A1 digital CEO: Our ambition is to be the region’s pre-eminent cloud, IoT provider

A1

As goals go, Elisabetta Castiglioni’s is lofty.

“Our ambition is to be the pre-eminent cloud and Internet of Things provider in our region,” she says without hesitation when asked what the ultimate aim is for A1 digital, Telekom Austria’s new business unit, of which she is Chief Executive.

Castiglioni, who has sat on the operator’s supervisory board since 2012, was part of the cabal of executives who cooked up the plan to create the new division, which promises to provide cloud and IoT services to enterprises.

The former CEO of Siemens’ Global Media Business says she decided to move from Telekom Austria’s boardroom to the operational floor because the new business has “all the ingredients to be successful”.

A1 digital has taken ownership of Telekom Austria’s existing M2M business unit and is adding a range of cloud services – Office 365, website design, storage, virtual servers, security and payments, to date – as it looks to target enterprises across its geographical footprint.

Castiglioni explains: “As a company we recognised cloud and the IoT is [where we need to focus] in B2B.“

Announcing the launch in February, Telekom Austria Group CEO Alejandro Plater described A1 digital as “a paradigm shift away from our traditional core business toward digitalisation”.

More concretely, the operator thinks it can gain a slice of what it cites as a €15 billion opportunity from three million small and medium-sized enterprises across central and eastern Europe, including Germany, over the next few years.

“Cloud maturity within our target customer group is evolving,” says Castiglioni. “There is more willingness to put workloads in the cloud. I see cloud as the foundation, the prerequisite for the IoT.”

When it comes to the IoT, A1 digital is offering managed connectivity alongside dedicated asset tracking, fleet management and smart metering services.

It also promises to help companies to develop connected products through workshops, design capabilities and business model generation.

“We’ve been working on M2M for the last five to six years,” says Castiglioni.

“We want to take those activities to the next level [by] adding further services... and sharpening the focus.”

Castiglioni describes A1 digital as “the product house” that works “in close cooperation” with Telekom Austria’s local companies to deliver the solutions to customers.

A localised focus is key to the company’s go-to-market approach.

“We’re a regional player, a European company not an American one,” Castiglioni says.

“We see a role for us as a regional player as opposed to a hyperscale, global player because we’re very entrenched in our territories and have existing customer relationships.”

Austria will be the first and obvious market that A1 digital is targeting.

“We are very well positioned [in our home market],” says Castiglioni.

Telekom Austria also has operations in Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, and these are next on the list.

But the operator has bigger targets in mind, too. It plans to set up a separate company in Munich to attack the German enterprise market.

“It’s a big economy, so it’s the logical next step,” she says.

Exact timelines of when this will launch are still being worked out.

What about other German-speaking markets, such as Switzerland?

“There is nothing concrete that I would mention but the services we provide are international,” Castiglioni responds.

This is an extract from a feature length interview that will appear in the Q2 issue of European Communications magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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