For Cyprus to enhance its competitiveness and produce growth, it is vital to develop digital policies that will be conducive to investment plans and greater innovation. To maintain its longstanding edge over competition, also Cyta is re-inventing its commercial strategy and investing in large infrastructure projects, says new Cyta CEO Andreas Neocleous.
You are the first CEO of Cyta to come from outside of the organisation and from the private sector, could you give us a brief summary of your professional background and what elements of your private sector expertise will you bring to your new role as CEO?
Prior to joining Cyta, I worked for three very different multinational companies – Goldman Sachs, Ericsson and MTN. Goldman Sachs introduced me to the corporate world of London and New York at the highest level, Ericsson allowed me to make a smooth transition from technology to business while adjusting to the Cyprus realities, while at MTN I gained priceless experience in leadership and organisational culture change in a diverse and multi-cultural global environment.
Undoubtedly, all of my previous work experience and lessons learned are going to be called upon to bring success in my new role; focusing on results, developing commercial strategies, practicing motivational leadership and improving customer experience are only some of the skills that go hand in hand with the job description.
Could you give a brief overview of Cyta, its key services and market position?
Cyta is celebrating its 65thbirthday this year and its history is practically the history of telecommunications in Cyprus. Cyta is fully owned by the state and it has always been the leading provider of integrated electronic communications services in Cyprus, including fixed and mobile telephony, internet services and digital television. For all telecommunication services, Cyta is the clear market leader with significant margin over the competition. In addition to its core services, Cyta has developed an extensive submarine cable network linking Cyprus with neighbouring countries and an equally impressive satellite station infrastructure, turning Cyprus into a regional telecommunications hub.
Cyta has been the dominant player of the Cyprus telecoms sector for decades, however it has been gradually losing market share to competition. In today’s highly aggressive market, what is your growth strategy to keep Cyta relevant and at the forefront?
The competition in today’s telecom world is both local and global and a lot of telecom providers around the world are facing similar challenges as Cyta. It is time to re-invent our commercial strategy to address those market segments that will provide us with the required room for growth. We are also investing in large infrastructure projects like Fiber-To-The-Home and 5G that will ensure our relevance to the market for years to come.
Does the organisation still have a competitive edge over its rivals, if so, what is it and how do you plan to maintain it?
Cyta’s ability to develop and maintain its state-of-the-art infrastructure has been an important driving force. In fact, it has boosted the technological capacity of Cyprus to the point that our country now ranks at the top of the list of countries with high-end instrumental infrastructures. Despite being a state-owned organisation, Cyta has managed to shed that image and evolve into a customer-centric enterprise. As a result, it has remained a key-player in the economic and social life of Cyprus and has safeguarded its position as a market leader in the main fields of its operations.
Last summer we launched our brand new island-wide fiber optic network which is paving the way for the arrival of the highly anticipated 5G mobile network. Taking full advantage of the privileged geographical position of our island, we are simultaneously developing our submarine cables network, providing the global business players with the necessary confidence to establish their operations on the island. So far, we are connected to 10 submarine fiber optic cable systems within the area and our plans include further expansion.
Could you expand a bit more on these infrastructure, service and network improvements Cyta is implementing currently?
The Fiber-To-The-Home project, the only island-wide fiber-optic network in Cyprus providing unlimited internet with speed as high as 1Gps, is well under way. It has already reached the first clients, aiming to gradually connect 180.000 premises island-wide, with 60% of the project expected to conclude within the next four years. The implementation process is speeding up so as we can cover urban hubs and selected sub-urban areas as soon as possible.
At the same time, we are preparing to implement a 5G pilot network, which will allow Cyta to test the waters, gaining valuable know-how and experience ahead of the next big challenge: the full deployment and market availability of a national 5G network. It is worth mentioning, that we are continuously upgrading our 4G and 4.5G networks, aiming to even higher speeds, bigger capacities and the extension of the already wide coverage-quality we offer.
2019 is certainly heralded globally as the year of 5G networks, which could eventually change the landscape for also wi-fi, but these moves have also sparked criticism over radiation emissions into the environment. What are Cyta’s views and strategies on these issues?
5G is the natural evolution of mobile technology and as such, its introduction is a necessity for every telco worldwide so as to meet both the demands of the market and society. The deployment and operation of the 5G technology by Cyta will be done responsibly, fully adhering to all relevant laws and regulations, as per our policy for all previous and current mobile technologies available, such as 2G, 3G, 4G and 4.5G.
Presenting the government’s 2019 budget, Finance Minister Georgiades stated that the proposal to partially privatise Cyta by attracting a strategic investor is still in the pipeline. These moves have been consistently and strongly opposed by trade unions. What are your views on privatisation, and what kind of investor would be ideal for Cyta?
Any change to the legal and institutional status of Cyta is a decision to be made by its owner, the State. As the CEO, I pledge to devote all my efforts in the growth of the organisation and maximising its value, irrespective of its status. I am confident that everyone employed by Cyta shares the same belief.
How would you describe the overall telecommunications infrastructure in Cyprus today?
High-end mobile networks and fixed broadband fuelled by fiber are well underway, constituting a solid base for integrated communication offerings, both in technical and commercial terms, enhanced with content which is more available than ever before, with open access to enable interaction with any device and at any place and with new management technologies such as software-defined networking and network functions virtualisation. Our mobile coverage network has reached 97% of population thus paving the way towards the 5G network. Indicatively, in terms of high-speed broadband coverage (Next Generation Access (NGA) Coverage), in 2017, Cyprus performed better than the EU at large, with high-speed broadband available to almost 90% of households.
What niche areas or services and products could be developed in Cyprus, and what opportunities do you see for further investment and growth in terms of the local telecoms sector?
Despite operating in a small market, all local telecommunications companies, including ours, are still faced with all the big challenges imposed by the rapid technological evolution. Thus, it is imperative for us to diversify successfully beyond the boundaries of traditional telco products and explore greenfield value-added services of high-quality. This will aid the creation of alternative revenue streams through the provision of competitive, new-generation products and modern, integrated digital solutions.
In this context, Cyta has a substantial role to play in the digital transformation of public services through the organisation’s data centres, now upgraded to Tier III and certified to ISO 27001, which are systematically upgraded to host especially sensitive data, such as that pertaining to the health sector. Furthermore, we are focusing on the development of innovative digital services related to the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as on the expansion of strategic partnerships, with the aim of achieving synergies that make the most of the organisation’s potential and capabilities.
What are your key priorities for 2019 and what are your expectations for Cyprus and its economy?
Financial targets, as determined by the annual budgeting, is the major challenge that must be faced by anyone in charge of any organisation, irrespective of its size. Success in feasible and measurable financial targets creates a pillar of strength supporting a sustainable future of confidence and growth, as well as allowing for some necessary strategic flexibility in the coming years. Equally important, is to focus on the leading force of our operations, our human capital, as well as on the enhancement of the customer experience we offer, based on our reliability and trustworthiness.
Cyprus has speedily returned to sustainable growth after the financial crisis, as illustrated by the latest reports of the main financial ratings agencies. Confidence in Cyprus amongst foreign investors has been considerably boosted and Cyprus has returned to sustainable growth. Nevertheless, there is still significant room for improvement to fully take advantage of the economic opportunities made available by the digital era. For Cyprus to realise its vision and enhance its competitiveness, to maximise its capacity to create new jobs and produce growth, it is of vital importance to develop digital policies that will be conducive to investment plans and greater innovation. What is now necessary is the concerted effort undertaken by everyone to successfully orchestrate and implement a uniform and nationwide digital plan that will trigger digital demand and enable its mass adoption across the local society and economy.