Orange Moldova

Moldova’s Moderniser

Multinational telecoms giant Orange has been transforming Moldova’s connectivity scene ever since it arrived in the country in 1998, investing more than $600 million to date 

Writer: Tom Wadlow |  Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki

 

Moldova has been on a modernising mission since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Nestled between Romania and Ukraine and home to around 2.6 million people, the country has also been climbing the global happiness charts. Famously dubbed the world’s most unhappy place in 2008, the nation is now the 67th happiest according to the most recent survey by the United Nations. And there is good reason for this upward trajectory.

In the realm of technological infrastructure, Moldova is emerging as something of a pioneer, not least because of the contribution of multinational telco Orange since it arrived in 1998.

Investing more than $600 million in the process, Orange Moldova has become a vital player in the nation’s economy, responsible for 42 percent of the telecoms market, holding 62 percent of the mobile market and generating around 1.4 percent of Moldovan GDP.

“With more than 1,350 employees today, of whom around 500 are engaged in the IT factory in our International Operations and Orange Systems divisions, Orange Moldova is generating large numbers of new job opportunities in the country,” says Julien Ducarroz, the company’s CEO.

“Meanwhile, our Foundation continues to bring IT education to a higher level with valuable scholarship and educational programmes, such as Super Coders. The numbers speak for themselves – in just 10 years, the Orange Foundation’s activities have reached over a million people in Moldova, meaning around one in three Moldavians have been positively impacted.”

Consumers and B2B clients are the other major beneficiaries. Today, Orange Moldova provides a full suite of voice, mobile internet, fixed connectivity, TV and smart city-related services, all available across a large portfolio of devices with bundles available under its LOVE brand of packages.

The company’s physical network is nationwide and comprises 25 direct stores, 101 partner stores and around 8,000 points of sale where individuals can buy prepaid cards to top up their accounts, while business customers can benefit from technical support. 

Gearing up for 5G

This pool of expertise has allowed the company to be at the forefront of a number of firsts, both for Moldova and the wider Orange Group.

For example, in 2009 it launched the world’s first high-definition voice network and also established Orange’s inaugural 4G network, events which have propelled the country into an enviable position regarding its connectivity infrastructure.

Now the time for 5G has arrived in what Ducarroz describes as the biggest gamechanger coming to the industry.

Orange Moldova successfully completed a 5G demo in March 2019 and is targeting a trial launch in the capital Chisinau in 2021 ahead of an anticipated commercial release.

Ducarroz comments: “5G network testing in Moldova and the Orange Group’s 5G strategy is based on three components: high-speed mobile broadband improvement, high-speed access to fixed network improvement, and new applications to support the digital transformation of business.

“However, major investments are needed to develop the network and services based on this technology, which will serve society in the future. We need to have a favourable, transparent and stable regulation and investment policy. Orange is ready to invest and launch 5G technology as soon as these conditions are met in Moldova.”

Building community cohesion

One area 5G has enormous potential to transform is urban mobility.

Here the Orange Systems division is already busy, recently working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and around 100 IT enthusiasts from the local community in Chisinau to organise an urban mobility hackathon.

Teams were tasked with analysing transport data to come up with suggestions of how to improve efficiency across the network, such as rerouting trolley buses.

“Chisinau is attracting an increasing number of residents but is not always prepared to adapt its infrastructure to the growing mobility demand,” explains Ducarroz. “The city is confronted with one important challenge – a lack of data on mobility, and a lack of a multi-layered approach to analysis of the available data for testing new approaches and development of new solutions to old problems.

“We, as Orange Systems, support and encourage everyone’s involvement in finding practical and useful solutions for improving urban mobility conditions.

“Currently, cities in Europe can benefit from intelligent solutions that allow complex analysis of passengers’ behaviour to improve public transport networks. Through the urban mobility hackathon, we wanted to identify and eventually implement such a solution for the city of Chisinau.”

In another community-building exercise, Orange Systems is busy managing its Orange {kITchen} project.

A state-of-the-art IT campus located the Moldova’s IT Park, it launched in 2018 and reflects the company’s contribution to the development of the nation’s IT scene, the site now employing 500 people and the focal point of Orange Systems’ innovation efforts.

As well as housing leading-edge building monitoring applications which display wellbeing data such as lighting levels, air quality, temperature and humidity, employees are also able to reserve workspaces via a smartphone app thanks to monitoring of space usage.

“Another project we are working on is a facial recognition app, a revolutionary application for fast, safe and simple identification of the digital client, based on the development and programming of microservices and streaming services,” adds Ducarroz.

“In the area of big data, we have a project which involves designing and developing an algorithm to predict customer retention, providing real-time details for creating and displaying custom banners.”

Retaining customers is, of course, vital to the success of any business and identified as the driving force behind Orange Moldova’s success to date by Ducarroz.

However, the CEO also points to the role of the unsung heroes, the partners and suppliers who operate under 
the radar.

“Although they are behind the scenes of the business, they are just as important as clients,” he says. “All successful companies build strong relationships with their suppliers and partners, based on trust and respect.

“In the past, companies claimed that the practices of its suppliers and partners were not their job, but due to the prevailing social conditions and increasing public awareness of unethical practices, we pay close attention to business practices throughout the supply chain.

“We are building relationships with suppliers and partners based on trust and integrity, and have a portfolio of about 2,000 suppliers, who we align values and maintain a healthy relationship with.”

A new era

These partnerships will be vital as Orange Moldova moves into what Ducarroz refers to as a new era of digitisation at the company.

It is seeking to deliver a seamless end-to-end digital journey for customers, an end goal which involves the completion of a huge variety of processes and individual projects.

Whether it’s transforming the way robots and chatbots are used, broadening its fibre network, deploying 5G or offering mobile financial services, these are all priorities for the company moving forward alongside the continuation of its own internal digital transformation.

So too is the strengthening of societal engagement via the Orange Foundation, both through connecting rural areas and improving digital literacy across Moldova.

And this is where Ducarroz chooses to base his concluding remarks, focussing on the people side of what is a heavily technology-driven enterprise. After all, it is human capital which will determine the fate of the country’s development by embracing such technology in the future.

Ducarroz says: “Moldova has enormous strength in the IT domain that we leverage for our own operations and across Western Europe.

“In business, especially one like ours, the key ingredient to success is people. I am very proud to say that people working for Orange Moldova are the main factor behind all these good results. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate our employees for their achievements and dynamism.”