If transport has and continues to suffer from COVID-19, for telecommunications quite the opposite is the case: instead of moving physically, many people have started to telework from home; more generally, many physical interactions have shifted online. All this has boosted telecommunications, digital platforms, and digitalization more generally, to the point that the telecommunications sector is now seen by many as an essential service, just like water and electricity. Furthermore, telecom operators and digital platforms have significantly benefitted from COVID-19, suffice to look at turnovers, profits and market caps. This even more so, as they have proven to be particularly resilient and reliable. It will, indeed, be interesting to observe the evolution of the broad telecommunications industry beyond COVID-19.
Our second issue thus presents four short articles covering the Turkish postal sector (Volkan Recai Çetin), traffic management in the Turkish mobile communications markets (Barış Yüksel), the Turkish broadband market (Emin Köksal), and the effect of COVID-19 on digital platforms more generally (Çiğdem Gizem Okkaoğlu).
Çetin discusses the challenges and opportunities that the Turkish postal sector has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges and opportunities were mostly due to the expansion in e-commerce, which has created a high demand for parcel and express delivery services.
Çetin briefly overviews the Turkish postal sector and analyzes the sector’s recent developments to confront the challenges. He projects the rise in the share of e-commerce in total retail volume will continue. Yet, the biggest threat to the sector will be the likely permanence of the global recession.
Yüksel analyzes traffic management in mobile communication markets as a tool to address network congestion issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the scarcity of resources and existing economic incentives of service providers, the internet’s true potential may not materialize in un(der)regulated markets. Thus, Yüksel suggests that the imposition of mandatory traffic management requirements on mobile network operators, which would oblige them to prioritize or make freely available certain socially beneficial content could yield positive outcomes.
Köksal points out the increased demand for broadband internet in times of the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses the main issues that the Turkish broadband market has faced during this period. In Turkey, as in other countries, the boost in demand for broadband internet has proved the importance of infrastructure capacity and resilience. Moreover, although the number of fixed broadband subscribers has increased by more than half a million during the first wave of the pandemic, the digital inequalities persist in Turkey. The issues on the supply and demand sides of the market call for a reconsideration of the regulatory policies.
Okkaoğlu examines the overall effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital platforms. Given the significant increase in the demand for the services provided by digital platforms, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought leveraging opportunities for digital platforms. On the other hand, the pandemic has created some challenges for the digital sector due to reduced user monetization and decreased demand for advertisement services in specific sectors. The particular effect of the pandemic is that it facilitated and accelerated digital transformation.
We take this opportunity to thank you for your continued interest in Network Industries Quarterly – Turkey and hope to be able to count on you also in the new year. In the meantime, we send you our best wishes for 2021!
Deniz Ece Dalgıç-Tetikol, managing editor of NIQ- TK
Matthias Finger, professor, İTÜ and director of the Istanbul Center for Regulation