Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Triatel: Latvia's first metrosexual operator

To loosely borrow the term "metrosexual", it refers to an attractive, intelligent and aesthetically refined male person who exhibits what many would consider the best attributes of positive stereotype gay and straight men. There is a flair, an intelligence, a touch of arrogance, perhaps, but all in all, an attitude and "je ne sais quois" which leaves you wondering just which side of the fence this guy is on.
So what does this have to do with Latvian telecoms? Triatel, the brand used by two operators, Telekom Baltija and SIA Radiokoms, has launched a kind of metrosexual set of services. They are state of the art, 3G, mobile, fast (5.2 Mbps download is just around the corner) and at the same time fixed, no different from your slightly upscale home phone, except that there is this little antenna, no cord, but a dial tone just as if there was one. They are equally at home in the city (and this is where Lattelekom or at least some of the wireline ISPs should watch out) and in the increasingly prosperous suburbs. They can look "fixed line" and be mobile very quickly. In fact, you can pack that home desktop phone in a bag and take it to the summer house, just like a 1992 vintage Motorola (except you can safely drop the Triatel phone on your foot, the Motorola is not to be tried at home...). The number and phone portability (within Latvia) is very Vonage-y, but there is no flat rate service yet.
So that's how Triatel is going to look -- cool looking odd brand flip phones, desktop phones and faxes with the cord missing on second glance, and the bright little secret that this company is actually, henceforth, doing everything via CDMA 450 and calling some of it "mobile".
This is just a weird way of looking at Triatel after their presentation today. Everyone else thinks it is some big deal that they are planning to get 40 000 cream of the crop subs, or 2 % of the Latvian market. As long as their interconnect and roaming issues are settled (they are in process), who really cares how big a market share they have as long as they generate decent ARPU.
One thing though, as a Lattelekom executive points out (he sees them as competition, and rightly), is that Triatel has to get the customer outcomes right, because it is no longer just abot the technology or the network. The network connection on the fixed wire (no little antenna) is heading for near zero cost in the big markets. So it all boils down to making business processes work seamlessly and flawlessly and, yes, metrosexually, regardless of the identity of the network, fixed or wireless.

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