BR INTERVIEW. Razvan Stoica (GTS Telecom): Mobile communication operators are “condemned” to become integrators

Aurel Constantin 12/12/2019 | 15:31

GTS Telecom is one of the oldest providers of internet in Romania. It celebrates 26 years of existence and it keeps up with the changing trends in technology. Business Review talked to Razvan Stoica, General Manager of GTS Telecom, to find out more about the company and the industry.

 

Tell us about the story of GTS Telecom. A 26 years old company identifies with the history of telecom in Romania.

Razvan Stoica: Indeed, GTS marked the history of local telecommunications, after 1989. In 1993 the company EUnet Romania, the precursor of the current GTS, was founded. Benefiting from the collaboration with other EUnet branches in Europe, Liviu Ionescu, together with a small team, set up the first dedicated, terrestrial connection to Western Europe. At a speed of 2Mbps, the first commercial ISP was marked, which initially offered Internet access only through dial-up. The easy exchange of remote files made the first customers delight. Gradually, the international capacity reached 8Mbps around 1999, so that in 2000 we could upgrade to 34Mbps, a pure terrestrial Internet access capacity, enviable at that time. In previous years, satellite access capabilities appeared, but being slower than terrestrial ones. I remember the impact of loading web pages from that time, and in the case of satellite connections, you needed patience! Of course, the content was poor, but a page could load in 10 seconds or even longer. Instead, the speed of our terrestrial connection surprised customers! The pages were loaded in approx. 1 second, similar to today’s normal. This performance was guarded by our own satellite back-up capability, GTS always emphasizing redundancy.

Our company pioneered and allowed, through data transport capabilities, access to high-speed land connections. Basically, we facilitated the transition to a period of growth and expansion of the terrestrial access networks, characteristic of the first decade of the 2000s. Later, and with our help, the competition developed for the benefit of the final clients. I remember that until the crisis (2009), the whole market was growing. GTS remained faithful exclusively to the business market. We consider that we were a pathfinder company, benefiting from the direct know-how of the shareholders of GTS / Ebone and KPNQwest.

How has the company changed over time and how has customer behavior changed?

We listened to and understood the needs of our clients, managing to constantly expand our range of services offered to them. It has been our custom not to say “it can’t be done”. We analyzed and always returned to the client with an answer. We continue to see satisfaction in his eyes when we solve his needs when we are there to provide the consulting they need. I would like to point out the transition to data warehouses, namely the current data centers, an important bet for telecom operators. GTS has once again set quality standards, investing early (since 2006), in an inspired way, and customers have joined us in this new adventure. We have 100% operational uptime in the Bucharest Datacenter since its launch in 2007. Then it followed the adoption of Cloud technology, GTS being among the first companies that have provided public Cloud in Romania, since 2011, on the platforms of the GTS Group. And here we learned from the current operation, we listened to our clients, who wanted a local platform and invested significant amounts in a high-end configuration. When it comes to the quality and safety of the services delivered to our clients, we do not compromise.

GTS culture, customer-oriented, with premium services, attracted valuable people who made a difference. We have always tried to serve even the most discerning customers. We educated the business market and conveyed the idea that when it comes to telecom services, it is always a better place. We like to keep our word in everything we undertake, and our clients fully reward us with their confidence. Strict in their regard, they are always up to date with technological developments, being open to new technologies, with a tendency of constant adoption. Customers have increased the complexity and the number of relatively standard services they buy, to which they are open. The multitude of offers and the effect of the many instances of trial and error have refined the clients’ demands, many of them now knowing what they want and why.

What are the requirements that customers have now compared to 15 years ago?

Compared to 15 years ago, there is clearly more concern for back-up and integrity of services. The clients’ expectations regarding the remediation of the malfunctioning situations have significantly reduced the resolution time, as they have begun to understand better the effects translated in losses, in the cases of malfunctions. Customers negotiate better, have clearer and better-crystallized criteria than a few years ago. Customization of services has evolved, and customers are less inclined to buy “off the shelf”, at least in our area of ​​services, they want more options to choose from. In addition, witnesses to the global crisis, customers became more aware of the costs, and this revealed important details, which they did not pay much attention in the past. Post-crisis, the importance of the purchasing departments of the client organizations increased, the savings “on everything” atomized both the criteria and the conditions of purchase, as well as the offers and the associated combinations with which were responded. The detailed request for proposals, to avoid the hidden costs, was answered with detailed offers, and the price-quality ratio reached exceptional values. The post-crisis price decline, correlated with maintaining or increasing the quality of the services, in the context of fierce competition, placed the clients in the position of kings.

Gradually, it has become more and more difficult to buy something. Look, for example, at the iron machines. Enhanced by technological progress, versions of products and services have exploded. This fact does not simplify the role of decision-makers or acquisitions in client companies, on the contrary. That is why the need for a consultancy tends to become acute, especially when it comes to critical systems or services, and GTS experts are always ready to offer clients the support they need in choosing the best customized solution, depending on the existing business needs.

How has the technical support offered over time changed? What does customer orientation or customer care mean?

The technical support has evolved by decreasing the intervention and remediation times, and the premium note has developed through the emergence of new needs. Now, the client wants to be informed permanently about the measures taken to solve his problem, and with a prediction on the moment of completion. This is a challenge for suppliers because it requires micro-control of the phases of the troubleshooting process. GTS has been able to adapt quickly to new expectations, the client is involved in this whole process, in which our experts offer solutions and options on the spot.

