|Closing Price ($)||Shares Out (MM)||Market Cap ($MM)|
|Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers|
|Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable|
|Item 3. Key Information|
|Item 4. Information on The Company|
|Item 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects|
|Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees|
|Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions|
|Item 8. Financial Information|
|Item 9. The Offer and Listing|
|Item 10. Additional Information|
|Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk|
|Item 12. Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities|
|Item 13. Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies|
|Item 14. Material Modifications To The Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds|
|Item 15. Controls and Procedures|
|Item 17. Financial Statements|
|Item 18. Financial Statements|
|Item 19. Exhibits|
|Balance Sheet||Income Statement||Cash Flow|
|Comparables ($MM TTM)|
|Ticker||M Cap||Assets||Liab||Rev||G Profit||Net Inc||EBITDA||EV||G Margin||EV/EBITDA||ROA|
As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 15, 2019
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
Commission File Number: 1-15092
TURKCELL ILETISIM HIZMETLERI A.S.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
(Translation of Registrants Name into English)
Republic of Turkey
(Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)
Turkcell Kucukyali Plaza
Aydinevler Mahallesi Inonu Caddesi No:20 Kucukyali Ofispark
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Mr. Zeynel Korhan Bilek
Telephone: +90 212 313 8150
Facsimile: +90 216 504 4058
Turkcell Kucukyali Plaza
Aydinevler Mahallesi Inonu Caddesi No:20 Kucukyali Ofispark
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile Number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
American Depositary Shares
Ordinary Shares, Nominal Value TRY 1.000*
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
Not for trading on the NYSE, but only in connection with the registration of ADSs representing such ordinary shares pursuant to the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuers classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
Ordinary Shares, Nominal Value TRY 1.000 2,200,000,000
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☐ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer. See definition of accelerated filer and large accelerated filer in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large Accelerated Filer ☒
|Accelerated Filer ☐|| |
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards* provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
The term new or revised financial accounting standard refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
U.S. GAAP ☐
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued
by the International Accounting Standards Board ☒
If Other has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. Item 17 ☐ Item 18 ☐
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
This is the 2018 annual report for Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell), a joint stock company organized and existing under the laws of the Republic of Turkey. The Company, we, us, our, Group and similar terms refer to Turkcell, its predecessors, and its consolidated subsidiaries, except as the context otherwise requires.
Our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2018 and 2017 and for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2018 included in this annual report have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).
Certain figures included in this annual report have been subject to rounding adjustments. Accordingly, figures shown for the same category presented in different tables may vary slightly, and figures shown as totals in certain tables may not total exactly. In this annual report, references to TL, TRY and Turkish Lira are to the Turkish Lira, and references to $, U.S. Dollars, USD, U.S. $ and cents are to U.S. Dollars and, except as otherwise noted, all interest rates are on a per annum basis. In this annual report, references to Turkey or the Republic are to the Republic of Turkey.
Statements regarding our market share and total market size in Turkey are based on the Information and Communication Technologies Authoritys (ICTA) or operators announcements, and statements regarding penetration are based on the Turkish Statistical Institutes (TUIK) announcements pertaining to the Turkish population. Furthermore, statements regarding our 2G coverage are based on the ICTAs specifications as well as the TUIKs announcements, and statements regarding our 3G coverage are based on the ICTAs 3G coverage calculation specifications issued on April 25, 2012. Statements regarding 4.5G coverage and performance are based on our own calculations, pending publication of ICTA specifications.
References to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority or the ICTA include its predecessor entity, the Telecommunications Authority.
We have not independently verified the information in industry publications or market research, although management believes the information contained therein to be reliable. We do not represent that this information is accurate.
The methodology for calculating performance measures such as subscriber numbers, average revenue per user (ARPU) and churn rates varies substantially among operators and is not standardized across the telecommunications industry, and reported performance measures thus vary from those that would probably result from the use of a single methodology. In addition, subscriber numbers in the mobile communications sector may be difficult to calculate as a result of individuals having more than one SIM card or SIM cards being removed due to periods of inactivity. The differing methodologies for calculating these performance indicators make it difficult to draw comparisons between these figures for, and to determine the relative market share of, different mobile operators.
This annual report includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended, Section 21E of the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the Safe Harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical facts included in this annual report, including, without limitation, certain statements regarding our operations, financial position, and business strategy, may constitute forward-looking statements. In addition, forward-looking statements generally can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as may, will, expect, intend, estimate, anticipate, believe, continue, or similar statements.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable at this time, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Given these uncertainties, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations are contained in cautionary statements in this annual report, including, without limitation, in conjunction with the forward-looking statements listed below, and include, among others, the following:
competition from our historic competitors and/or the entrance of new direct and indirect competitors in the market due to new applications and regulatory changes in Turkey with respect to certain technologies;
our growth strategy being partly dependent on new investment opportunities;
instability in the political environment and/or downturn in the economy, as well as volatile international markets and events and the threat of terrorism, in Turkey and/or internationally;
foreign exchange rate risks which could affect the Turkish macroeconomic environment and could significantly affect our results of operation and financial position in future periods if hedging tools are not available at commercially reasonable terms;
reduction in cash generated from operations and increased capital needs, which may increase our borrowing requirements, and consequently, our finance costs and exposure to the risks associated with borrowing;
regulatory decisions and changes in the regulatory environment;
failure by us, our local partners with whom we enter into cooperation agreements or similar agreements, or one of our suppliers, to comply with laws and regulations regarding unethical business practices, including bribery and corruption, and international sanctions;
interests in several companies that may expose us to various economic, business, political, social, financial, liquidity, regulatory and legal risks and may not provide the benefits that we expect;
risks related to our dependence on network and IT systems and the products and services we provide through third party suppliers as well as our exposure to technological changes in the communications market, including industries where we traditionally do not compete;
various risks with respect to our base transceiver stations performance, including spectrum limitations and frequency costs, certain coverage and local production obligations relating to the 4.5G license and alleged health risks and zoning limitations related to our base transceiver stations;
our dependence on certain suppliers for network equipment and the provision of data services as well as distributors;
Turkcells complex ownership structure and ongoing disagreements among our main shareholders;
legal actions and claims to which we are a party;
inherent limitations of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting and other controls;
our ability to retain key personnel and distributors; and
volatility in the market price of our ADSs.
