European Communications

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Belgacom CEO: ‘Apple are difficult guys to talk to’

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Belgacom CEO Didier Bellens is the subject of our exclusive feature-length interview in the Q2 edition of European Communications.

He invited editor Marc Smith to the company’s Brussels HQ to discuss a range of topics, including an expanding list of partnerships. Here is an exclusive extract:

Belgacom is following a strategy of convergence that it believes will win the day as people trust one supplier to deliver all their communication needs across phone, internet and TV.

Says Bellens: “Convergence is the future. I strongly believe that.”

It is winning in mobile, with a leading 40 percent market share, while it is neck-and neck with cable providers in the internet space holding 45 percent market share – just two percent off the pace.

In digital TV it has some way to go with roughly half of the cable providers’ 63 percent market share, but the number of subscribers continues to rise – there are now over 1.2 million of them.

To achieve their aim of becoming the preferred provider across all three segments, Belgacom is betting on partnerships.

Three stand out in particular: Samsung, FON and Deezer.

Korea-based Samsung, which last month passed Nokia to become the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, holds the position of “privileged partner”.

The two companies first announced their partnership in May 2011 when Belgacom unveiled a 250MB mobile/home WIFI internet package with a Galaxy tablet thrown in for €50 a month.

Bellens says it has been extremely profitable for both parties and Belgacom now sells more tablets than any other country in Europe.

As a direct result, in March this year the two companies extended their partnership to the enterprise market where they are developing end-to-end solutions in areas such as unified comms and security.

On signing the extension, Samsung’s EVP of Global Sales & Marketing said the partnership was “the expression of a long term vision that seeks to generate growth for both parties, and encompasses all product lines of Samsung and Belgacom".

So why did Belgacom choose to partner with Samsung over, for example, Apple?

“We had discussions with Apple but it is difficult to talk to these guys,” explains Bellens. 

“If you want to do a deal they want to get involved in marketing and every other aspect. On top of that I like the open nature of Android.

“My philosophy is that we should not reinvent solutions all the time, we should adapt and work with partners. We are ready to share if others are; we have open minds and we found the same attitude with Samsung. We think are very lucky and we are extremely important for them in the heart of Europe.

“Ultimately, we came to a much more balanced deal with Samsung that was better for both parties.”

To read the entire interview, make sure you sign up to receive the Q2 issue of European Communications magazine, which is out later this month and features a special report on Big Data. Click here to subscribe.