RIGA - Now into the second year of industry regulation in which it no longer enjoys a monopoly, Lattelekom, Latvia's largest provider of telecommunication services, has no intention of resting on its laurels and recently announced its intentions to launch an ambitious expansion program that will take the company north into Scandinavia.
Already a dominant force in the Baltic IT and telecommunication solutions market, Lattelekom introduced its plans to export two of its services - an extensive data center and IT solutions - to potential Nordic clients at the Comdex Scandinavia International exhibition in Goteburg, Sweden, last week. The company was invited to the exhibition as a representative of the Baltic Information System Cluster, a collaboration of companies and institutions whose aim is to increase the competitiveness of the Baltics and ensure export growth in the IT market.
Even though fresh statistics have proven once again that the Baltics are one of the fastest growing regions in Europe in terms of IT, companies such as Lattelekom, which is 49 percent owned by the Finnish-Swedish telecommunications giant TeliaSonera, want to branch out and conquer a share of new markets.
"The Baltic market is very small, so our aim is to expand and export our solutions," Aigars Ceruss, Lattlekom's sales and marketing director, says. "Latvia doesn't produce minerals, nor does it have other large and profitable industries. However, this is one of our possibilities - to export telecommunications and our IT solutions and know-how."
According to the Latvian Information Technology and Telecommunications Association, IT is regarded as the sector with the highest potential for development. Bearing this in mind, Lattelekom is hoping to connect both Helsinki and Stockholm to the Baltic network by spring 2004. And since it possesses the largest data transmission platform and the widest transmission services portfolio in the Baltics, Lattelekom is well prepared to make such a move.
What's more, Ceruss feels that Lattelekom has a competitive edge in the Nordic market because not only do they boast a large, comprehensive IT department with a high level of experience, but thanks to low labor costs Lattelekom can offer lower prices than its Scandinavian counterparts.
"We have a high level of competence and quality, yet we don't have high prices like West European companies. Therefore, we are more cost-effective for the Scandinavian market," Ceruss explains.
In the past year Lattelekom has gained approximately 25 new customers - mostly large international companies. And since many of these enterprises have branches in all three Baltic countries, Lattelekom is able to serve as a unifier by centralizing the companies' IT systems, which in turn encourages further development in the Baltics.
"The fact that international companies that have started businesses in all three countries proves that the Baltic states are being understood as a whole region," says Ilze Supe, Lattelekom's communications manager. "By expanding [Lattelekom] can create the impression of the Baltic states as one common market."
It is more efficient for such companies to use Lattelekom's data transmission infrastructure to connect all of their branches into one cohesive network, company specialists explain. In doing so corporations can easily access the Internet, use voice transmission in their internal network and utilize IT applications, including logistics and accounting programs - all from one provider.
"We have our own infrastructure and our own network that we can provide these companies with so that they don't have to maintain contact with several different providers," Supe says. "Now they have the possibility to work with one provider that does many different things."
Gazing further down the horizon, Lattelekom hopes to expand to Eastern markets as well. With business potential taking a lateral path from West to East, the Baltics once again find their geographical position at a crossroads between two economic systems - the EU and Russia - beneficial.
"The idea that a corporation doesn't need to do things other than pay attention to their core business comes from America, and of course America is the most developed," Ceruss explains. "In the Baltic states this is a rather new idea. Historically, we have a large IT department with high competence for internal use. Now we are willing to share this competence with external customers."
Lattelekom's international data transmission solutions and data center services are offered to customers under the trade mark VERDI, which ensures individual approach in solution development, adequate service quality and support to client's business development.
According to Ceruss, the main message of Lattelekom's offer is that it will support international company development in the Baltic market and provide effective business communications for those customers.
"We are supporting these companies by allowing them to focus to their core business while we take care of their support processes," Supe says. "In this way, we can help international corporations come do business in the Baltics and explore new markets."