02 July, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital interview - A Bulgarian telco’s perspective on stimulating innovative ideas, local start-ups and getting the EU’s priorities right

Janet Zaharieva, Chief Regulatory Advisor to the Managing Board, Vivacom: “We believe that support for young and ambitious people with good ideas is the cornerstone of a better future for local and global businesses as well as for society as a whole” #ThinkDigital

Vivacom will host ETNO’s annual General Assembly this year. This is an occasion to exchange views on current telecoms policy and regulatory issues and define the priorities for the coming year. What in your view, should be a priority in Europe today?

VIVACOM is proud and eager to welcome fellow telecom operators in Sofia at the end of this year at such a crucial moment for our industry. European telecoms and the EU as a whole are on the verge, if not already part, of significant changes in the economy. Digitalisation, which used to be a key process in the telecom sector only, has now become the “magic stick” that will transform the European economy into a new dimension of smart businesses and connected homes. Telecom networks are supposed to be the backbone of this new economy and lifestyle, so to incentivise private investments in high-speed broadband, infrastructure is the first priority in Europe today.

All players of the digital value chain have been assessing the Digital Single Market Strategy since it was launched by the EC on 6 May. By the end of this year network operators, being one of the major stakeholders, should be ready to say whether the priorities set in the DSM are the right ones and what the main strengths and weaknesses are. We should give EU policymakers a clear signal of what should be amended in the telecom legislation as the current framework is obviously outdated. Old rules, tailored years ago for another market reality have to be abandoned. Europe needs a modern, future-proof package of rules that brakes the crystal ball of “ex-ante” sector specific measures, replacing these with flexible competition-driven ex-post measures.

There was intense debate between the European Parliament and Council on the Telecom Single Market Regulation before an agreement was reached on Monday. What impact do you see this piece of legislation having on Vivacom?

Vivacom is in the same position as all other telecoms in the EU markets. In our view the TSM legislation, with its latest proposals, is not the proper set of tools to enhance cross-border usage of telecom services and market consolidation. The draft Regulation leads to more questions than answers, invading areas that technically and economically should not be susceptible to regulation – such as traffic management and provision of specialised services. Instead of resolving potential market failures (like blocking that no longer exist in market practices), Net Neutrality rules proposed by the EP create uncertainty and put in question the ability of telecom operators to attract private investments for deployment of high-speed infrastructure and development of specialised services.

Cross-sector partnerships between telcos and other sectors are trending. What opportunities is Vivacom seizing to meet the needs of modern-day citizens?

We know that today’s dynamic lifestyle means that people want simple solutions to their everyday needs. VIVACOM offers them everything they need to communicate with the world – a variety of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and the best telecom services for them - mobile and fixed voice services, high speed fibre optic Internet, digital interactive TV, data transfer. This is the way we make our customers` lives easier and enjoyable so they have enough time to focus on what is important to them, using the reliable connections that we deliver.

In addition, to please our clients even more, we offer them a loyalty programme - VIVA Club. Its members have cards with discounts for the products and services of our partners in many different areas of lifestyle – banks and insurance firms; markets; hotels and restaurants; tourist services; health and personal care. This programme gives our clients, who are using our telecom services, better options for everything they need.

How is Vivacom ensuring rural areas have access to broadband?

The problem of the digital divide is being tackled by European policy makers in the fastest manner. The Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2015 shows that broadband (BB) coverage in Bulgaria is well spread – 95% of HHs are covered, while only 54% of them have a broadband subscription. If I may make such analogy, we have already built modern shopping malls - the government and operators now need to fill the shelves with more attractive products for citizens: e-public services, specialised services, smart cities and cars, connected homes. Once the concept of Internet for Everything touches all consumers and households, demand shall increase to push successful business models, including for rural areas. What the Bulgarian Government needs to do as fast as possible is to release the spectrum in 800 MHz that is currently occupied for military purposes and to allocate it for mobile usage. Mobile BB deployment is the fastest way to cover rural areas and to provide citizens there with reliable connection to BB networks and services.

What role does Vivacom play in stimulating innovative ideas and local start-up businesses in Bulgaria?

Supporting start-up businesses in the area of telecommunications is one of the main pillars in VIVACOM’s CSR strategy. Our company initiated its partnership with the StartUP society in Bulgaria at the end of 2012 as part of our aim and wish to stimulate innovative ideas and local start-ups. Cooperation with young entrepreneurs is part of the VIVA START programme focused on education and career development of young Bulgarians.

VIVACOM supports important events for entrepreneurship in the country and partners with many successful start-up businesses in the field of telecommunications through mentoring, distribution and advertising using the largest hub for Android applications in the country – VIVA Apps.

Every year VIVACOM holds the competition #newbornideas. This initiative’s objective is to seek new ideas for mobile applications that can be useful to Bulgarian citizens in their daily lives. A jury of experts evaluates the submitted projects and selects the best developed concept. The winner then receives funding to realise the project, direct revenue through VIVACOM’s billing system, marketing support, mentoring, free mobile services and the application is also recommended on the homepage of VIVA Apps.

We believe that support for young and ambitious people with good ideas is the cornerstone of a better future for local and global businesses as well as for society as a whole.

By ETNO #ThinkDigital, Brussels, 02.07.2015


Janet Zaharieva, Chief Regulatory Advisor to the Managing Board, Vivacom

Janet Zaharieva has a Master’s degree in law and engineering with a specialization in Enterprises and Investments from the International Development Law Organization (Rome) and from the Communications Regulation in International Law Institute (Washington)

Her professional career is dedicated to communications, media and IT law and its business implementation. Starting in 1998 as Legal and International Affairs director at the newly established NRA, she then joined the first private national broadcaster – bTV, a News Corp investment in Bulgaria in 2001. For 10 years, Janet has been the Chief Legal Officer of bTV and the company’s representative in the Association of Commercial Televisions in Europe (ACT).

Since December 2010 Janet has been working for the Bulgarian incumbent – Vivacom, first as Director Legal, Regulatory and Competition and then in 2013 as Chief Advisor to the Managing Board. She is Vivacom’s representative in ETNO and the ETNO GA Chair for 2015. She is a member of the executive board of the Association of Bulgarian Communications Operators (BACCO)

Janet has a strong interest in ICT and the Internet of Everything concept. She is currently working on a PhD in communications with a thesis on the e-governance effect and is chairing the Industry Advisory Body to the Bulgarian e-Governance Council. She has published works on implementations of e-signature and e-documents. She is also a Founder and member of the Centre for ICT law.

Janet speaks English and Russian fluently and has a fair knowledge of French.

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