Due to a big and hilly territory and dispersion of population, in the past, Bolivia has had relatively low penetration of telecom services. But in the last few years, Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel S.A.) has made great strides in increasing availability of telecom services. Hugo Fernandez Araoz, Chairman of Board of Entel, spoke to ZTE Technologies about Entel's recent projects. State-owned Entel is the country's biggest long-distance operator, offering local telephony, DSL and satellite pay TV services. Its Entel Móvil service makes ENTEL Bolivia's largest mobile network provider.
As the largest operator in Bolivia, could you give us an overview of Entel's achievements made over the last few years?
In the past 10 years, we have achieved the coverage of 95% of our country's territory. We have introduced fiber and increased our network and now we are able to provide services to the most part of our population. Just to give you an example, we build several thousand 4G FDD-LTE broadband mobile base stations. Also we build many sites in rural areas where there was no network before, but now in these places, people can have high-broadband network services. And these improvements give us the opportunity to increase the number of our clients in places that before we had very few.
What services or applications are most in demand in Bolivia?
At this moment, in Bolivia we are not yet concerned about the use of any specific application. Our first concern was to arrive at the home of every person of Bolivia's population. Bolivia is a very big country. We have over 1.09 million square kilometers of territory and only 11 million persons in such a big territory. Then, to have communication is the first step and a high percentage of these people are communicated by a mobile telephone, have access to broadband and receiving also television. It is the task in the next few years to amplify the use of these services.
Nowadays, operators are seeking digital transformation. What's your opinion about this trend? Will Entel take any steps for this transformation?
In the next 10 years, digital transformation will bring very huge profits, and it is a new opportunity for operators. Entel also will take some steps for digital transformation based on new technology with a goal to provide digital services. We need to work with several equipment vendors for our digital transformation and one of them is ZTE. We are happy to have ZTE as our equipment provider. It is a key partner to improve our equipment and services.
How does Entel implement digital transformation?
There is a plan to improve and to go up with this transformation. At present we are not in a hurry to implement 5G. Our first interest is to have a good communication service (4G) for all the people of Bolivia, to improve our connection to the submarine cable network, to provide cloud services not only to government but also to business community and but also to business community and to have better communication with the surrounding countries. This means to continue to be the leader in communications area in our country.
Could you tell us about ZTE's contribution to Bolivia? What do you think of the cooperation with ZTE?
For a more focused approach we have established three regions in our country. One of these regions is devoted to ZTE, who is in charge of the working and improvement of a very big part of our network and makes sure that this region is very good connected with the two others. Beside this, we have a contract with ZTE software to improve our BSS/OSS systems. ZTE has more than 10 years of experience in Bolivia's telecom market. We are very pleased with this cooperation. We need to work together for exploring a lot of other possibilities for cooperation.
What are your prospects for Entel in the next few years and what are your priorities?
As I said before, we are working for offering cloud services for the Bolivian market the next year. At the moment, we are improving our communication with the international services by the submarine cable in the Pacific Ocean. When this project enters service this present year, we will be able to have better connectivity with all the surrounding countries and offer better and more convenient services in Bolivia.
So your prospects for Entel includes better connectivity with other countries.
If you look at the map, Bolivia is in the heart of South America. We are surrounded and have borders with five countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Peru). Under these conditions, we have the opportunity to transform our position into a nexus of communication in the heart of South America and we are sure that we are able to do it and that we will count with the help of ZTE.