GIG: ZTE entered the Greek telecommunications sector in 2004, and has since become a notable player in the market. Can you provide us with an overview of your activities in Greece?
Wang: ZTE Corporation was established in 1985 in Shenzhen, which is currently considered China’s high tech centre. Today, the company is a global leader in telecommunications and information technology, specifically in 5G technology, while also being the largest listed telecommunications equipment provider in China. We are listed in both Hong Kong and the mainland’s stock market.
Today, ZTE provides integrated end-to-end solutions to consumers, carriers, businesses, and public sector customers in over 160 countries, enabling increased connectivity and productivity to unlock the power of technology for society. We entered the European market nearly 20 years ago, where we employ over 3,000 engineers to work on our European projects, with 95% of the team being local.
We opened our branch office in Athens in 2004, where we mainly focus on marketing, sales, and after sales. We are focused on bringing the latest technology and high quality products into the market by providing end-to-end solutions, from fixed broadband access to radio broadband access, including both core and parent networks. We’re proud to say that almost every Greek household has a ZTE broadband router (CPE) through which they can access the internet and enjoy the broadband network. Indicatively, we have provided approximately 5 million CPEs to the market.
Beyond our local activities, Greece plays an important role as ZTE’s business centre for the Balkan region, encompassing six countries, including: Romania, Albania, Moldova, Cyprus and Israel.
We chose Greece as our business centre due to its strategic geographical location, which is very well connected with China, its business-friendly environment, its talented young generation that supports our business, and the fact that it’s an excellent place to live and relocate with your family.
GIG: ZTE has established collaborations with a number of Greece’s leading telco providers. Can you tell us about this? What are your priorities looking ahead?
Wang: Our main mission is to help operators create a superior network to add value to society. To this end, ZTE Hellas has been collaborating with all main telecom operators/service providers in Greece for many years and we aim to strengthen these partnerships. We are committed to building a digital and intelligent ecosystem and to supporting Greece´s move towards the digital era. We believe in growing with our partners, and that the benefits of new technology belong to everyone, which is why we want all users to enjoy intelligent services.
The opportunity for ZTE in the future is quite clear: increasing connectivity. As a company, and through our products, we enable people to access the Internet in a faster and more efficient manner. This is our contribution to our customers. Through our tier one fibre-to-the-home, the average Greek family can connect to the Internet through fibre technology, which is 10 times faster than the technology available nowadays. Also, through ZTE’s 5G broadband router, 5G coverage can be provided in a very short period of time, which could also be a very convenient solution for the islands.
GIG: Does ZTE have any plans for investments in Greece?
Wang: ZTE Hellas is spearheading efforts with ambitious investment plans to support Greece’s digital transformation across sectors, while facilitating the construction of digital broadband infrastructure.
As the government places more emphasis on improving communications infrastructure, as well as on the digital transformation and energy development, we see great opportunities to deepen our collaboration.
We want to actively participate in the development of Greek projects.
On the other hand, a key part of how ZTE gives back to the community is by helping younger generations get closer to the latest technologies through our R&D centres and ZTE University in China. So far, we have established innovation centres in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Austria, together with local operators, through which we collaborate with local industry partners, universities, and third-party organisations to jointly develop 5G technologies and train local innovative talent. Investing in the development of an R&D centre in Greece is something we will consider doing as our business grows.
GIG: How has the pandemic impacted the way ZTE does business, both globally and in Greece? What does this mean with respect to the company’s priorities going forward?
Wang: 2020 was a very challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the way we live our lives having changed tremendously – from remote working to home schooling. As a result, people’s demand for remote communications increased significantly, and the acceleration of the construction of telecommunication infrastructure has never been more pressing. People now truly understand the importance of connectivity, and know that connectivity will be the cornerstone of economic growth through the further development of the digital economy. This entails the adoption of ICT technology in thousands of enterprises, while making industries smarter and more efficient.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new types of digital businesses are growing faster than before within the fields of e-commerce, e-learning, healthcare and remote work. Traditional industries are accelerating their pathway towards digital transformation, making the digital economy the main pillar of the economy. In 2019, the growth rate of the global digital economy reached 5.4% and the overall scale reached €31.8 trillion, with more and more countries investing in their digital transformation.
However, the digital economy and countries’ digital transformation require the necessary infrastructure, and the most important digital infrastructure is broadband, which enables a flow of information between people and industries. In this regard, ZTE would like to be the digital economy road builder, sharing our expertise of broadband network construction with Greece.
On the other hand, because we do not believe that everyone will transition back to normalcy overnight, ZTE will continue to promote the development of the 5G+ industry, actively organising online activities that aim to close the gap between customers and partners, and jointly build a brand new 5G ecosystem.
Furthermore, based on the belief that innovation is a key driver of sustainable development and as a global leader in telecommunications and information technology, we attach great importance to R&D.
We have a commitment to invest at least 10% of our revenue in R&D on a yearly basis to provide users the most advanced products and solutions. However, in 2020 we invested 15% of our revenue in R&D.
Although we encountered great challenges in 2020, it’s important to highlight the fact that ZTE still managed to achieve good market performance, thanks to the combined efforts of our staff together with the continuous trust of our customers. Hence, in 2020 ZTE reported operating revenue of RMB 101.45 billion, representing a year-on-year increase of 11.8%.
GIG: A key focus of Greece’s development agenda moving forward is green and digital investments. What opportunities does Greece’s digital transformation, the expansion of its networks, and the deployment of 5G infrastructure present for ZTE? Are you planning any “green” (eco-friendly) investments?
Wang: We want to expand our cooperation across all fields, and keep investing in the development of a reliable and high-performing digital broadband network in Greece.
There are three directions we see Greece’s telecommunications infrastructure moving forward: 5G+, fibre-to-the-home, and WiFi 6. With this coverage, I believe all Greek people and the entire Greek territory – whether on an island or on the mainland –will be covered by high speed broadband.
As for other sectors, we are looking for innovative opportunities to invest in Greece, as we’ve done in the past. For example, in China green energy is a hot topic. We have deployed new electric vehicles, and we’ve already launched electric buses in several European cities. We even produced the first wireless charging community bus in the world.