|ITEM 1.|| |
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
|ITEM 2.|| |
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
|ITEM 3.|| |
Our audited annual Consolidated Financial Statements including our consolidated statements of financial position as of December 31, 2018 and 2017 and our consolidated statements of profit and loss, comprehensive income, changes in equity and cash flows for the three years in the period ended December 31, 2018 (Annual Consolidated Financial Statements) included in this annual report have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).
Effective from the fourth quarter of 2015, our financial statements have been presented in TRY only, the currency in which we recognize the majority of our revenues and expenses. We no longer present financial statements in USD. This change has allowed us to align our Turkish and US reporting.
The following information should be read in conjunction with Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects, our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, and the related consolidated statements of profit and loss, comprehensive income, changes in equity, and cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, and the related notes appearing elsewhere in this annual report.
The following table presents our selected consolidated statements of income, statement of financial position and cash flows data as of and for each of the years in the five-year period ended December 31, 2018, presented in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB which have been derived from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2018 and as of the respective years.
|(TRY millions, except share data and certain other data)|
Selected Financial Data Prepared in Accordance with IFRS as Issued by the IASB
Consolidated Statement of Income Data
Cost of revenues(2)
Selling and marketing expenses
Net impairment losses on financial and contract assets
Share of loss of equity accounted investees(4)
Profit before income taxes
Income tax expense
Profit from continuing operations
Profit/(loss) from discontinued operations(4)
Profit for the period
Owners of the Company
Profit for the period
Basic and diluted earnings per share Total Group(5)
Basic and diluted earnings per share from continuing operations(5)
Consolidated Statement of Financial Position Data (at period end)
Cash and cash equivalents
Weighted average number of shares(8)
|(TRY millions, except share data and certain other data)|
Consolidated Cash Flows Data(9)
Net cash generated by operating activities
Net cash used in investing activities
Net cash generated by/ (used in) financing activities
Other Financial Data
Dividends declared or proposed(10)(11)
Dividends per share (declared or proposed)(11)
Capital expenditures (14)
Total revenues includes telecommunication services, equipment revenues, revenue and commission fees on betting business, call center revenues and revenues from financial services (Note 5).
Total cost of revenues includes payments for our treasury share (the amount paid to the government under our license) and universal service fund, transmission fees, radio costs, billing costs, depreciation and amortization charges, technical, roaming charges, interconnection fees, cost of goods sold, and personnel expenses for technical personnel related to our technicians frequency expenses and cost of revenues from financial operations (Note 10).
A hyperinflationary period commenced on January 1, 2011 in Belarus. In the financial statements of subsidiaries operating in Belarus, restatement adjustments have been made to compensate the effect of changes in the general purchasing power of the Belarusian Ruble in accordance with IAS 29. IAS 29 requires that financial statements prepared in the currency of a hyperinflationary economy be stated in terms of the measuring unit current at the balance sheet date. The economy of Belarus was considered to transit out of hyperinflationary status and we determined to cease applying IAS 29 starting from January 1, 2015. Therefore, subsidiaries operating in Belarus have not applied IAS 29 in 2015.
Following inconclusive negotiations for us to purchase Telias stake in Fintur and KCell, we decided to sell our Fintur stake and consequently, Fintur is classified as held for sale and reported as discontinued operations (Note 16).
2016 and 2017 EPSs computed over 2,193,184,437 shares and 2018 EPS computed over 2,184,750,233 shares.
Long-term debt consists of long-term loans and borrowings, debt securities issued as well as long-term lease obligations.
Total debt consists of long-term and short-term loans and borrowings, debt securities issued as well as lease obligations.
We have purchased 8,434,204 shares with a price range of TRY 10.01 to 12.33 as part of our share buyback decisions on July 27, 2016 and January 30, 2017. The transactions amount to TRY 94,620 thousand. Treasury shares are deducted from Equity (Notes 25 and 26).
The presentation of statement of cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2015 has been revised in 2016.
The dividend paid in 2017 related to the years 2010 through 2016. With regard to the dividend paid in 2018 relating to the year 2017, the amount proposed by the Board of Directors on February 15, 2018 was TRY 1,239.5 million, however the amount approved at the Annual General Meeting held on March 29, 2018 was TRY 1,900 million. The Annual General Meeting for 2018 has not been called for as at March 7, 2019.
Dividends per share were computed over 2,200,000,000 shares. The dividends per share were TRY 0.36, TRY 1.36 and TRY 0.86 for the years ended 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively (equivalent to $0.07, $0.26 and $0.16 respectively as of December 31, 2018).
Gross margin is calculated as gross profit divided by total revenues.
Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure that is defined as the profit of the Company for the period before finance income, finance costs, income tax expense, other income, other expense, monetary gain, profit or loss from discontinued operations, share of profit of equity accounted investees and depreciation and amortization. A reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income is presented below.
Capital expenditure in 2018 includes the impact of IFRS15 and IFRS16 adjustment amounting to TRY 3,000.5 million.
Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure that is defined as the profit of the Company for the period before finance income, finance costs, income tax expense, other income, other expense, monetary gain, profit or loss from discontinued operations, share of profit of equity accounted investees and depreciation and amortization. Our management reviews Adjusted EBITDA as a key indicator each month to monitor our financial performance. Net income is also considered by our management as an indicator for our overall business performance which includes results from
our operations, financing and investing activities. Adjusted EBITDA is not a measurement of financial performance under IFRS and should not be construed as a substitute for profit for the period as a measure of performance or cash flow from operations as a measure of liquidity.
Adjusted EBITDA, among other measures, facilitates performance comparisons from period to period and management decision making. It also facilitates performance comparisons from company to company, subject to differences in the way it is calculated by different companies. Adjusted EBITDA as a performance measure eliminates potential differences caused by variations in capital structures (affecting interest expense), tax positions (such as the impact of changes in effective tax rates on periods or companies) and the age and book depreciation and amortization of tangible and intangible assets (affecting relative depreciation and amortization expense). Adjusted EBITDA is frequently used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties in evaluating the performance of other mobile operators in the telecommunications industry in Europe, many of which present Adjusted EBITDA when reporting their results.
Nevertheless, Adjusted EBITDA has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider it in isolation from, or as a substitute for analysis of, our results of operations, as reported under IFRS.
Some of these limitations are:
it does not reflect our cash expenditures or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
it does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs;
it excludes share of profit of equity announced investees and discontinued operations;
it does not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments, on our debt;
it excludes depreciation, amortization and impairments and although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements;
it does not reflect other income and expense items which are generally outside the scope of our ordinary operations;
it is not adjusted for all non-cash income or expense items that are reflected in our consolidated statement of cash flows; and
other companies in our industry may calculate this measure differently from how we do, which may limit its usefulness as a comparative measure.
We compensate for these limitations by relying primarily on our results under IFRS and using Adjusted EBITDA measures only supplementally. See Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects and the Consolidated Financial Statements contained elsewhere in this annual report.
The following table provides a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA, as calculated using financial data prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB, from net profit, which we believe is the most directly comparable financial measure calculated and presented in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB.
|Year ended December 31,|
Profit for the period
Profit or (loss) from discontinued operations
Income tax expense
Consolidated profit before income tax
Share of loss of equity accounted investees
Depreciation and amortization
Other operating income/(expense)
The following table presents selected operational data:
I. Operating Results
|As of and for the |
year ended December 31,
Population of Turkey (in millions)(1)
Number of mobile postpaid subscribers at end of period (in millions)(3)
Number of mobile M2M subscribers at end of period (in millions)
Number of mobile prepaid subscribers at end of period (in millions)(3)
Number of fiber subscribers at end of period (in thousands)
Number of ADSL subscribers at end of period (in thousands)
Number of IPTV subscribers at end of period (in thousands)
Total Turkcell Turkey subscribers at end of period (in millions)
Total Turkcell Group subscribers at the end of period (in millions)(4)
Mobile average monthly revenue per user (in TRY)(5)
Postpaid (excluding M2M)
Fixed Residential average monthly revenue per user (in TRY)(5)
Mobile average monthly minutes of use per subscriber(6)
Number of Turkcell employees at end of period
Number of employees of consolidated subsidiaries at end of period(9)
The population of Turkey for 2018, 2017, and 2016 is based on TUIKs announcements.
For a discussion of how these metrics affect our revenues, please see Item 5A. Operating Results,VI. Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2017a. Revenues.
Subscriber numbers do not include subscribers in Ukraine, Belarus, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Germany.
Subscriber numbers include subscribers in Ukraine, Belarus, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Germany.
We calculate average revenue per user using the weighted average number of our mobile or fixed subscribers, as relevant, in Turkey during the period.
Average monthly minutes of use per subscriber is calculated by dividing the total number of incoming and outgoing airtime minutes of use by the average monthly sum of postpaid and prepaid mobile subscribers in Turkey for the year divided by twelve.
Average monthly mobile churn rate represents the rate of mobile subscriber disconnections during a certain period and is the percentage calculated by dividing the total number of subscriber disconnections during a certain period by the average number of subscribers for the same period. For these purposes, we define average number of subscribers as the number of subscribers at the beginning of the period plus one half of the total number of gross subscribers acquired during the period. See Item 4.B. Business OverviewV. Churn for information concerning subscriber disconnection policy, changes in the policy and change in presentation as of the third quarter of 2018.
Average monthly fixed churn rate represents the rate of fixed subscriber disconnections during a certain period and is the percentage calculated by dividing the total number of subscriber disconnections during a certain period by the average number of subscribers for the same period. For these purposes, we define average number of subscribers as the number of subscribers at the beginning of the period plus one half of the total number of gross subscribers acquired during the period. Churn refers to our fixed subscribers in Turkey that are both voluntarily and involuntarily disconnected from our network. Fixed churn rate includes switches between Fiber and ADSL.
See Item 6.D. Employees for information concerning our consolidated subsidiaries.
The following is a discussion of those risks that we believe are the principal material risks faced by our Company and its subsidiaries. No assurance can be given that risks that we do not believe to be material today will not prove to be material in the future. Consequently, the risks described below should not be considered to be exhaustive.
Competition in the Turkish telecommunications market may adversely affect the growth of our business and our financial condition and the competition that we face may evolve with our business strategy.
The majority of our revenue comes from our operations in Turkey. Competition in this market and regulatory actions, in particular those that limit our ability to respond effectively to competitive pressures, may adversely affect the growth of our business and our financial condition. If the competition intensifies or the market slows or develops in unexpected ways, this could harm our business and financial condition.
