Serbia Broadband (SBB) CEO Milija Zekovic told Nova.rs that the cable services provider has the fastest broadband in the country and that it wants to expand to mobile phone services.
Zekovic said in the interview that SBB provides services to some 3 million people in 35 cities and towns across Serbia and recalled that the company was the first to offer broadband and digital TV.
“As a company whose services dominate all segments of the market, we certainly want to show the importance of 5G technology and how important it is for Serbia not to lag behind the region. We intend to make the construction of a 5G network in Serbia one of our biggest projects and expand to mobile phone services because that would benefit the public most. We have set aside the funds for this significant investment and we expect a public tender to be called after being postponed several times in order to offer our users lower mobile phone service prices and even higher quality services than what is now on the market,” Zekovic said.
“This year when we are marking SBB’s 20th anniversary I can proudly draw attention to top results – SBB officially has the fastest Internet and the best network in the country, the most popular TV platform in southeastern Europe and exclusive TV channels. We have created a revolution in TV viewing with the EON platform which has crossed Serbia’s borders and is the leader in a market of 40 million people. Over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, our services were especially important for remote work, online classes and linking people. Because a large number of our users and their children spent much more time at home, we launched EON Connect last year – an application to manage household Internet and child security online. More importantly, besides developing telecommunications services, we aided the people of Serbia and the region and United Group donated a million Dollars in funds and medical equipment to health care centers in Serbia,” Zekovic said.
Speaking about challenges, he said that “being first in terms of innovation is a challenge unto itself and we have managed to do that for the past 20 years”. “Our users know that SBB provides services at the level of anyone in the most developed European Union member states. However, the biggest challenge that we faced was getting an opportunity to allow everyone the choice of our services in order to see their quality. This interview is too short to mention all the examples of obstruction which forced us to launch arbitration proceedings in Washington against the actions of Serbian state bodies preventing our operations. We are continuing our investments in the future of the country with 240 million earmarked to develop land line telecommunications services over the next three years and I believe several hundred million into 5G.
Zekovic said that the number of clients has grown from the initial 20,000 to some 3 million. “We are especially proud of the number and people of our users who have been with SBB for 20 years and there are some 24,000 of them, as well as our staff who have been part of the SBB team for two decades. I always stress that SBB means people. The company I manage has recorded historic achievements based on business results. We would certainly have more clients under equal market conditions,” he said.
He said that up to 50 percent of users in Serbia will get faster Internet as part of their packages as of June 1. “We have created 19 GIGA cities so far. They are called that because users have Internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps available to them and the TV channels are fully digitalized. There will be 35 GIGA cities by the end of the year which means that the entire SBB network will be digitalized and that we are creating a GIGA Serbia. We are starting the construction of a 10 GIGA optic network which will provide Internet speeds among the fastest in Europe. The EON-ization project will make the EON experience available to users and we are organizing a big prize game,” he said.
“Along with the technological transformation of Serbia, we are constantly investing in knowledge and staff education and training. They are a large group of professionals and experts in telecommunication who contribute to the development of the market and the entire country daily. There aren’t too many companies still present after 20 years that can say that 59 people have been in the team all that time. We are a company offering young people an opportunity to advance professionally and that is reflected in the fact that 38% of our managers are under the age of 40. We support the gifted children of our employees through the Our Young Talents project and I am especially glad that they are took part in the 20th anniversary event as SBB Foundation Scholarship recipients.
Zekovic said that the idea behind the SBB Foundation from the start was to support others, both users through our services and the community by playing an active role in society. “That is why we set up the SBB Foundation. To date, we have set aside more than 9 million Euro to support society and individuals. The SBB Foundation organizes active ecological projects. We have just finished planting 13,000 saplings across the country. We support gifted students through the Njegos B. Solak Scholarship program and impoverished families through the Nucleus (Jezgro) project as well as numerous health care and culture institutions.
According to Zekovic, future plans include investments in mobile phone services “because mobile phone users in Serbia in a worse position than others in the region”. The GIGA Serbia project is very important to use but we won’t stop there. We are starting the construction of an even faster 10 GIGA optical network which will be available to thousands of our clients by the end of the year giving the Serbian public one of the fastest Internet speeds in Europe. Our users will feel the benefits of our investments. Once all operators on the market are allowed to offer all 4 services – land line and mobile phone, Internet and TV services – the Serbian market will be liberal,” the SBB CEO told Nova.rs.
SBB is part of United Group along with N1.