How the pandemic is digitalising the world


July 2021 Business

Jan Tomše

EXECUTIVE EDITOR


More rapidly than ever, the world is embracing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – to everyone’s benefit. Slovenian society has become very digital in the past year, and there has been an enormous leap forward, says Adrian Ježina, the President of the Management Board of Telemach.

For Telemach, a Slovenian provider of advanced and high-quality fixed telecommunications services in the Adriatic region, 2020 will go down as a very successful year. The company has grown in all of its key segments: networks, human skills, and finances. With the constant growth in subscribers, Telemach’s market share in Slovenia is rising fast.

In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic significantly transformed peoples’ lives and drove them online even more so than before, telecom perators played an extremely important role in helping people maintain mutual contacts. Users have relied even more on their services, and it has become impossible to imagine normal operation without internet and mobile communications. This applies both to individuals and large institutions.

Photo: Žiga Intihar

Adrian Ježina
President of the Management Board of Telemach

“The epidemic has shown the importance of the ICT industry in the 21st century, and just how all the major industries heavily rely on it. As the world went online, we experienced increased use of all our services. During this time, fixed internet traffic rose by 30%, average internet traffic increased by as much as 200% between 8am and 6pm, mobile data usage increased by about 25%, and the number of voice calls increased by around 70% in the first weeks. Interconnection capacities were also severely affected,” Adrian Ježina explains.

While Telemach faced challenges at the start of the pandemic, they successfully overcame obstacles thanks to previous preparations and experiments in homeworking where feasible. “The pandemic was a true test for our networks and our organization. However, we made the right upgrades and organised remote work to ensure good communication between users. We are talking about changes in a very short amount of time. We increased all the necessary capacities to allow unhindered traffic so that our users would experience almost no difficulties. In just a few days, we managed to double our capacity in both mobile and fixed networks. Our performance parameters remain the same as before, but with significantly higher user consumption,” Ježina reveals.


Preparations yielded results

At Telemach, they were well prepared for the pandemic. Even before the complete lockdown, the company had tested how individual services would handle work from home. “Understandably, not everyone could perate in this way, especially our technical services, which work on the ground and are most exposed to health risks. Of course, we took special care for their protection,” says Adrian Ježina. When we talk about digitalisation, the question always arises how it affected companies, as well as a broader social aspects. Per Ježina, “Slovenian society has become very digital over the past year. There has been an enormous leap forward, companies have introduce quite a few new services that make some everyday operations easier in these unusual times, and people are also doing more things online. Many have let go of the distrust they once had towards internet services, learned more about numerous things, and broadened their horizons.” The pandemic is pushing the world hastily into information and communication technology, and this is beneficial for the telecommunication industry. However, it also calls into question further investments into landline networks, as the focus is shifting to frequencies and 5G. “No doubt the pandemic will lead to lasting changes in the way we do business, but at the same time, we hope that there will be a rapid economic recovery without a deeper financial crisis,” Ježina points out.

The future = growth

For 2021, Telemach expects growth in all areas, including financials and subscriber numbers. Together with United Group, which they are part of, they will continue to push boundaries, grow their network, work on user experience, and strive to be the best on the market. Their business goal is to become the first choice of Slovenian users who are looking for telecommunications services, the number one broadband provider and the number two mobile provider in Slovenia. They are convinced their highly motivated and skilled employees offer almost bulletproof guarantee for further success.

Taking care of employees

Since the start of the pandemic, Telemach has been focusing a lot on employees. »Together with our employees, we were well prepared for the novel way of doing business, so the transition of working practices was fast. Where possible, our employees were working from home, and we made sure all our employees who work in the field had proper protection, such as masks, disinfectants, and gloves. We also sent out a first aid kit to our employees, which contained disinfectants, masks, and vitamins,” the company says. “We did everything to make them feel good, provided them with various online seminars, sent them packages with masks and vitamins occasionally, and so on. It is why we have successfully faced all the challenges posed by the pandemic,” emphasizes Adrian Ježina.

Providing the best user experience

B2B: Telemach offers business customers seamless services such as collocation, limited and advanced service management, and cloud computing platforms since it has the most advanced data center in Slovenia. During the pandemic, they offered special packages to business customers including the packages aimed at individual activities such as bars, massage parlours, car mechanics, private health clinics, and dentists.

B2C: Since their customers were mostly working and staying at home, Telemach could offer them additional bonuses. They opened program schemes and provided more content and mobile data. They also very quickly introduced advanced customer care tools, such as a chat option on their website, voice signing, and virtual shops. These proved to be excellent examples of resolving the situation, the company states.

Solidarity

Adrian Ježina sums it up: “We were pleased to help as best we could. United Group donated USD 3m to help countries in the region, USD 500,000 of which came to Slovenia for medical supplies. Telemach also donated tablets with internet access to children and families to enable as many students as possible could have uninterrupted studying from home.”

Pandemic figures

The load on internet connections increased by as much as 40% during the pandemic. Telemach recorded a 60% increase in voice traffic on the mobile network during this period. In the autumn of 2020, the increase in internet traffic was 50%, while mobile voice traffic increased by 20%. Compared to last year, data traffic over the mobile network increased by 30% in December, while the number of SMS messages increased by 10%, and the number of MMS messages by as much as 40%.