In our conventional Turkish telecommunications market, we currently face price competition on telecommunication services from two other operators, Vodafone and Turk Telekom Group. Turk Telekoms majority shareholder, Oger Telecom, has defaulted on the bank loans it used to finance its stake in Turk Telekom. Accordingly, the ownership of Oger Telecoms 55% stake was transferred to a special purpose company established by the creditor banks in late 2018. We cannot predict how this situation will be resolved or whether there will be changes in its strategy or ownership in the meantime. The outcome of this situation could have a significant impact on the competitive environment in which we operate.
A key element of our strategy is to offer digital services and become the digital operator. As a result, we expect to find ourselves increasingly in competition with companies that specialize in the development of internet applications and services (namely over-the-top, or OTT services). The leading companies in these businesses have the advantage of operating in more lightly regulated environments and are generally global (WhatsApp, Spotify, etc.), while our company today is primarily a Turkey-based telecom company in a heavily regulated market and with a smaller global footprint. Most of these global players have entered the Turkish market, which is likely to significantly increase the competition we face in these businesses and may have a negative impact on our growth capabilities as a digital operator. In addition, newer applications from less well-known developers are constantly being introduced and may disrupt areas of the digital services industry in which we seek to compete. These established and newer applications and services make use of the internet as a substitute for some of our more traditional services, such as messaging and voice. Reduced demand for these telecommunications services has had an adverse impact on our revenues. Furthermore, other traditional operators in Turkey also offer such services that they have developed independently or in partnership with global OTTs as part of their offerings, thereby increasing competition in the local market.
Another obstacle to our growth as a digital operator is that certain apps offered by our competitors are already embedded in the phones of our customers, which increases their accessibility in comparison with our apps. For example, the Apple Music app, which is a competitor of our fizy app, is embedded into iPhones and is thus significantly more accessible.
In our conventional telecommunications business, in the past, Turkeys principal telecommunications regulator, the ICTA, has interfered with our ability to price our services and respond to competitive pressures. Regulatory actions, in large part from the ICTA, have been a significant factor in shaping the development of the Turkish market and in our ability to respond to changes in the market. Regulatory actions have often favored our competitors, such as interconnection rates which have been set asymmetrically and have facilitated increased competition. It is possible that the ICTA may also act to regulate other areas of our business, including data and digital services, and we cannot predict the impact that such regulation would have on our ability to execute our strategy and on our competitive position. Furthermore, sub-brand initiatives of the existing competitors, and new licenses and authorizations issued by the regulator such as Fixed Telephony Service (FTS) and Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licenses have made it easier and/or more attractive for new direct and indirect competitors to enter the market.
In some businesses, we are dependent on our competitors for certain services that we provide. For example, we are reselling xDSL from the incumbent operator Turk Telekom and we are dependent on their sales service in this business. Therefore, any delay or negligence of Turk Telekom could result in dissatisfaction of our customers and lead to churn of our xDSL subscribers. Competition in the market may also be adversely affected by changes in a number of other areas that are not specific to telecommunications, such as taxes (in particular taxes on our services and on mobile devices), increases in interest rates, depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. Dollar or Euro, adverse macroeconomic developments and changes in consumer behavior. Any one of these could in turn adversely affect the development of our business and consequently, our financial results.
Our growth strategy is partly dependent on new investment opportunities, which could affect our business and financial condition, and the return on our investments cannot be guaranteed.
In addition to growing our existing business, our strategy for growth involves selectively seeking and evaluating new investment opportunities and participating in those meeting our criteria. We may pursue inorganic growth opportunities, principally in Turkey and in countries or ventures in which we are already present, in order to leverage our experience and technological base in mobile or fixed telecommunications and/or services. We may also pursue opportunities which include alliances, such as MVNOs, management service agreements, branding and know-how support services, digital services cooperation and marketing partnerships. In accordance with our convergence strategy, the opportunities that we pursue in some markets, including Turkey, may include services that would be adjacent or complementary to services that we already offer in such markets.
Further, we may provide services in related areas and also consider investing or increasing our investments in business areas outside of the scope of our core business. Examples of opportunities that we are currently considering or investing in outside of our traditional telecommunications activities include the following:
As part of our digital operator strategy, we offer our digital services outside of Turkey to other operators through our Dutch subsidiary Lifecell Ventures Cooperatief U.A. (Lifecell Ventures), which offers Turkcells digital communications, entertainment and transactional applications. Lifecell Ventures business model is based on charging consultancy, brand and license fees in return for provision of digital service infrastructure and know-how to other operators. We cannot ensure the commercial success or profitability of this business. The success of this strategy to export our digital applications to countries outside of Turkey will depend on our and our partners ability to compete against global and local players in these markets, as well as the local competitive environment, consumer trends and preferences and market conditions, all of which may be significantly different from the Turkish market. Furthermore, as this business grows and expands into new markets, namely through digital services cooperation agreements and similar agreements, we will face increasing reputational, regulative and commercial risks in those new markets, both directly and through our local partners.
We have participated in a consortium that has committed to manufacture electric passenger cars in Turkey in the coming years. Turkcell aims to act as the technology partner in the consortium which has established a company in June 2018, named Turkiyenin Otomobili Girisim Grubu Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. (TOGG). We are a founding partner of TOGG with a 19% stake. The initial capital of the consortium is agreed upon as EUR 500 million, subject to the confirmation of a stimulus package by the Government, to which all parties have committed to contribute as per the level of their individual stakes. As of March 7, 2019, we invested TRY 50 million as our share of initial capital. This is a new business for us, in which we will face new risks. While still in the planning stage, the consortium aims to manufacture the prototype electric car by December 2019 and targets full production in 2022. Associated risks are envisaged to be financial, development and manufacturing process risks, as well as risks related to the shared control of TOGG and other risks.
