Connect, formalize, invest and have a purpose. Those are some words that emerge when talking with Alexis Licci about Entel a few months after he was announced as its new general manager in April of this year. And although, from before, the company had already defined the value it seeks to contribute to the country, the main executive of the company explains how this would allow them to deal with the price war in the sector and advances the new plans they have for the Peruvian market .
What are the expectations generated by this change of going from leading a team in Chile to arriving in Peru (to directing the operation)?
The expectation that is generated when someone from the inside comes, like me, who has a long and corporate history and presence in both countries, is precisely to generate greater synergies and take advantage of knowledge, take advantage of what is good about Peru in Chile and what is good about Chile in Peru, to be able to do things that are more powerful for both sides. We are as companies in a stage in which in Chile, although Entel is a leader in mobile telephony, with a higher market share than here (in Peru), we are already close to 25%. So, it is not a company that is just starting out here and a mature one in Chile, but they are already companies that have a market size that have similar problems. That is where the opportunity to generate greater synergies from one side to the other, back and forth, comes from.
Is breaking up this price war between operators the main challenge that lies ahead, in addition to the deployment of the 5G network?
Price is always a factor, but you see many studies where there are people who are willing to bet more on a product that comes in packaging that is recyclable, for example. So, obviously, the companies that manage to provide a better service, that begin to connect with people, that begin to show that they have a purpose that is good for society, are probably going to have a value that goes further (…). The challenges of network deployment and preparing for greater data consumption, which if you see is growing 35% to 50% each year, obviously are not free (…). There we have to update ourselves, investing heavily, updating technology, changing from 4G to 5G so that customers continue to have a powerful experience like the one they have with our network.
The pandemic brought remote work and other activities. Can the return to normality lead to a change in the demand for (telecommunications services of) companies?
What we see as a global trend and I think here in Peru as well, in general, is that hybrid work is here to stay. We were in a very strange period that was the pandemic, in which, in several industries, work became 100% remote. (Now), in general, most companies are favoring hybrid jobs. Connectivity today is much more key. There may be some cases where the connectivity was not very good; so, you were willing to hire some additional equipment to secure it. I believe that teleworking and this virtuality will continue to be something permanent.
In terms of demand, where do you currently see the greatest potential: in homes or in corporate clients?
The corporate world must be separated into two: the large, formal companies that we all see advertising on television, but then there is the much more informal world of companies. These companies, even the SMEsthey are probably still far behind in terms of access to technology. There is a great opportunity for a company like Entel to provide them not only with connectivity, but also with solutions that help them professionalize their business so that they can sell more and save costs. There are from corporate emails to cybersecurity solutions. There are small companies that need customized solutions. There is an important business niche in which we can develop from the point of view of cloud solutions (in the cloud), packaged. These could greatly increase the productivity of small businesses.
So are they going to promote their arrival at micro and small businesses?
Of course. Our idea is to be able to provide them with more complete services: packaged solutions, corporate emails, packages with Teams because, for example, many companies do not have solutions like this. Also cybersecurity solutions, cloud and access solutions, among others. There are many things that we are going to start delivering to the market.
How could the deployment of the 5G network be accelerated?
The 5G network is expensive because it needs a significant infrastructure to be able to provide a very good experience to customers (…). Many antennas are required because of the frequencies that are used and the capabilities that are needed as well. There I do not rule out anything. In several countries there have been shared networks between operators, others where the State has participated, but there we must be very careful that it is not something bureaucratic.
So, one way would be to bet on a joint network?
It could happen. I don’t know if it would be the best solution, but from what I’ve seen elsewhere, that has happened and has accelerated coverage in more places in the country, but that depends on many things. It depends on the collaboration that may exist between companies and what the regulations allow.
How much are they planning to invest this year and when would they be investing next?
This year 2022 we are investing almost US$150 million. We are talking about important investments that have to do with absorbing the greater needs of customers in terms of more traffic and data consumption, but also with increasing coverage, and preparing ourselves from the digital transformation, always trying to offer a differentiator to our clients.
And for 2023?
We don’t have an approved plan for that yet, but preliminarily we are thinking of approximately US$180 million, but it is an estimate. We have to put together the complete business plan to see how much it is going to be.
-Licci is a commercial engineer from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and has worked for 23 years at Grupo Entel, serving as Corporate Marketing Manager and General Manager of Entel Call Center, among other positions.
-“We believe that Peru has everything to continue being a very profitable country in terms of growth (…). Obviously, we are concerned that the best decisions are made for the country and that there are not going to be things that could harm the investment”.