Another new feature, growing in recent years, is one of the chatbots, through which a virtual interlocutor solves the client’s problem if there are no complex processes. In the new trend, of using artificial intelligence, it is intended that the specific needs of the clients will be solved automatically, and this creates a major horizon of development of the service maintenance area, although it also implies the depersonalization of the relationship with the supplier. The volume of tickets, of instances, in which the client submits a request, is on an increasing trend, in line with the complexity of the services. Customers will gradually train and educate such chatbots on what they want, and they will get better, more humanly answers! For now, this is not happening, but I expect to become the new normal in the near future, such as 2030. Let’s talk then!

What are the main lines of business at present (depending on the income each brings)?

GTS continues to support traditional business lines related to infrastructure. The categories of services related to Internet access, along with its redundancy and security features, as well as data transport between client locations, in any configuration they would prefer, remain the basic contributors to the GTS business. Datacenter infrastructure has grown exponentially, generating revenue growth in recent years, by associating with Cloud infrastructure, with all its variations (Storage, Back-up, Disaster recovery, etc.). And here, the technological evolution has impelled us to vary, to innovate and to offer solutions of the most advanced to our clients, to support their growth needs, to operate the most complex applications, under conditions of quality and stability of the infrastructure. The security, maintenance, and technical assistance solutions, associated with the infrastructure dedicated to the clients, are based on our continuous concern for development. We aim to faithfully meet the needs of our clients in new areas of technology, using all our competence to assist them in reducing the complexity of their choices, which alleviates the anxiety generated by the permanent challenges they face.

What are the current trends that we are not allowed to miss in order to remain in the market in the future?

Telecom operators are “condemned” to become integrators. The technologies are developing but they are getting more and more intertwined. In order to support the clients’ expectations, it must be discussed with them in new terms, through the objectives achieved by the infrastructure and operator services. Everything is IT. The infrastructure remains vital in terms of capabilities but becomes transparent for the needs of the client, which are solved in the upper layers. The request to operators will no longer be specific, depending on their capabilities, but rather oriented to the client’s business need, and this paradigm shift is necessary. It is not simple, because it requires important investments and the increasingly skilled workforce in new areas, which we are barely aware of or not aware of at all. The secret is to understand faster that there are no other options!

What is the turnover and profit of the company in 2018 and 2019 and how have they evolved over time?

2018 was a good year, in which we were able to confirm the trend of previous years, that of a small growth, with the main objective of preserving the GTS business in a hectic market. We reached revenues of almost EUR 19 million with an operating profit (EBITDA) of over EUR 5 million. This year was marked with more ups and downs, but we managed to cope with these challenges, maintaining a turnover similar to last year.

How many employees does the company have and how much does it affect the lack of well-qualified workforce in the field?

Currently, we have 135 colleagues at GTS, and next year, it is possible to exceed 140, depending on how we will manage to take advantage of business opportunities. Finding the specialized workforce is a sensitive topic, but at GTS, we chose not to complain, being an assumed mission. All new colleagues are trained in real-time, managing to face the challenges however complex they may be. It doesn’t always work out for us, but we don’t back off.

Sorin Draghici
Sorin Draghici

Disaster recovery solutions

In order to find out more about the disaster recovery solution offered by GTS, we talked to Sorin Draghici, SalesDirector.

What is a Disaster Recovery solution?

Sorin Draghici: DR is a technological solution that ensures business continuity, without loss of computer data, when a disaster occurs and affects the main location, where these data are stored.

Under what conditions can a disaster occur?

A disaster in the IT field refers to the situation in which the critical data of a company become unavailable, for various reasons, whether we are talking about a cyberattack, a failure in the technical equipment or natural causes. In some cases, the disaster is the result of poor or improvised technical measures, based on the idea that “it can’t happen to us.”

What does GTS Telecom offer to counter a potential disaster?

GTS Telecom has the expertise to generate and manage top technical solutions that respond to any DR replication scenario requested by the client or the industry regulations in which the client operates. Thus, we offer availability and access to the essential data, stored in a location other than the main one, which are vital for the client in the proper functioning of the activity.

How does a Back-Up as a Service work?

The back-up service provides backup copies of data, whether we are talking about files, physical machines or virtual machines. The premium technologies, used by GTS, allow us to implement personalized back-up policies and store data in our own data centers, from different locations (Bucharest / Cluj-Napoca).

GTS data storage servers are located in the two centers in Cluj and Bucharest?

GTS Telecom operates two Cloud & storage platforms located in its own data centers in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, and our customers can choose to keep their data in any of the locations or simultaneously in both, whether we are talking about storage on own or rented servers, physical or virtual. We can offer them any combination.

Where’s GTS back up?

The GTS infrastructure is provided to provide redundancy by design, our data being stored in both centers located in Bucharest and Cluj.

How important is data for a company today?

We consider the information to be very precious and have a fantastic power at present, and cannot be quantified financially.

The way a company decides to care about its management can make a difference in business. For example, a company that compromises its customers’ data may be exposed to an imminent bankruptcy: the shares fall, the customers leave, and the feeling of distrust becomes lethal to the company’s image and credibility. Sufficient attitude towards computer data can no longer be tolerated, in the business context of today.

Besides a quality back-up, how can we protect this data?

We talk about the protection of data integrity from unforeseen events, which are oriented towards the area of ​​Data Security. Therefore, in addition to implementing backup and/or DR solutions, it is recommended that any company start an IT audit, based on which they can identify essential details related to the current state of the infrastructure, the existing vulnerabilities and the measures to be implemented. Through such actions taken in time, without pressure, the data of the company are secure.

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