In 2017, we entered the energy business, through Turkcell Enerji Cozumleri ve Elektrik Satis Ticaret Anonim Sirketi (Turkcell Enerji), which is engaged in electricity trading, wholesale sales and retail sales through its electricity supply license from the Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). Through this
business we face various risks that are new to us, including an exposure to a new regulatory regime and the risk of not being able to buy and sell electricity on commercially viable terms. The cost of electricity is significantly affected by exchange rates (imported resources such as natural gas and coal account for more than 50% of electricity production in Turkey), the available supply of natural gas and regulatory actions. Further, the profit margins in this business are currently lower than that of our telecommunications businesses. Turkcell Enerji is also evaluating new opportunities in solar energy production (primarily for our own use and for sale) which, if successful, might bring in additional operational, financial, regulatory and other risks.
A new company called Sofra Kurumsal ve Odullendirme Hizmetleri A.S. (Sofra Kurumsal) has been incorporated by our Companys subsidiary Turkcell Odeme ve Elektronik Para Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Odeme) together with Belbim Elektronik Para ve Odeme Hizmetleri A.S., a subsidiary of the Municipality of Istanbul, and Posta ve Telgraf Teskilati A.S., the Turkish Post. The company is mainly involved in the provision of services via various means such as service coupons, meal coupons, meal cards, electronic coupons and/or smart cards, as well as vehicle payments and smart keys. All three stakeholders share equal rights namely in terms of board nominations and the unanimous consent of the shareholders is required in the context of general assemblies, thereby possibly slowing down the decision-making process and affecting our ability to execute business decisions and take other actions that we consider to be in the best interest of the company. Additionally, the financial success of this company cannot be assured, as its growth is largely dependent on its capacity to penetrate a highly competitive market which is largely controlled by a few key players. Turkcell Odeme may also participate as a founding shareholder in the incorporation of a Joint Payment Company together with private and public companies in order to carry out system operating activities as well as other activities authorized under the Law numbered 6493 on Payment and Security Settlement Systems, Payment Services and Electronic Money Institutions, within the scope of the operating permit to be obtained from the Central Bank of Republic of Turkey (CBRT).
We have established Turkcell Sigorta Aracılık Hizmetleri A.S. (Guvencell) as a fully owned subsidiary involved in the insurance agency business in 2018. In partnership with multiple insurance companies, Guvencell is entitled to offer insurance policies not only to Turkcell customers in Turkey but also to the other operators customers in the form of device protection insurance, life insurance and critical illnesses insurance. Guvencell has also acted as an agency in Turkcell Group employees health insurance. Guvencell is operational with the approval of the Undersecretariat of Treasury - General Directorate of Insurance and must operate in conformity with the relevant rules and regulations.
We are in the test phase of entering the smart device leasing business as an alternative to providing consumer finance loans for smart devices through one of our existing subsidiaries. If we decide to go ahead, the commercial success of this business would be largely dependent on our ability to succesfully collect the leasing payments, as well as on our capacity to both lease the devices, service the devices through third party partners during the term of the loan, and then sell the devices that have been previously leased and refurbished, on commercially viable terms. In particular, we will face the risk that the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agencys (BRSA) current regulation imposing a cap on the number of instalments with regard to consumer loans for mobile phones and smart devices might be applied or be deemed to apply to, the device leasing business, which could negatively affect demand and consequently the development of this business. This business will also lead to an increase in our inventory balance coupled with a higher capital expenditure requirement, as we will have to purchase the devices to be leased. If the competition in this business intensifies and we fail to respond rapidly and adequately, this could adversely affect the development of our device leasing business and, consequently, our financial results.
New investments may not achieve expected returns or returns that are in line with those of our core business in Turkey, which may cause high value erosion. In many of the markets and businesses in which we have invested, may invest or may increase our investment, it may take several years and significant expenditures to achieve desired profitability, if at all. As part of our strategy as a converged player offering multiple telecommunications services, we may consider acquiring fixed operators in certain of the markets in which we operate. Any such acquisition would increase our exposure to the risks associated with these countries and these types of businesses. If we become a minority shareholder in an investment, we might encounter difficulties in protecting our shareholder rights. In addition, if an asset in which we have invested does not provide the expected returns, we may need to make further investment or we may consider disposal at a sale price that may be below carrying value or liquidation.
Any instability in the political environment and/or downturn in the economy, as well as volatile international markets and events and the threat of terrorism, in Turkey and/or internationally may have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
With a substantial portion of our revenues, assets and business derived from and located in Turkey, and denominated in Turkish Lira, adverse developments in the Turkish economy are likely to have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition. The performance of the Turkish economy may be affected by global, regional and domestic economic and political developments.
Since 2002, the AKP (the Justice and Development Party) won governing majorities four times during a period in which Turkeys economy generally enjoyed growth and stability. Turkey held its inaugural presidential election on August 10, 2014 based on the constitutional changes implemented following the constitutional referendum held on October 21, 2007. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling AKP, won the election in the first round. On April 16, 2017, a majority of Turkish voters approved a referendum amending certain articles of the Turkish Constitution to expand the powers of the president to create an executive presidency. Turkeys political stability has been affected by the coup attempt against the government in power on July 15, 2016. Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency in the country, entitling it to exercise additional powers aimed at restoring stability across the country. In June 2018, Turkey held its first dual parliamentary and presidential elections, and then-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won in the first round and became the Executive President for the next five years. Following the election, the Turkish Government halted the state of emergency in July 2018.
