as we see tremendous potential in the CDMA market.


Q4) What are the major challenges you foresee in the Indian market?

Ans: Low tariff, declining average revenues per user (ARPU), urban markets inching towards saturation, and scarcity of spectrum are some of the current challenges for operators.


However, we do see a silver lining. In spite of the declining ARPU and tariff, companies in India have been successful in achieving good profit margins by mitigating their operational costs.


The issue of scarcity of spectrum, looming large on all operators, is also expected to get resolved with the Department of Telecom proposing a complete revamp of the existing spectrum management policies and processes.


Q5) You say your focus is on rural market. But enterprises also form a significant segment in India. How do you intend to address the demands of this market apart from the traditional voice services?

Ans: Yes, with the tele-density in rural India still being very low, we will focus on tapping the market.


As MTS is fully a prepaid, we are currently focused to serve customers in the individuals segment. We have received very good response from the corporate segment as well in Rajasthan and Chennai.


Q6) What are your network rollout plans. Are you on the look out for infrastructure sharing as well?

Ans: We have obtained the license for all 22 circles and we plan to cover nation-wide service by Q2-Q3 of 2010. We have already launched our services in five circles – Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal, Kolkata and will be launching the 6th circle by the end of this week. 


We significantly expanded our operations in the last few months, and will be launching services in Delhi, Karnataka, Haryana and Maharashtra circles by the end of this calendar year.


Yes, to bring fore better efficiency, we’re tying up with all major operators and tower companies for network sharing and for passive infrastructure needs. In the long-term our strategy is to restrict the owned towers to less than 20%. 


Q7) Telecom professionals in India are a bit apprehensive in joining new entrants for career opportunities. What are your offerings and proposition to professionals who join your organization?   

Ans: First of all, telecom is an exciting career to be in; with India being one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world, and there is high demand for telecom professionals. India is an important market and we have already invested $1.5 billion in the country.


Amongst the new entrants, we are the only company that has the license to provide services in all 22 telecom circles across the country. We have already launched our operations in 6 circles.


At MTS, we offer a blend of best practices from our global promoter Sistema and Indian counterpart Shyam. We are focused on building a transparent, performance oriented culture. We are steadily moving towards being amongst the best employers in India. The training budgets at MTS are significantly higher than the available benchmarks.


 The employees undergo extensive training on both functional & behavioral competencies. The training programs not only ensure that all of our employees are equipped with the requisite role competencies, but also focus on developing new competencies to facilitate their overall career growth and personality development.


We believe that, in addition to hiring the best talent; the diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services. This diversity of our employees and shareholders serves as the foundation for us to better serve our customers and stakeholders all over India.  The employees will be the greatest asset in our journey to be one of the leading telecom players in the country, and we are totally committed to their development.

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