“Digital Greece: The post – crisis era”

Escaping the crisis, was the message prevailing the 13th InfoCom World 2011

An optimistic message of escaping the crisis emitted the 13th InfoCom Conference, held on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 in Divani Caravel Hotel, with hundreds of representatives from the Telecommunication and Informatics sector, members of the political leadership of the country, academia and institutions. It was a farewell meeting for the era to go, while at the same time it marked the arrival of a new, flexible and effective economy, based on openness and innovation.

U.S. Ambassador, Daniel Bennett Smith, addressing the conference, outdid the importance on innovation and openness, noting that the efforts of Greek entrepreneurs are to be assisted by the American business community, who are willing to participate in collaborative development models, both locally and internationally.

Moreover, Mr. Smith, referring to the efforts made to modernize governance, noted that this modernization passes through the creation of an interactive state-citizen relationship, which will establish a relationship of trust, while at the same time it will improve entrepreneurship by enabling the creation and operation of flexible businesses in a stable environment.

On the same wavelength, Mr. Tzortzakis, Deputy Minister of Reform and Electronic Government, addressed a full conference hall and revealed the basic principles of reasoning prevailing the creation of modern and efficient administration through eGovernment. The basis is a centralized management system, based on four pillars: the combined Enterprise Resource Management System, the Central Human Resources Management System, the eProcurement and finally a 3-channel system of communication with the citizen (Citizen Relationship Management).

All the above systems will communicate in real time, ensuring transparency, free access and exchange of information at all levels of the state apparatus. The objective of the efforts is that there is no more information gaps, which deliberately-on not- create “gray areas” in project implementation, and monitor the effectiveness of the state apparatus. At the same time it aims to cut red tape and conflicting processes, whose sole purpose is to sustain themselves.

During the first session, titled “The role of next generation networks in Digital Greece”, participated the manufacturers of telecommunications equipment. Despite the downturn of the market, they maintain that investing in next generation networks is imperative and, maybe, the only outlet to bring about recovery.

The technologies of the new access networks have the potential to increase dramatically the improvement of the characteristics of cloud infrastructure, which in turn allows companies to implement cost effective and efficient solutions such as Software as a Service, and thus rendering them more competitive.

At the same time, new technologies and implementations through Smart Grid models, as well as applying the Machine 2 Machine communication, create new opportunities for growth because the potential customer base is growing exponentially.

In terms of internal procedures, companies undergo a restructuring so that they can reallocate their resources through integrated structures, creating economies of scale.

During the second session, titled “Innovation and Extraversion” participated companies that were founded by young and highly skilled entrepreneurs, who presented in a rather vivid and impressive manner, the enterprise model of the new emerging era. This is a model based on three pillars: Innovation, Extraversion and especially new forms of financing, such as venture capitals and co-founding. These long distinguished companies in the global market address well-deserved international giants. And some of them, mainly in the field of mobile marketing, are industry leaders, worldwide. It is worth noting that several companies in this sector gain already high capitalization in foreign markets, setting the trend to all those who face crises as an opportunity.

In the next section, titled “The regulatory environment and investment in Digital Greece”, the difficulties, obstacles and deadlocks were highlighted which were created in the absence of a stable regulatory and fiscal framework, rendering both existing as well as new investments, insecure.

The participants declared their conviction that the key to unlocking the investments is to reinforce the institutional and fiscal framework, against interventions that often subvert full business plans. Thus, and by including the downward revision of corporate taxation-will pave the way for the recovery of entrepreneurship, which will bring new capital and jobs, leading inevitably to exiting recession.

One of the landmarks of the conference, was the speech of Mr. Markopoulos, Special Secretary for Digital Planning who, among else, referred to the effort that is underway to enhance innovation in Greece and highlighted the creation of 5-6 funds that will invest in new businesses that will have a global perspective. According to Mr. Markopoulos, these funds will have a total of 90 million Euros, 40 of which will be private participation and 50 million, public. According to sources, the selection of the forms that will utilize the funds, is very close to completion.

During the last session, with the participation of high ranking executives in the telecommunications market, the point discussed was the fact that the industry is recessing.

Very accurately, Mr. Damianos Charalampides, Vodafone COO pointed that, during the current fiscal year, the revenue of the mobile market is expected to stand at 2.7 billion whereas the 2008 (when revenue came to a peak) it reached 4.5 billion. In the same wavelength were the remarks of Mr. George Stephanopoulos, General Manager of Greek Union of Mobile Telephony Companies, emphasizing on the reduction in the value of the mobile market by 30% compared with 2008. Among everything else, during the recession, the three companies dealing with mobile, are required to pay several dozens of million Euros (overpriced according to National Committee of Communications and Post) to renew the use of spectrum, which will be auctioned in mid November.

From his side of view, the President of the National Telecommunications and Post Committee, Mr. Leonidas Kanellos, tried to justify the high price, arguing that the calculation costs were estimated taking into consideration various factors, including the assessment of the market development for the next 15 years. According to the President of the National Telecommunications and Post Committee it is estimated that the telecommunications market will be a turnaround.

