GIG: WIND unveiled an investment plan worth €500 million that runs through until the end of 2020. Can you give us an update on this plan and what it is focusing on?
Tsaprounis: As we are living in the 4th technological revolution with ultra-high-speed networks, WIND continues to invest in next-generation infrastructures in mobile telephony (4G, 4G +) and in fixed telephony and the internet (FTTx). Our priority is to connect all the residents of the country with broadband communications services, wherever they are, whichever device they use. For this reason, we invest about €100 million per year. We have already completed the construction of 300,000 optical fibre lines across Greece, and at the same time, our 4G-network coverage is at about 95%. Furthermore, we recently launched the first pilot 5G mobile network in Kalamata and Thessaloniki in a pilot programme where people had the opportunity to try out the high speeds of the 5G network and use 5G mobile devices for the first time.
GIG: What are WIND’s goals and market position?
Tsaprounis: WIND strives to achieve excellent performance by investing in technology to deliver complete mobile, fixed and internet services to our clients. We believe in the power of the modern world, where everything is networkable, and when you have a network, people can do everything. Already since our foundation, we have invested more than €3.5 billion in infrastructure building and implementing one of the largest private investment programmes in the country. Our priority is to offer our subscribers the best-integrated communication experience.
GIG: The price of mobile internet services in Greece is more expensive than in most other parts of Europe. Why?
Tsaprounis: This is not accurate. The problem lies in the extremely high taxation of mobile telephony services in Greece – they are the highest in Europe. Approximately 40% of the contracts and 35% of the prepaid cards represent indirect taxes levied by the state. In fact, continuous increases in the mobile telephony fee offset mobile phone price cuts, significantly burdening consumers’ accounts. In addition, another indisputable fact is that for prepaid packages, Greeks enjoy one of the lowest rates in Europe. Furthermore, there is a significant difference of up to 30%, between nominal and real prices, that the European Commission benchmark does not take into consideration. This fact penalizes Greek telecoms more.
A possible reduction in the special mobile telephony tax would have many positive benefits for both consumers and public finances, as it would lead to increased use and therefore higher VAT revenues for the state.
GIG: At a national level, what does Greece need to do to help the country prepare for the digital era?
Tsaprounis: Some, or perhaps most, of us may think that Greece is lagging behind in comparison with other countries and light-years away from technological development, although this picture does not correspond with reality. Surely, we are not a country that exploits cutting-edge technology, but we are not 30 years behind either. We would say that we are moving two to three years behind Europe’s fastest speed. Moreover, if there are unpleasant surprises over the next three years, then it is very likely that this time we will be able to prevent the train of technological developments. One of the most important moves we must make is to take advantage of digital technologies. In addition, what we must all understand is that we are still at the beginning, and the changes that are coming will be even more sweeping than anything we have seen so far.