|Issue:||Latin America II 1999|
|Topic:||Telecommunications in Turkey|
|Author:||Hasan Basri Aktan|
|Organisation:||Ministry of Transport and Communications, Republic of Turkey|
Connect-World is delighted to showcase the country Turkey. As with the fundamental changes taking place all over the world, Turkey is also in a transition period with respect to its telecommunications sector. Here, Minister Aktan highlights the country’s structural changes which, in the context of its history, are seen as quite radical and act as indicators of its determination to achieve a liberal and competitive environment for more reliable, efficient, and cost -effective telecommunications services.
Turkey, the country that spans two continents, covers a land area of 779,452 km2 with 97% in Asia (the Anatolian Plateau) and 3% in Europe (Thrace). The two sides are divided by the famous Straits – the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles – with the Sea of Marmara in between. Turkey’s coastline of four seas – the Black Sea in the north, the Marmara in the north-west, the Aegean in the west, and the Mediterranean in the south, is more than 8,000 km in length. The high plateau region of Anatolia rises progressively towards the east, resulting in quite different climatic conditions which range from the temperate climate of the Black Sea region to the continental climate of the interior, then, to the Mediterranean climate of the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions. Turkey, the crossroads of many civilisations over past centuries as a geographical, cultural and economic bridge between Europe and Asia, now has 62.6 million inhabitants, 41 % of whom live in the countryside. The major cities are Istanbul (9.1 million), Ankara, the capital (3.7 million), Izmir (3.1 million), and Adana (1.9 million). The country with 80 administrative provinces in total is divided into seven geographical regions. Recent Indicators Just as a short look at the country’s economy, some recent indicators are as follows: · GNP (in million US$): 204,592 · Per capita income (US$): 3,224 Composition of GDP by sectors: · Agriculture: 15.1 % · Industry: 22.1 % · Services: 62.8 % Main industries include iron and steel, chemicals, glass, ceramics, furniture, machinery, consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment, automotive and auto parts, leather, carpet, gold jewellery, textile and clothing, and mining (e.g. coal, boron, and chromite). Governance The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular, and social state governed by the rule of law. The power to legislate is vested in the Turkish Grand National Assembly which is elected by popular vote. The exercise of executive power is vested in and is used by the President and the Council of Ministers which is headed by the Prime Minister. The President, who is Head of State, represents the Republic of Turkey and the unity of the Turkish Nation. Unprecedented Telecoms Changes Improved and effective telecommunications have long been regarded by all as the most significant infrastructure of a country, being of profound importance to national economies. As a matter of fact, today, economic and social progress relies heavily upon efficient telecommunications. As the turn of the century rapidly approaches, all of us are fully aware that we are passing through a very significant period during which the telecommunications world is exhibiting a very rapid change in its various aspects. Rapid technological advancements have led to unprecedented developments in the telecommunications field, and as a natural consequence, telecommunications circles have shaped their activities as to establish new strategies and policies to respond well to most recent requirements. Privatisation As with the fundamental changes taking place all over the world, Turkey is also in a transition period with respect to its telecommunications sector. The changes experienced are quite radical. Turkish PTT, the state-owned enterprise which supplied the postal and telecommunications services for more than a century and a half, was split into two in April 1995. This separation has led to the establishment of two different organisations; Directorate General of Posts and Turk Telekom, of which the latter deals solely with telecommunications. Although Turk Telekom is still a wholly state-owned company, this situation is going to change in the near future with the scheduled transfer of up to 49% of its shares pursuant to the privatisation program in effect. In this context, the privatisation process of Turk Telekom is well in progress. Based on the new legislation, the government plans to sell 20% of the company to a strategic partner. Another 14% of Turk Telekom would be sold in a foreign and domestic equity offering while the remaining 5% is to go to its employees. Finally, 10% of the company is to be granted free of charge to the Directorate General of Posts in accordance with the new telecommunications privatisation law in order to ensure that the Postal Administration has the funding to keep up with modernising its operations. Value Added Services Such being the case for privatisation of Turk Telekom itself, private provision of value added services is worthy of mention as well. New telecommunications legislation also allows for private provision of value added services based on the licences that may be granted in accordance with the clear conditions specified in the pertinent laws. As a matter of fact, the three-year-old ‘GSM Revenue-Sharing Contracts’ were converted to operation licences in April 1998 through the signing of GSM Operation Agreements with the two separate consortia involved. This licensing was the implementation of privatisation for the first time in Turkey’s telecommunications services sector and regarded as being quite a radical change to its monopolistic status which has lasted a hundred and fifty years. In this context, work is now under way towards granting an operation licence for GSM 1800. Regulatory Body Another important development recorded so far is the separation of regulatory and operational functions