In a regard to an issue concerning the Vodafone-Wind merge, Mr. Charalampides responded that the official announcement still applies, that “negotiations are ongoing” he stressed however that the market needs a second round of concentration, emphasizing on the MVNOs. Forthnet CEO, Mr. P. Papadopoulos, as well as Mr. M. Achilleos, General Manager of Cyta Hellas, addressed the issue stating that they consider such a possibility, provided that  there is a high regulatory framework around this and the operational plan is assured and unsustainable.

In a regard to an issue concerning the Vodafone-Wind merge, Mr. Charalampides responded that the official announcement still applies, that “negotiations are ongoing” he stressed however that the market needs a second round of concentration, emphasizing on the MVNOs. Forthnet CEO, Mr. P. Papadopoulos, as well as Mr. M. Achilleos, General Manager of Cyta Hellas, addressed the issue stating that they consider such a possibility, provided that there is a high regulatory framework around this and the operational plan is assured and unsustainable.

On the issue of the regulatory framework, Mr. Kanellos, made specific reference stating that passing the bill that will set up a special body that will take up the setting up of the Fiber To the Home (FTTH), is a priority. Also, the President of the National Telecommunications and Post Committee announced that a few days ago, he submitted to the Committee his proposal for the cost model for the wholesale services thorough VDSL. NTPC will come to a decision in December and the word is that OTE will make its decision depending on this outcome, on whether to proceed with the development and supply of these services, as everything has been halted due to the strict regulatory framework.

Along with the main stream of the conference, parallel sections took place focusing on key sectors of the Telecommunications Market.

Specifically, the section dedicated to Cloud Services analyzed both the model of operation as well as the benefits that a company – regardless its size- can gain by assigning the management and the security of their data to specialized data centers. It was also mentioned the fast penetration of Cloud services which from simple hosting moved rapidly to Software as a Service. In conjunction with the broadband penetration every one spoke about the new era which is entering to the model Everything as a Service. Participants to the panel presented their solutions and proposed implementation schemes that enable customers to disengage from heavy and costly IT schemes, allowing them to focus on their main businesses.

The section devoted to Digital TV, put critical questions concerning the role of pay-TV, the reduced value in content of the analogue TV, and the synergies that should take place in order healthy players to survive, in a market that is facing recession.

Mr Christodoulos Protopapas, CEO Hellas SAT, commented on the developments of new TV, giving also special attention to the distortions that were faced in the market as well as that Greek channels are purchasing content from abroad at higher prices than other countries.

Mr. George Lekakos, Assistant Professor, Athens University of Economics, described the theoretical model of the new TV, while he outlined a clear picture of the growing demand in WEB TV, mainly from young audience, highlighting in particular the importance of interactivity in order to attract them.

To the developments of the market and the comparative advantages of SES Astra Italy, commented Mr. Pietro Guerrieri, General Manager, SES

Mr. George Lambrianou, managed services and marketing manager CYTA, spoke about the successful model of Cytavision, while he stated that they are ‘open to new challenges of synergies and partnerships’.

Ms Katerina Kaskanioti, Manager of Content and Platform NOVA, defended the viability of subscription model, stating that this is due to the demand of quality content that free channels are not offering.

Mr. George Gambritsios, head of OTE TV, stated that OTE is entering in a marathon that aims to provide a variety of quality programs options to many households.

To the success of their operation of ANT1 WEB TV commented Mr. Struecker Marco, General Manager of Antenna Internet. While he expressed his concerns about the day after, he stated that serious players have already secured their future survival.

Mr. Michael Anagnostakos, Senior Marketing Manager HOL, mentioned the new HOL TV service focusing to the combination of quality that is offering as well as the value for money that is offering.

The protection of the healthy part of Regional TV while focusing to the content was asked by Mr. George Bokas, Managing Director Acheloos TV. Finally, in applications WEB technology and mobile commented Mr. Michael Sarantinos, CEO of Steficon, who enlightened the topic of interactive advertising and the promotion in web and mobile phones.

The parallel section dedicated to Applications ‘Mobile Apps: It’s an Apps World’, analyzed the high penetration of smartphones and tablets -demonstrating the elimination of feature phones- that without any doubt have become the locomotive of the mobile market. Therefore market is facing the last shift to the meaning of mobile services. The new opportunities and new revenue streams that are appearing from this shift have been analyzed.

In the same spirit was the greeting addressed to participants by Mr. Alexandros Bregiannis, CEO Digital Aid, who stressed the support of the state through the digi-mobile act, that provides to business efforts subsidy up to 70% on the investment.

Mr. Kotsis-Giannarakis, General Manager of the Federation of Societies of Mobile Applications (SEKEE), called the audience to support the federation which is trying to attract ventures capitals. A very comprehensive survey was presented by Vision Mobile that highlighted the global trends and forecasts for the sector.

Following that an open discussion with representatives from smartphone manufacturing companies took place, who presented their view as members of the ecosystem.

Presentations were also given by representatives from Microsoft, iOS and Samsung showing platforms’ capabilities as well as the tools that provide to developers in order to deliver the best product to the end customer. It was well pointed out that all Operating Systems providers are encouraging developers to build applications on their platforms offering to them considerable support. On the other side developers enlisted their innovative applications demonstrating that can offer surprising solutions. To prove this, applications from developers were presented for both consumer as well as business environment. It was commonly agreed that the new ecosystem has now become mature offering all features for a business investment providing proper rights and obligations to entrepreneurs.