Turkey has experienced solid economic growth through 2017 and the first half of 2018, following a series of government-initiated measures to ensure financial stability. In August 2018, the Turkish economy experienced currency volatility where the Turkish Lira depreciated sharply due to growing tensions between the US and Turkey over the detained the US pastor Andrew Brunson in addition to the tighter monetary policy expectations of the financial markets needed to decrease currency volatility. The detention of Andrew Brunson also triggered bilateral imposition of sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the United States imposed sanctions against two Turkish Government officials for their roles in the arrest and detention of the Mr. Brunson under the Global Magnitsky Act. As retaliation, Turkey imposed sanctions against the U.S. officials on the basis of reciprocity. Additionally, on August 10, 2018, U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey have been increased to 50% and 20%, respectively. Increasing tension in the U.S.Turkey diplomatic relationship caused fluctuations in the local market, resulting in a depreciation of the TRY against the USD. Turkish regulatory bodies implemented several measures to prevent further deterioration of the TRY and the financial markets. The pastor was released after the trial on October 12, 2018, resulting in a gradual decrease of the tension between the U.S. and Turkey. With the aim of ensuring financial stability and supporting the Turkish Lira, the CBRT increased its policy rate by 625 bps in September 2018 and provided TRY and foreign exchange (FX) liquidity to the banking system. In addition, collateral FX deposit limits for TRY transactions of banks have been raised. To prevent a sudden decrease in economic activity, taxes were cut in several sectors, including automotive, white goods and furniture. The strong monetary policy tightening has led to a very sharp macro rebalancing in the form of a rapidly improving current account balance and slowing inflation. Improving price competitiveness contributing to exports and diminishing domestic demand, with substantial financial tightening, has resulted a sharp improvement in external balances. After all these measurements, Turkish Lira appreciated 20.4% against the U.S. Dollar between August and December 2018. Overall, the monetary policy has been effective with overshooting interest rates, contracting credit and collapsing imports, eventually reversing the upward trend of inflation.
After the financial turmoil in August 2018, the Turkish authorites took a series of measures to ensure financial stability and support the Turkish Lira. The Ministry of Treasury and Finance announced the New Economic Plan (NEP) and the year 2019 was announced as a rebalancing period. Although the NEP envisages growth of 2.3% in 2019, such outlook may be affected by a global economic slowdown, increased geo-political uncertainties and a weakening in domestic consumption. Exceptional food inflation and TRY depreciation have led to a yearly rise in headline inflation to 20.3% in December 2018, recording the highest level since December 2003. Inflation is expected to decline in 2019. Due to the fact that we enter into fixed term contracts with a large portion of our mobile and fixed voice and data customers, we face difficulties in adjusting our prices to adequately reflect any inflationary pressures, which has and may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The budget deficit rose to 2.0% of the GDP in December 2018, and is expected to widen as a result of increased government spending to sustain strong economic activity. Moreover, the announced restructuring campaign regarding consumer credit card debts and small & medium company loans, aimed at lowering interest rates via public banks, could expose the banking sector to further risks. Loan growth, which contracted in the fourth quarter of 2018, has been running above zero in the first quarter of 2019, however the non-performing loan (NPL) ratio has continued to rise and it is expected to increase further as a result of the weak economic outlook. The Turkish Government has also announced it will reduce investments in those projects that are not deemed as directly serving the essential needs of the public or adding value to the economy between 2019-2021. This decision may significantly reduce our business potential on the corporate side to do business with the government and negatively affect our business and financial condition. Additionally, even though we are not currently experiencing any repercussions, further deterioration in loans or in general economic outlook may negatively affect our mobile and consumer finance businesses along with other industries. Geopolitical and domestic political factors, such as the military intervention in Syria and the run-up to the March 2019 municipal elections, are other sources of uncertainty and impose further risks on the countrys economy. Also, the international credit rating agencies including Fitch, Standard & Poors (S&P) and Moodys may cut Turkeys grade further, and this also could further increase the pressure on the Turkish Lira and interest rates.
More generally, in our view, among the biggest threats to the global economy, including the Turkey economy, in 2019 are weakening global growth, trade tensions between U.S. and China, global financial tightening, the potential for a significant slowdown in the Chinese economy and European political uncertainty. In January 2019, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its global growth forecast for 2019 from 3.7% to 3.5%, and for 2020 from 3.7% to 3.6%, mainly because of the negative effects of tariff increases enacted in the United States and China, the weakening financial market sentiment, and the tightened financial conditions. A number of institutions such as the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF have published several trade war scenarios, showing that the effects of such measures have a negative impact on global growth. Taking into account global trade tensions, weakening investment expenditure and high levels of debt, a hard landing scenario for China is possible and would have serious implications not only for China, but also for Turkey and the global economy. According to the recent indicators and surveys, the Eurozone economy has been slowing from previously high levels, due to weakening domestic demand and higher borrowing costs, elevated sovereign yields in Italy, street protests in France, softening of private consumption, weakened industrial production following the introduction of revised auto emission standards, subdued foreign demand in Germany as well as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The 2019 elections in Eastern Europe may further exacerbate the political tensions in the region. As the largest exporting partner, a slowdown in Germany and the Eurozone presents an important risk to the Turkish economy. The effect of prolonged low energy prices on commodity-exporting countries in the region such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran may negatively affect the terms of trade between these countries and Turkey. After the global sell-off in equities at the end of 2018, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) cut its rate hike projections for 2019. Nevertheless, ongoing normalization of Fed and ECB monetary policy, fragile growth outlook in Turkeys key export destinations and geopolitical risks stemming from instability in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Georgia, Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia, Israel, Armenia and Russia, the impact of this on Turkish foreign relations, including with the United States, as well as increasing uncertainty regarding the political outlook in Ukraine and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) regions are additional sources of risks for Turkey.
Furthermore, the Turkish Army is dedicated to fight against terrorist groups inside Turkey, Syria and Northern Iraq, notably the Peoples Congress of Kurdistan (known as the PKK), and also extremist terrorist groups like ISIS in neighboring countries. Turkeys probable Membic operation against ISIS,YPG/PYD/PKK, can impose higher risks on the budget deficit if the operation lasts longer than anticipated. Also, the departure of U.S. troops from Syria is likely to result in an increased uncertainty in the region.
