Q&A with Mustafa Aykut, Principal Advisor to BoD and CEO at Turkcell.
Where do you see 5G providing the greatest opportunities for operators?
5G is not just a communication technology. It should be considered the basis of digitalization of automotive, education, logistics, agriculture and health industries as well as Industry 4.0 transformation. Therefore, it is important that actors from all industries participate in 5G development efforts. Through long-term collaborations, we think that early adoption of 5G services will trigger a boost not only in technology but also in national economies.
In this new era, the most important power is “data”; it resembles the petroleum of 100 years ago. Just as extracted crude oil is worth 50-60 dollars and after processing it gains millions of dollars’ in value, data is measured in terms of GBs in its crude form. However, when we take this data and process it, we turn it into digital services such as music, TV, magazine, and messaging services. With Industry 4.0, processed data has become more valuable and digital services developed using this data consume even more space in our lives. We are now connected to the digital world 1440 minutes of the day. As the infrastructure and the principal component of this transformation, 5G stands as one of the main pillars of Industry 4.0.
5G will bring more speed and more data. Things and places will be getting smarter. As the speed will generate more data, people and things will interact more with each other and there will be vast opportunities for the operators to analyse data. AI based services and products will need major computing power to process big data volumes generated.
Enormous increases in the volume of data will force mobile providers to move faster than ever toward 5G, to be able to transmit data at very high speed and very low latency. The level of hyper-connectivity expected by users today leaves little option other than to move forward on the 5G path. If telecom companies think of themselves as service providers, they act in one way, but if they think of themselves as experience providers, designers or creators, they will think differently. We can create all these digital experiences, because we are licensed operators.
When it comes to analysing data, there will be vast opportunities for operators to analyse data and enhance the experience of consumers and businesses. Operators will be in the best position to add value and capture that value if they want to transform their business into an experience provider instead of simply being that service provider. They should be aware of their responsibility to accelerate transformation to the entire economy in this digital era.
Where is Turkcell on the road to 5G?
As Turkcell, all of the infrastructure investments we have made over the last 3 years are on carrier combining technologies, which are the backbone of 5G. When 5G standards are set, we will be able to use 5G quickly, along with the introduction of new frequencies, software and antenna updates in Turkey. We have also been involved in determining standards of 5G in the world from day one. Turkcell serves for standardization studies at various significant global institutions and organizations, for example ITU, 3GPP, GSMA, 5GPPP, NGMN, etc. We are coordinating and managing the 5G tests conducted worldwide under the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) framework. This has been a very encouraging process for us.
Turkcell’s strategy to lead the establishment of 5G standards which was realized over the past three years, combined with its strategic geographical location as a hub connecting Europe and Asia, is designed to place the carrier as a global leader at the center of 5G developments and the “Industry 4.0” era. Turkcell has forged strategic collaborations with leading national and international companies and universities to develop 5G technologies. It was the first operator to test the “Massive MIMO” technique, one of the major solutions to evolve 4.5G towards 5G, in Europe and Central Asia on a real network.
With 5G, we will offer 10 times the current speed. We will also ensure low levels of communication delays. The delays will be minimum 20 times lower than today. Operations which require instant decision-making in case of emergencies will be possible. Devices connected to the network will be used efficiently. 5G network will allow connection of 1 million devices per square kilometer. 5G will change all industries from education and urbanism to health and transport. Ways of doing business will change. What does Turkcell, world’s first digital operator, do? We did the first and fastest 5G tests in Turkey. Last year, we performed the first and fastest 5G tests. We achieved record speeds with approximately 71 Gbps. As of today, we are using 5G. We reach the best speed supported by today’s devices. During the tests we did in Mardin on April, we achieved 1.05 Gbps at our live network. The speed will increase as terminals which support better speeds are available. We are now waiting for better terminals to be launched.
How do LTE and LTE Advanced it into your current strategies?
On April 1st, we celebrated the second anniversary of 4.5G services in Turkey with a speed test over 1 Gbps through LTE-Advanced using three carriers aggregation technology. We achieved this speed for the first time on a live network, confirming required steps taken towards our readiness for 5G. Our efforts towards an ultra-high-speed broadband experience enhances our ongoing work to develop 5G use-cases with a wide range of ecosystem players, including universities and international institutions.
Turkcell’s strategy in building the 4.5G network included the facilitation of transition to 5G. Our current 4.5G network allows the use of basic 5G features increasing capacity, speed and machine communication. Turkcell’s current network is a high-end network offering the best speed and quality of mobile services. This creates many opportunities for all. There are 7 operators in the world which can offer a speed exceeding 1Gbps and Turkcell is one and pioneer of them.
What are your industry predictions for the rest of 2018?
Digital transformation becomes a must. 2018 will help many companies realize, digital transformation is not a hype. Disruption will continue to be a common occurrence and the companies unable or unprepared for these changes will quickly fail to the bottom of the pack.
5G. One of the most anticipated mobile technology platforms, 5G will be the connective tissue for the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, robotics and mobile media in telecom sector. As the increase in the volume of data produced by IoT forces data to be on the cloud and edge, it will also force mobile providers to move faster than ever – toward 5G. The level of hyper-connectivity expected by users today leaves little room not to move forward on the 5G path.
So much power remains in AI. In everything from customer service to marketing, from robotic to analytics, AI is in everywhere and soon to be an old news. Companies will continue to use AI to surprise, connect, and communicate with their customers in ways they may not even appreciate or realize.
What is your key message at 5G World this year?
At Turkcell, we’ve been transforming the way we do our business in these last years, and it all started with a change in mind-set. The mind-set is transforming the way we approach the business from being a technology-focused telecommunications service provider to service-focused experience provider. At the end of the day, customers do experience things at home, in the office, on the street, on the go, in the cab, etc. It is all about operators creating those experiences, enabling and enhances those experiences and making them more memorable and richer experiences.
The telecom industry has been failing to recognize the fact that it is all about the experience. If telecom companies think of themselves as a service provider they act in one way, but if they think of themselves as an experience provider, designer/creator provider, they do so in a different way. We can create these digital experiences; because we’re licensed operators. Increasing demand for more data and increasing demand for consuming data are big opportunities, as opposed to something that we should be complaining about. We should focus on the experiences, creating the experiences, using and employing all the digital technologies that we have available to us today over mobility; but use them in such a way that over-the-top service providers can’t match because we differentiate them in a way only licensed operators can.
We have the infrastructure and spectrum, and we can do credit scoring and monitoring – we can do much more than over-the-top players can do. Therefore; with the power of 5G, we can easily transform the way we do our businesses.
Dr. Mustafa Aykut joined Turkcell in January 2016 as the Principal Advisor to the Board of Directors and CEO. He contributes to the technological, regulatory and strategic works at the company. Prior to this, he was the International Affairs and Policy Co-ordinator at Turk Telekom Group from 2008 till 2015.
Join Mustafa Aykut at 5G World 2018, where he will deliver a presentation on How Turkcell has transformed to become “A digital operator” as well as taking part in a panel on Demystifying 4G in a 5G World.