Veon CEO Kaan Terzioglu said it will focus on 4G deployment for the next three years before rolling out 5G, Reuters reported.
The strategy of Veon is in stark contrast to the aspirations of other telecom operators gathered at the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2021) in Barcelona.
Veon in February revealed financial guidance for 2021 — anticipating low to mid-single-digit growth in revenue and EBITDA, Capex intensity of 22-23 percent and group leverage of around 2.4x. Veon said the Capex intensity over the last twelve months was 23.7 percent.
The vast majority of operators speaking at the annual industry event touted their plans to launch 5G networks, with Orange, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom flaunting their latest experiments with robots and edge computing.
Veon, which serves 240 million mobile phone users in countries as diverse as Pakistan, Algeria and Russia, insisted on a very different track in the face of its largely low-income, infrastructure-starved customer base, most of whom earn daily wages.
“There is really a need to make sure that smartphone penetration gets to the right levels faster, that 4G accessibility gets to the right levels,” CEO Kaan Terzioglu told Reuters on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress.
“I don’t like the vanity of 5G being discussed before we get the basic things done.”
The mobile and broadband operator, in which the biggest shareholder is Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s investment vehicle LetterOne, will seek to give its clients broadband access.
Terzioglu said he would be open to work with Elon Musk’s Starlink to bring internet access to remote areas via satellite.
“I don’t expect 5G deployments in our markets commercially over the next three years though we will make deployments for fixed wireless access and private networks,” Terzioglu said. Fewer than half of his customers had 4G coverage.