Slower growth and inflationary pressures as a result of the factors described above may have a negative impact on consumer sentiment, resulting in a decrease in sales which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, geopolitical risks are currently prevailing, primarily on the basis that relations with the US continue to be fragile on various fronts, and this could potentially lead to volatility in the future. There can be no assurance that the political and more importantly geopolitical situation within Turkey or its neighboring countries will not deteriorate. The rise of protectionism and the threat to globalization is likely to impact political and economic affairs. These, coupled with rising geopolitical risks, might deter politicians from implementing economic programs, may individually or in the aggregate adversely affect the Turkish economy and, in turn, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Foreign exchange rate risks could affect the Turkish macroeconomic environment and could significantly affect our results of operation and financial position in future periods if hedging tools are not available at commercially reasonable terms.
We are exposed to foreign exchange rate risks because our income, expenses, assets and liabilities are denominated in a number of different currencies, primarily Turkish Lira, U.S. Dollars, Euros, Chinese Renminbi, Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH), and Belarusian Ruble (BYN). Fluctuations of Turkish Lira, Ukrainian Hryvnia, Belarusian Rubles, and Chinese Renminbi versus U.S. Dollars and Euros, have had and may have an unfavorable impact on us. In particular, a substantial majority of our equipment expenditures is currently, and expected to continue to be, denominated in U.S. Dollars and Euros, while the revenues generated by our activities are denominated largely in local currencies, in particular the Turkish Lira, Ukrainian Hryvnia, Belarusian Ruble and Euro. As of December 31, 2018, our total debt was TRY 20,155.5 million. As of December 31, 2018, the debt balance of our companies operating in Turkey was TRY 18,748.6 million, of which TRY 9,761.5 million ($1,855.5 million as of December 31, 2018) was denominated in U.S. Dollars and TRY 7,127.5 million (EUR 1,182.4 million) in Euro. As of December 31, 2018, the debt balance of lifecell was TRY 925 million, denominated in UAH. Meanwhile, Belarusian Telecom had a debt balance of TRY 4.2 million, denominated in BYN.
In addition, we are exposed to currency mismatches with respect to certain capital expenditures and off-balance sheet obligations, in particular with our universal service obligations for the installation of infrastructure in uncovered areas of Turkey, a service that we have contracted to provide for an amount in TRY, but which requires expenditures in foreign currencies (primarily in USD, but also Euro and Chinese Renminbi). Also, the financing of infrastructure investments, potential license fee payments and any other potential investment opportunities could lead to an increase in our U.S. dollar and/or Euro debt, further increasing our currency exposure. The effect of the depreciation in TRY is typically reflected in inflation rates in 3-6 months on average. According to the research of the CBRT, the exchange rate pass through realization in Turkey is around 10-15% and this figure might be well over 20% in an overheated economy. As of the third quarter of 2018 overall exchange rate pass through has increased to approximately 17% and is expected to decrease to 10-15% level with the appreciation of the TRY. High exchange rate pass through creates increasing production prices which is eventually reflected in consumer prices. Between 2011 and 2015 additional point impact on inflation was 1.8 when average inflation was 8.2%. See Item 8. Financial Information and Note 35 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F. Devaluations that are not matched by adjustments in our tariffs have had, and may continue to have, an adverse effect on our results of operations and our liquidity. See Item 4B. Business OverviewII Tariffs. We are also exposed to currency exchange rates on the prices of the smartphones that we rely on for the promotion of our digital and data services. After the 2008 financial crisis, with the flow of cheap funding, the Turkish economy experienced import driven growth. Therefore consumption patterns have shifted towards foreign currency denominated goods along with raw materials and intermediary goods used in production. Production has been negatively impacted by the price inflation of raw materials and intermediary goods. Depreciation in TRY triggered inflationary pressures which resulted in a deterioration in the purchasing power of consumers. Coupled with slow growth and low purchasing power, consumers demand has fallen. Turkish Lira depreciation has made smartphones that are procured in hard currencies more expensive for our customers, thus potentially reducing new sales of such devices and curbing the market for the services, which may have a negative impact on our profitability and financial position.
According to the CBRT, the TRY depreciated by 39% against the U.S. Dollar and 49% against the Euro in 2018, driven mainly by exacerbated macroeconomic conditions and geopolitical uncertainty as well as international developments such as increased U.S. interest rates, policy normalization signals from the ECB and rate hikes from the Fed and tensions between US and China. As of March 7, 2019 the TRY has depreciated a further 2.25% against the U.S. Dollar and 0.86% against the Euro according to the CBRT. Our currency hedging strategy includes derivative transactions and accumulating hard currency by using Turkish Lira cash from our operations. In addition, we have been further diversifying our currency exposure by entering into agreements with our vendors in local currencies, particularly in Chinese Renminbi.
