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INTERVIEW - We focus on creating value through digital transformation

INTERVIEW - We focus on creating value through digital transformation Photo: Yettel

Mobile operator Yettel Bulgaria is focused on creating value through the digital transformation of its business, involving upgrades to its systems, streamlining customer journeys and process automation, CEO Jason King told SeeNews in a recent interview.

“We have already started this process,” King said.

You can download the 2022 ESG & Sustainability report Bulgaria here

As part of a wider push to digital operations, the company is transforming its shops, moving towards a nearly 100% paperless environment where all operations can be carried out on a tablet.

“This is important for us for three reasons. One is for a cleaner environment. The other two center around managing our cost base and allowing customers to seamlessly perform their sales and service journeys digitally with us” King said.

The shift to paperless operations affects the company’s internal processes as well, as it looks for ways to improve operational efficiency.

“We're doing everything contactless. We have contracts, but without paper. You can do everything digitally, sign it and have it sent to your email if you want to print it out. Even with signatures, everything is e-signature based now as much as we can,” the CEO explained.

For Yettel, digitisation has another aspect as well - giving back to society, King said.

Together with the Bulgarian Tourist Union, Yettel integrated beloved hundred top tourist sites into its mobile app and actively promotes it to all Bulgarians and foreign tourists. The app, designed in Bulgarian and in English, motivates users to visit these sites by awarding them digital stamps for any site visited.

King also noted that when it comes to digitisation, Southern Europe tends to be a laggard compared to its more Northern European neighbours.

“The further south we go, the more cash-based it tends to be,” he said, adding that one reason is the importance people attach to personal relations over remote transactions. “You want to buy from people you like, and when they’re with each other they tend to have cash. There's a historical, conservative, traditional element to it.”

Yet, things are changing, he went on to say.

“There's been a lot more e-commerce. We're seeing many more transactions and business being done online, which I think is good in a lot of ways because it leads to being leaner and greener.”


Apart from digitization, King pointed to three other major consumer trends – growing data usage across the board, a sharp increase in the number of people consuming digital content and linear TV, and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

“When we look at the consumption across our mobile network, we’ve seen a year on year 76% increase in data usage,” he said. “People are consuming a lot more data on the go in the home and around the home, both on handsets, as well as with fixed wireless access.”

For Yettel, increased data usage entails heavy investments.

“Yettel significantly invests into its network and makes sure all things are running smoothly. Maintaining and investing in a telecoms network is very costly. These are multi-million euro investments. We're constantly building that out.”

Last year alone, the company upgraded base stations in over 3000 settlements in Bulgaria.

Yettel’s 5G network now covers over 70% of the country’s population. Furthermore, it was the first operator in the country to activate the 700/800 MHz frequencies. This year the operator received its seventh consecutive Best-in-Test certificate by the gold-standard network benchmarking firm umlaut which ranked its mobile network first in Bulgaria overall, as well as best in voice, coverage, latency and reliability.

“One could argue that the backbone of a society is data in a lot of ways. And, we're the main facilitator for that.”

Another major trend is the steady rise in Bulgarians watching TV.

According to a survey conducted by local polling agency Alpha Research in 2022, more than 70% of Bulgarians watch TV every day, and more than half of the population go online every day.

In response to customer demand, in 2023 the company launched Yettel TV, an IPTV service that now serves hundreds of thousands of customers. Today, it has over 100,000 fixed wireless and IPTV customers.

“We're extremely excited about venturing and doubling down on the entertainment space, because we believe television and entertainment as a whole has major potential for growth,” King said.

The company is working on integrating more digital services into Yettel TV as more and more consumers are looking for a one-stop-shop when it comes to home entertainment. “This way we can expand not only by providing excellent interface, but also added value through third-party services that consumers want,” King explained.


For Yettel, AI is more about intelligence and automation, than about artificiality.

“The funny thing is that AI is not new. It's been around for 30 years. Just the computing power is at a place now where it can actually be applied to different industries, including telecommunications, banking and the like.”

“We do a lot of it on the back end,” King went on to say, adding that the company is trying to automate repetitive tasks to make them less error prone, monitoring networks and base stations. On the front end, the company is working on employing AI in customer service and call monitoring; with much more future application in the pipeline.


Last year, Yettel signed a ten-year power purchase agreement with energy group Eurohold Bulgaria and is now supplying of the vast majority of its energy needs from renewable sources. The company’s HQ in Sofia too has a rooftop solar photovoltaic installation, covering at peak around 30% of the building’s electricity consumption.

“We’re the first operator to launch a full ESG strategy using GRI scoring, the global standard, two years ago. Everyone else talks about it, we do it,” King said.

E-waste and recycling are major issues the company is seeking to address. It recently launched an initiative, The Recycler, together with the Sofia municipality, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of recycling waste and protecting the environment. Since 2008, the company’s shops have been equipped with boxes where consumers can dispose of their old phones and devices.

Furthermore, the company is looking at options to replenish its car fleet with electric vehicles.


“We invest a lot in people and training, and we will continue to do so. Our people do get better with time and as assets truly appreciate," King said, adding that diversity and inclusion forms the core of its growth strategy.

The company is the only telecommunications operator to be certified by Amsterdam-headquartered Top Employers Institute, as its programmes Side by Side, Second Shift and Digital Office are included in the worldwide library of best practices.

The Side by Side programme, which integrate physically and mentally challenged people into the workforce, has been running for nine years now.

Yettel is also seeking to attract middle-aged people into its retail network. “There are a lot of people over 40 that come into our shops. When they speak to someone from their own demographic and can even better identify with our colleagues, I’d like to believe that a sales and care experience for them will become even better. And I can also see that if you're 19 or 20 years old in your first job (so often it's the first job in retail). You have someone to learn from as well, not just, you know, being backed by a manager, but to learn from peers with various backgrounds. So there's a societal element there that I think is very important."

Looking forward, Bulgaria's potential entry into the eurozone from 2025 and its joining of Europe's free-travel Schengen area that took place on March 31, albeit partially, are likely to have a major positive psychological effect and a huge beneficial influence on operations, King said.

For Yettel Bulgaria, the country's entry into the eurozone means sizable adjustments to its IT systems, with the dual currency shown for a certain period of time, he stressed.

King also highlighted the importance of the rule of law and the integrity of the judiciary for foreign investors in the country.

"Predictability is very important for any business. And the last four years has been anything but that in our country. Populism tends to come into play quite a bit," he said. "Rules sometimes can get interpreted or changed at a whim. That type of thing can be somewhat discouraging for investors. Nonetheless, I believe in the foreseeable future the broader growth story should continue for Bulgaria," he concluded.