by the establishment of a regulatory body within the Ministry of Transport and Communications, whose main duties are to regulate the required qualifications for telecommunications operators, issue licences, inspect, and give type-approval for telecommunications terminal equipment. It should also be pointed out that Turkey has committed in the framework of WTO Telecommunications Agreement that Turk Telekom’s exclusive rights on basic telecommunications services would end by December 31st, 2005. Turk Telekom is currently the only authorised supplier of telecommunications services in Turkey except for GSM. The company operates all public telecommunications exchanges, nationwide network of local and trunk telecommunications lines, all long distance national and international transmission facilities, switched and leased data networks, national Internet backbone and its international connections, analogue mobile telephone system (NMT), terrestrial and submarine cable systems, satellite communications systems, coastal stations, cable TV system, radio and television transmitters as well as programme links involved. Turk Telekom operates certain services on a revenue-sharing basis, namely VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals for the provision of domestic virtual private network services), Intelsat Business Services (IBS), and cable TV. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) includes 18.8 million installed access lines, of which 17.3 million are in service, representing 27 lines in operation per 100 inhabitants. Digitalisation Digitalisation rate of switching systems has already reached a level of 83%. The digitalisation of long distance transmission systems in terms of channel terminations is presently at a level of 96%. Digitalisation is not simply meant to bring quality and reliability of communications, it is also the indispensable element of today’s networks which allows for transmission of voice, data, and video images together as a stream of bits in compressed form over a single network with their subsequent re-assembly for use at the point of destination. This is a product of the convergence of telecommunications, data processing and broadcasting technologies. As the telecommunications operator of a country surrounded by three seas, Turk Telekom utilises submarine cable systems to the greatest possible extent, and it has always explored ways to upgrade the existing telecommunications facilities in terms of digitalisation and capability of creating alternative routes with the neighbouring countries and beyond. To this end, Turk Telekom’s investments in fibre optic submarine cable systems have continued to increase. Turk Telekom is the co-owner or shareholder of various international fibre optic cables making it a leader in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is in perfect harmony with Turkey’s geographical location. Furthermore, Turk Telekom has become one of the leading telecommunications companies in the world as a domestic and international satellite operator. Advanced Telecommunications Networks Looking at satellite communications, additional communication satellites are on the way, the first of which will also be the first of the second generation of the existing TORKSAT satellites, TORKSAT-2A, scheduled for launch in early 2000. For this purpose, a joint venture company has been set up with a French firm. In the meantime, new facilities implemented in advanced telecommunications networks have also been brought into use in Turkey’s telecommunications network. Signalling System No.7, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) implementation, national Internet backbone, and ongoing expansion and upgrade of Cable TV facilities are just a few examples. Modern telecommunications and information technologies are being used to get information where it is needed, when it is needed, and in its most useful form. With the convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and data processing technologies, telecommunications and broadcasting sectors became an integral part of information technology. This is not only true for market and service integration, it is also becoming a physical event in the infrastructure. Video images, data and voice will no longer be transmitted over physically different networks. A single sharable digital infrastructure will carry all of these digital data components, regardless of their contents. Internet and NII Without doubt, we are in the midst of a global information revolution driven by the convergence and proliferation of telecommunications and information technologies. Being fully conscious of the importance of Internet for the National Information Infrastructure, Turkey attaches utmost importance to the deployment and development of a national extension of Internet. Internet service in Turkey is a competitive arena with great potential for growth. Accordingly, further to the already existing TURNET, Turk Telekom has started to implement a project, named Ttnet. This is a nationwide network which will allow the Internet Service Providers to give service at all points in Turkey on equal basis, fulfilling the concept of universal service. The technology utilised in TTnet will also be suitable for carrying the new developing Internet services as well as multimedia. On the access side, new technologies will be utilised with TTnet, enabling users to have high speed access to the network and services. Cable TV infrastructure can also be used to access TTnet. TTnet will also support the project of the Ministry of Education for connecting schools, which is one of the Government’s main objectives. TTnet will provide the necessary infrastructure for the project. TTnet is expected to be operational within the current year. Conclusion All of these structural changes are a radical departure in Turkey’s history of national communication systems, which date back to the year 1840. They are indicators of the country’s determination to achieve a liberal and competitive environment for more reliable, efficient, and cost-effective telecommunications services.