Orange Belgium primed to play its role as industry disruptor

Michaël Trabbia, CEO / Jan Steyaert, Chairman of the Board of Directors
2016 was a year of substantial changes for Orange Belgium, formerly Mobistar. A new dynamism has invigorated the company. So what are the main aspects of this new drive and what do the next few months hold for us? Jan Steyaert, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Michaël Trabbia, CEO of Orange Belgium, give us their analysis and outlook.

What were the stand-out moments of the last year?

Jan Steyaert: after twenty years in business, the company turned a new page in its history. There was the name change, of course, but also our entry onto the fixed-mobile convergent services market both for businesses and personal customers. These two defining events were in fact closely linked. Orange Belgium was the first mobile company in Europe to seize the opportunity presented by the opening up of the cable networks to launch an offering on the market.

Michaël Trabbia: we had been waiting and preparing for this entry onto the fixed internet and digital TV market for a long time. 2016 will be remembered as the year of the company's entry onto the fixed-mobile convergence market alongside the expansion of our business thanks to the growing demand for mobile data.

Didn’t this launch come a little late in the day?

Jan Steyaert: we actually launched at just the right time, at the point where there was a fresh impetus on the Belgian convergence market as a whole, particularly with the buyout of mobile operator Base by cable operator Telenet. This trend towards fixed-mobile convergence will continue to play out over the next few months and years. It was crucial that Orange be ready with a top-quality offer.

Michaël Trabbia: this positive start for us indicates that there is an appetite amongst consumers for a high-quality service at a more reasonable price. This is just the beginning. We will continue to expand both the services and content of our convergent services. Our development plan is in line with our ambition, namely to capture 10% of Belgium’s fixed internet and digital TV market.

To what extent is this rebranding exercise more than just a change of company livery from green to orange?

Michaël Trabbia: over and above the commercial transition to an internationally-recognised brand, which Belgians could already see in France and Spain for example, the name change was an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the company and the group. We benefit from the power of a group ranked amongst the world’s top twelve telecoms operators bringing us considerable power in terms of technological expertise, business optimisation, access to content and of course far greater investment and innovation capacity. For instance, the Orange group has 4,500 dedicated research and development staff around the world. What's more, there has been no compromise on the values which made Mobistar such a success, such as its capacity to challenge the market and its ongoing commitment to customer service.

Jan Steyaert: in its twenty years in business, Mobistar has revolutionised and democratised the Belgian market. The adoption of a major international brand such as Orange has enabled our business to continue to stimulate the Belgian market, to the benefit of consumers. It is for this reason that the Board of Directors and our General Meeting of Shareholders voted in favour of this change of branding. It has enabled us to continue to develop our business. Moreover, this move towards the Orange brand is a sign of the Orange group’s profound and ongoing commitment in Belgium.

How has this year of major change felt on the inside?

Michaël Trabbia: I have nothing but praise for the quality of the work carried out by our teams, who, by putting their considerable personal resources to work, have moved mountains. Our entry onto the convergence market was particularly well handled. We are also continuing to reap the rewards of our investment in our mobile phone network. We will continue to keep up this commitment and this impetus. At twenty years old, Orange Belgium is a relatively young company, retaining its pioneering spirit whilst enjoying the backing of a major international group. Our staff can rightly be proud of the work they've accomplished and their remarkable capacities. We are quietly confident in our abilities to face up to our biggest competitors on the Belgian market.

What are your priorities for 2017?

Michaël Trabbia: thanks to a flying start, we are now fully focussed on becoming a force to be reckoned with on the fixed-mobile convergence market. To achieve this, we intend to update our convergent value proposition so that it is more user-friendly, particularly for families. We will of course be adding in new functionalities and content, to stay at the cutting edge of technology. On the mobile market, we will continue to support our customers’ growing demand for data.

Another key priority is to digitise and simplify our processes to enhance the customer experience. We have launched a solid digital transformation plan which will enable us to review, and therefore improve, our interactions with our customers. Digitalisation should be synonymous with simplification, and should always be customer-focused.

Jan Steyaert: we need to continue improving on our business model to ensure it is up to the market’s toughest demands. The opening up of the cable market gives us the opportunity to bring in new customers with our top-class customer service. Whilst Belgians certainly care about cost, they are also increasingly discerning when it comes to quality. Nobody now accepts being disconnected and cut off from technology.

Does the current situation now allow Orange to freely take up its role as challenger?

Jan Steyaert: the regulator had the courage to open up the cable market, having seen that the existing Belgian telecoms market was not working. We now call on the regulator to continue its work to improve the market situation and correct certain glitches on the operational side as well as reviewing the wholesale tariff model to help improve market competitiveness, to the benefit of consumers.

Which innovative fields can we expect Orange Belgium to break into next?

Michaël Trabbia: in new business services, whether with the Internet of Things, fleet management, cyber security or cloud services. We plan to ascend the value chain, going beyond mere connectivity.

More generally, our change of branding supports our ambition and our credibility in the field of innovation. One great example is the successful launch in late 2016 of the Orange-branded virtual reality headset, which is compatible with all smartphone types, and the launch of our Orange TV app. Each are examples of our desire to democratise access to innovation for Belgian consumers. Furthermore, we will be continuing to build on our interactions with Belgium’s innovative digital ecosystem. There is no lack of fantastic opportunities here. We will be helping those with big ideas to take them onto the international stage.

And the last word...?

I wouldn’t want to end this interview without extending my warmest thanks to Jan, who has decided to step down as Chairman of the Board of Directors after 21 years of good and loyal service to the company, 14 of which were spent as Chair. Thank you Jan for your contribution, right from the beginning, to the success story that was Mobistar yesterday, Orange Belgium today and in the future.