Read the stories of those who drive CETIN Bulgaria.

Telecommunications: accelerated growth after the pandemic

 – Ivaylo Shakhanov, Director of Strategy, Planning and Network Development at CETIN Bulgaria 


Ivaylo Shakhanov has been Director of Strategy, Planning, and Network Development at CETIN since the company's inception in 2020. Over the last 20 years, his professional career has been in the world of telecommunications, most of it spent in the territory of his current company - from Globul as a young telecommunications engineer, through Telenor, and until today at CETIN. 

The year 2022 passed under the sign of rising inflation and increased prices of energy sources, raw materials, and services. How have you fared in this dynamic environment? 
In 2022, the entire business both in Bulgaria and globally was faced with many challenges, risks, and uncertainties. The telecommunications industry, and CETIN in particular, has not been spared the impact of what is happening around us and the complex economic environment. This has translated into extreme price increases and unpredictable movements in the cost of electricity, severe bottlenecks in supply chains, and inflationary pressures on the prices of materials and services. 

On the other hand, our business has proven to be very stable and resilient to external crises. 

Operating in a highly dynamic and competitive environment, we (CETIN) have always been exposed to the maelstrom of rapidly changing events and factors. Therefore, the company has developed a culture of thinking and working that allows us to make quick, innovative, and bold decisions leading to multiple successes and continued growth, regardless of external surprises and crises. It is in our DNA to see in every difficulty an opportunity to improve something, to become more efficient or more creative, and thus overcome current obstacles and future challenges. 
An example is the long-term PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) for the supply of electricity from renewable sources that we signed this year. This has given us stability and predictability in the price of the electricity we use for a period of 10 years, but it has also brought us closer to our desire to build an entirely green grid powered by renewables. This is a huge step towards reducing our environmental footprint, which is in line with the ESG strategy of the CETIN Group and the PPF Group. 
Our deal is among the first of its kind in Bulgaria and we hope that with this project we will become a role model for modern and sustainable business decisions. 
How have your organization, customers, and ways of doing business changed? 
More and more people are realizing that telecommunication services and connectivity are basic, determining their quality of life, like electricity, water supply, and are critical for the security of the population and the country. I welcome the dialogue that has been initiated with the State, in the person of the CRC and the relevant ministries and departments, to pay even more serious attention to the preservation of the telecommunications facilities that have been constructed, while carrying out various works and repairs on public infrastructure. We, in turn, ensure redundancy and protection of all critical systems, capacities, and services in our network using our geographically distributed data centres across the country. 
The increased interest and attention of customers to information security and protection from cyber-attacks is also impressive. This is noticeable not only in large companies with dedicated IT departments, resources, and expertise in the field but also in many businesses from different sectors that have quickly embraced digital transformation to adapt to the challenges. In this respect, CETIN has been able to provide highly attractive solutions - from fully managed services for customers who do not have the desire or resources to do this themselves, to innovative and flexible SD-WAN solutions, to complex ones including the construction of "private" networks with full customer control, as well as guaranteed and customized services. 

How would you rate the efforts and achievements of your team in the past year? 

Despite the many challenges, 2022 was a successful year for CETIN Bulgaria, mainly due to the dedication and tireless work of the company's teams. It was of utmost importance for us to keep people's motivation high and to preserve the great atmosphere in the teams despite the significant work pace and stress. 

In addition to our traditional celebration of small and big successes - rewards for the successful completion of projects or for those who contributed an interesting idea or innovation, we also launched a different bonus model in some teams of the company so that employees are additionally rewarded depending on the value they generate for the company. 
What is the formula for success in the IT market in Bulgaria? 

For us at CETIN, the success formula has several elements, each of which has its own weight and is indispensable. It is the unique combination of technology, people, partnerships, and our customers: 

  • To have a team of professionals you can rely on even in difficult situations (sometimes in purely life terms), with whom you can look for solutions together and celebrate successes. 
  • Working with state-of-the-art technology, testing and implementing the latest solutions and equipment in the world of telecommunications. 
  • To seek and build partnerships that add value to both business and society. 

And it's all for the sake of our customers - who we strive to give what's important to them at this moment and anticipate what they'll need in the future. 
It sounds simple, but it takes a fine balance between the different elements to make the formula work. 

How have consumers changed over the past year? 

I would say that customers have become more demanding, but at the same time, when you gain their trust and they see you as a stable and loyal partner they can rely on, they tend to commit to the company for the long term. This unlocks new opportunities beyond the traditional services we provide. That's why it's crucial for us to build sustainable relationships with our customers and partners based on trust on both sides. 
Name three technology trends that will change markets in the near future. 

Bulgaria is following global trends related to accelerated digital transformation and automation, although in some areas the penetration of new things is happening with some delay or on a more limited scale. If I have to focus on just three, one of them is certainly the increasing penetration of cloud services. I would say here that we will see a movement towards gradual offshoring of most IT infrastructure and workloads to public clouds, while for some time-sensitive services, there will be a need for the cloud to be as close to the edge of the customer network as possible. 
In this respect, CETIN can offer businesses a complete portfolio of solutions. We can provide secure and safe connectivity to all major cloud service providers, we have data centres and hundreds of points across the country where we could deploy network infrastructure. This way, we provide seamless integration with the cloud resources needed. In addition, we can offer optimized IT hardware and virtual environments that can be used by our customers to deploy their virtual or containerized network functionality. 
Next, I would point to 5G private networks (Mobile Private Networks). 

The main driver is the need to collect more and more electronic data from a multitude of physical devices and assets, transmitting it reliably over a communications network designed specifically for the needs of the customer or service. 

The sectors where such networks are expected to be deployed first for their own purposes are the transportation industry and manufacturing, where the benefits of automation, intelligent monitoring, and process optimization look most promising. We also see strong potential in the public sector, utilities, mining, and healthcare. CETIN, in partnership with Yettel, is working with various businesses to identify and realise different opportunities that are opening up in this direction. 
Last but not least, I think an extremely interesting and promising trend is the advent of software-defined, or virtual, networks (SD-WAN) and the broader Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which builds on SD-WAN by incorporating various elements to enhance network security and cloud services. This solution is extremely flexible, can be adapted to the needs of any type of company that requires an enterprise network and enables secure, protected, and quality connectivity to a variety of remote locations, regardless of what type of physical access network is used. CETIN is one of the leading suppliers providing and deploying this type of solution in Bulgaria, and we are partners with some of the most established manufacturers of such equipment. 

Thanks to the complex infrastructure at our disposal, the serious expertise and knowledge of our teams, and the strong partnerships we have built with companies in different fields, we can meet the current and future needs of our customers to make them more successful in their business and in the services they offer to their end users.