Background to Azercell and telecommunications in Azerbaijan

After the oil sector, the telecommunication industry is the largest in Azerbaijan, and a major contributor to the country’s economy.  Azercell sets the trends in the local mobile communication market. It was the first among local mobile operators to introduce such services as: prepaid systems, mobile internet, mobile banking, payment in the city metro with a mobile phone, navigation, car fleet management, BlackBerry solutions, 4G.

Azercell’s services and networks have turned a regular mobile phone into something that enhances the lives of millions through improved social interaction, development of convenient and accessible infrastructures and social security services. An “Azercell line” today is not only an integral part of social life and doing business, but is also a main stimulus for development of bottom-up entrepreneurship in the country.

During its 15 years of operations, Azercell has invested close to USD 15 million in human resources development. It has established a training academy, where know-how is shared with Azercell’s partner companies and start-ups. Thanks to this training, our partners develop knowledge in different areas ranging from financial and human management to product development. Azercell Academy provides benchmarking and support to TeliaSonera’s other operators in Eurasia as well.

Azercell in brief

Azercell Telecom LLC, the first mobile operator in Azerbaijan to work in the GSM standard, was established in January 1996 by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of the Azerbaijan Republic, and Azertel, a subsidiary of Turkcell. In 2000, Turkcell transferred its ownership in Azertel to Fintur Holdings, which is majority owned by TeliaSonera.

Azercell commenced its commercial activities on December 15, 1996 offering its subscribers mobile communication services based on postpaid system. The system of prepaid services was introduced in 1998. As of today, over 90 percent of Azercell’s 4.3 million subscribers are using this system.
Azercell has kept its leadership position in the market since its first year of operation, despite intensifying competition.

In June 2012, Azercell became the first among TeliaSonera Eurasia subsidiaries to commercially launch 4G services. High speed mobile internet services are currently available in the central areas of the capital city, Baku.
Since 1996 and until mid-2012, Azercell invested about USD 1.3 billion in Azerbaijan. Nearly the same amount has been paid in taxes and duties to the state budget. Azercell is the largest taxpayer operating outside of the country’s oil sector.

Azercell’s vision is ‘Being a company Azerbaijan is proud of’.

Telecom industry in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has made significant efforts to modernize and reform its economy after the fall of the Soviet Union. The World Bank named Azerbaijan “Top Reformer” in its “Doing Business 2009” report, reflecting especially the country’s efforts to simplify its regulatory requirements.

ICT and telecom industry is the second largest investor in the country. This is also stimulated by the reforms of the government which views the development of this industry as one of the state economic priorities. Continuous GDP growth for the last several years has clearly contributed to the substantial development and expansion of the telecom sector. Some analysts say that by the year 2020, revenues generated by the ICT sector in Azerbaijan might equal the country’s energy revenues.

Today, as much as 70% of the ICT sector revenues are driven by mobile communications, of which 70 percent come from Azercell. At the same time, ICT and telecom sector is among the most competitive employers and one of the biggest job providers in Azerbaijan.

The ecosystem created by Azercell only, has enabled creation of over 12,000 jobs in Azerbaijan. More than 100 newly established companies – Azercell’s dealers and distributors, successfully operate across the country. TeliaSonera’s remuneration practice for employees has helped to raise the bar in the industry, positively affecting the salaries and benefits offered by other mobile operators and IT companies.

Azercell contribution to Azerbaijan

Azercell plays a notable role in Azerbaijan’s economy and is a benchmark company in corporate responsibility. The company’s social responsibility projects cover different aspects of modern life, including sports, culture and art, education and youth, healthcare, environment, economic development and support of low-income and otherwise vulnerable segments of the population. Azercell closely focuses on the field of children rights protection, which is one of the most important issues on the local government’s agenda.
In 2006, 2007 and 2009, Azercell received the National Public Prize “Leave No Child Out” by the NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights in the nomination “Charitable Organization of the Year”.

Throughout its history, Azercell has been repeatedly named “Brand of the Year”, “Company of the Year”, “Most Socially Responsible Company”, “Most Charitable Company”, “Non-Oil Sector Leader”, “Most Transparent Company” an “Preferred Employer” in Azerbaijan.

Azercell is one of the first companies in the CIS awarded with the globally recognized International Standard Certificate of Investors In People (IIP) for the good practices and investments in professional development of its employees. The Standard Certificate received in 2006 and renewed in 2009 was upgraded to Silver one in 2011.

Azercell was one of the first companies in Azerbaijan to introduce a Code of Conduct for internal use, and one of the first in the Eurasia region to become SOX compliant.

During the 15 years of its operation, Azercell has invested over AZN 16 million in various social projects (about USD 20 million at today’s exchange rate).

Access to communication and information

For a developing country like Azerbaijan, where nearly half of the population lives in rural areas, distances are significant, and with fixed line penetration under 20 percent, accessibility is the most important benefit mobile communication brings to people. It may sound trivial, but a mobile phone adds the most value when a pomegranate grower calls his brother living in the city, to find out what time is the most favourable  to bring his produce to the market, or when a university applicant from a small town sends an SMS to a dedicated number and learns if the results of the nation-wide entrance exams have already been announced and if the applicant has been admitted.

Today, Azercell’s 2G network covers 99.8 percent of the country’s population and 80 percent of its territory (excluding the 20 percent occupied by Armenian forces). Also, 3G services are offered nation-wide since late 2011, and 4G services were launched in the capital city Baku in June 2012.

Azercell services help to save time, money and effort, enable doing business, provide access to a wide range of information and support during natural disasters.

Supporting children

Azercell’s Mobile Dental Clinic and Mobile Eye Clinic, are two buses equipped with the most modern medical equipment to carry out dental and ophthalmological checks-up and first aid. They travel even to the most remote corners of the country and offer free of charge preventive care to children in orphanages and financially vulnerable families. The Mobile Eye Clinic serves also elderly houses throughout the country. The Clinic travels to various regions three times a month and can provide eye examination to 40 people during each visit. Difficult cases can be reported to and consulted with the clinics in the capital city through mobile voice and video communication in the buses. Over 2,000 people – mainly children – have already benefitted from these medical services. 

In 1997, Azercell took part in the establishment of “Umid Yeri” (Place of Hope) Children Shelter and Rehabilitation Centre which has since then stayed under Azercell’s patronage. The shelter provides accommodation, food, education and psychological assistance to street children, who have been deprived of parental care and lost their families and home. The main goal is to re-unite the children with their families, and if that’s not possible, prepare them for their future life in the society. The shelter has so far provided an opportunity of “returning to normal life” to over 1,000 children.

In 2010, Children Hot Line service was launched in Baku by the youth organization Reliable Future with support of the Ministry of Education, Azercell, UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision. Dedicated professionals provide first psychological and emotional aid to children on various subjects and direct them to relevant rehabilitation institution in case of further need. Street children, orphans, children experiencing abuse, exploitation or violence, as well as any kind of psychological or emotional problems contact the hotline. Adults are also welcome to call and ask for support in difficult situations involving children.