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In a period where Covid-19 raids the world and shuts down businesses, Sofrecom has emerged stronger, coping with the new normal. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Guillaume Boudin, CEO of Sofrecom Group, shared how they were able to stay ahead of the digital transformation game amid the pandemic, their new project, and more insightful subjects.

How did Sofrecom accompany its customers during the Covid-19 crisis?

Our first priority was to ensure the business continuity of our customers’ projects, while ensuring the safety of our employees. Where lockdown was imposed, teams switched to remote working, with field operations when authorizations were possible and with the necessary security measures in place. As a result, the majority of our customers’ projects continued despite the crisis. However, few projects had to be postponed, and schedules redefined accordingly.

In addition, we offered support to our customers in the implementation of business continuity plans, using a proven methodology.

How should organizations shift their strategies to cope with the new normal?

In the telco market, as in all markets, this crisis has clearly accelerated the digital transformation: digitalization of the customer relationship, digitalization of the company's internal processes and development of the use of digital collaboration tools.

Companies that were on digital business models have done well. Those that were only on mainly physical distribution modes suffered a lot, and launched e-commerce or click and collect projects.

In the context of crises, digital transformation is essential for business continuity. Beyond that, it also allows better productivity and significant cost optimization.

Working remotely will also be reinforced in the new normal, and new employment expectations will emerge which companies will have to meet. The workplace will become a place for exchanges and encounters, calling on companies to rethink new ways of organizing work and workspaces.

Finally, we see an increased commitment of companies and states in actions to preserve the environment and fight against climate change. The carbon footprints of activities will be increasingly monitored, and action plans will be implemented to improve carbon balances.

What are the practices and measures you take as a company to stay ahead of the digital transformation game?

Our monitoring teams decipher trends and disruptions in the sector. We work closely with the business departments to understand and support the business and operational needs. As specialists in the telecommunications sector, our cross-functional expertise, combining business consulting, network engineering and IT development, allow us to be present from end to end throughout the value chain. We rely on agile methods, among others, to provide scalable solutions that meet our customers' needs. With aata/AI approaches, we help our customers to improve their operational performance both on networks efficiency and on customer experience. 

Could you tell us more about your very high broadband projects?

Very high broadband holds the promise of improving people's quality of life, the competitiveness of businesses, the efficiency of public services and the modernization of governments. It is by improving speeds and quality of service (QoS) that fiber will make it possible to restore equality between citizens and businesses in terms of access to information.

Our teams actively contribute to the development of national broadband strategies and their deployment by adapting our support to our customers' local contexts. For example, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have been working for more than two years with our partner Integrated Telecom Company to design and deploy fiber connectivity throughout the kingdom. We are currently supporting Facebook in the deployment of broadband fiber in CAR. Our teams of change management and skills development, are contributing to the creation of the first digital school to train technicians to deploy fiber and enable the country to have the necessary skills. In Niger, Mauritania and Congo, we have supported governments in the definition and implementation of their national digital strategies. Finally our engineers are currently finalizing several campaigns to measure the quality of mobile services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to you, what are the challenges that companies face today while deploying FTTX networks?

By making national and international data exchange more fluid, fiber opens up access to remote and hosted services (storage, security, SaaS, etc.). It enables the development of national or regional data centers. It facilitates national and international collaborations, and accelerates the emergence of startups.

Pooling investments and infrastructures is one of the keys to deploying fiber to the end customer. It enables synergies between operators. Subject to strict supervision by regulators and clear competition rules for operators, it accelerates deployment by sharing investment costs and concentrating energies on more efficient deployment. By stimulating competition, it leads to more competitive offers at the right price for B2C or B2B customers. It thus contributes to the democratization of access to a quality connection.

In addition to the complexity of its deployment, fiber poses different marketing challenges depending on the maturity of the market. In the most mature markets, fiber brings the promise of new services: content, cloud gaming, online storage ... The most developed services become accessible with unparalleled comfort and customer experience.

In more emerging markets, fiber is the means to democratize access to a quality connection, and to stimulate the development of offers and services. On the other hand, it contributes to the modernization of households’ connectivity and accelerates the development of mobile internet while meeting users’ expectations

In the B2B market, the stakes are enormous. Fiber offers the possibility of higher bandwidths, with a high quality of service, at much more reasonable price than in the past. A radical transformation for operators in certain markets, where B2B access offers, due to the cost it represented, remained inaccessible to a large proportion of corporate customers (especially VSEs and SMEs). Fiber therefore holds a strong promise of accelerating their business and opening up their markets for enterprises.

It also allow the broadening of the operators’ customer base, provided they manage the transition from a margin-based economy to a more volume-focused economy properly.

What are your plans for 2021 regarding the Middle East and Africa region?

Once again, the crisis has confirmed the essential role of digital technology for governments, businesses and citizens. The brutal slowdown in the global economy will require many transformation projects to manage the recovery while improving their operational performance. Our primary ambition is to continue to be the trusted partner of our customers to provide them with the necessary support for the recovery, taking into account technological contributions such as 5G and data/AI. Within this framework, in 2021, we will continue our contribution to the development of an inclusive digital and take into account the challenges of a sustainable development.

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