Turkey has recently introduced a series of measures in relation to foreign exchange matters. A Presidential Decree amending the Decree No. 32 on the Protection of the Value of Turkish Currency, enacted on September 13, 2018 (Presidential Decree), provides that, except for certain exemptions determined by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance (Ministry of Finance), the contract price and all other payment obligations under (i) sale, purchase, and lease agreements (including financial leases) regarding immovable properties and vehicles, (ii) employment, (iii) services, and (iv) construction agreements entered into between Turkish and non-Turkish natural and legal persons resident in Turkey must be in Turkish Lira. In other words, the Presidential Decree precludes Turkish and non-Turkish natural and legal persons resident in Turkey from determining, or indexing to, the contract price or other payment obligations with regards to the aforementioned transactions in foreign currencies. Further, a 30-day transition period was envisaged by the Presidential Decree for the Turkish and non-Turkish natural and legal persons resident in Turkey to amend their existing agreements which fall within the scope of the restrictions, such that the contract price and all other payment obligations thereunder must be re-determined in Turkish Lira. The Ministry of Treasury and Finance determined on October 6, 2018 the scope of the restrictions above introduced by the Presidential Decree, by way of setting out the restrictions and exemptions on a contract type basis. On 16 November 2018, the scope of the exemptions was amended with another Communiqué numbered 2018-32/52 published in the Official Gazette dated 16 November 2018 and numbered 30597. The main highlights to the exemptions include issuance of capital markets instruments, employment agreements related to work performed abroad, service agreements of which the parties are not Turkish citizens, sales agreements including software produced abroad within the scope of information technologies and license and service agreements including hardware and software produced abroad and financial leasing agreements within the scope of Article 17 and 17/A of Decree No. 32. While none of one of our material agreements has been amended under this legislative change, there can be no assurance that similar measures will not impact our ability to enter into foreign currency agreements.
While we are currently able to hedge our principal TRY exposure to the U.S. Dollar and the Euro on commercially reasonable terms, no assurance can be given that we will continue to be able to do so under all circumstances in the future. In several of the other countries in which we have businesses, in particular Ukraine and Belarus, there are no or few tools to hedge foreign exchange rate risks effectively due to restricted and undeveloped financial markets in these countries. Any significant fluctuations in the value of the TRY relative to other currencies could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Reduction in cash generated from operations and increased capital needs may increase our borrowing requirements, which may increase our financing costs and our exposure to the risks associated with borrowing.
We continue to experience challenging macroeconomic, regulatory and competitive conditions in our markets that may reduce cash generated from operations, and we may continue to face increased funding needs, in particular to finance our technological expansion and investments. In the previous three years, this included the payment of the Turkish 4.5G license fee, Ukrainian 4.5G license fee and related capital expenditures in Turkey and Ukraine as well as the establishment of a consumer finance company in Turkey. Furthermore, in 2017 and 2018, we paid TRY 3 billion and TRY 1.9 billion dividend, respectively, and made capital expenditures and loan repayments, which significantly reduced our available cash. Looking ahead, we expect to continue to experience moderate cash outflows in relation to new licenses and network roll-out, continuing fiber development and potential dividend payments. The ongoing disputes among our shareholders may also have an impact on our liquidity position, to the extent that they may affect dividend payments. In the past, as a result of such disputes, dividends were not paid for several years and then the resulting backlog was eventually paid in a short period of time. Our liquidity position may also be negatively impacted if our shareholders request dividend payments which are higher than our dividend policy. Our working capital requirements have increased in the last three years in particular after our consumer finance company began its operations. The BRSAs current regulation imposing a cap on the number of instalments with regard to consumer loans for mobile phones significantly decreased the demand for new loans and thus has reduced our related working capital requirement accordingly. However, working capital requirements could once again increase should the BRSA increase the maximum number of instalments on mobile phone related loans or our entry to the leasing business, both of which could drive the demand up considerably. These cash outflows have in the past reduced, and may continue to reduce, our liquidity. Reduced liquidity may lead to an increase in our borrowing requirements and thus our borrowing costs.
Our borrowings may expose us to foreign exchange rate risk, interest rate risk and possibly, to increases in our total interest expense, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial condition and results of operations. We enter into derivative transactions and hold hard currency to manage the risk with respect to the Turkish Lira. However, derivative transactions might have costs and may not fully cover all of our risks. Furthermore, no assurance can be given that we will continue to have access to financing on terms or be able to conduct derivative transactions with terms that are satisfactory to us or at all. In addition, no assurance can be given that unexpected cash outflows will not be required, which could further erode liquidity and increase borrowing requirements.
As of December 31, 2018, our total debt was TRY 20,155.5 million. TRY 8,590.5 million of our debt portfolio consisted of financing obligations paying interest at fixed rates. The remainder of our debt portfolio pays interest at floating rates, which has been increasing within the last year and could expose us to increased costs if rates increase further. In 2015, we arranged a number of financing facilities in a principal amount of approximately $2.9 billion (partly in U.S. Dollars and in Euro) for the refinancing needs of the Company and our subsidiaries and to fund infrastructure investments and any other potential investment opportunities, which has significantly increased our indebtedness. Of this financing amount, we issued a 10-year Eurobond with an aggregate principal amount of $500 million and utilized $500 million in October 2015 which was followed by a EUR 1.25 billion, 10 year loan facility from the China Development Bank. EUR 500 million of this facility was immediately utilized. Furthermore, in 2016 we utilized USD 500 million and EUR 445 million under a 5-year club loan agreement from five international banks. EUR 60 million in 2017 and USD 140 million, EUR 100 million and RMB 251 million were utilized in 2018 from the China Development Bank facility. In the last three years, we also borrowed to finance the growing business of our consumer finance company and to finance the working capital requirements of our operations in Ukraine. In April 2018, we issued another 10-year Eurobond bond with an aggregate principal amount of $500 million with fixed coupon rate of 5.80% per annum. We may continue borrowing to finance our infrastructure investments, consumer finance company (depending on how the market evolves), loan repayments and any other potential investment opportunities. Additionally, on June 19, 2018, we entered into a framework shareholder loan agreement pursuant to which excess TRY cash in Turkcell is made available to other group companies in Turkey as a short term TRY loan at arms length basis in line with current market conditions.
In 2015, we received investment grade ratings from Moodys, S&P and Fitch Ratings and sustained these in 2016 and 2017, although in 2017 Moodys and S&P changed the outlook on our ratings to negative from stable. In 2018, Moodys, S&P and Fitch Ratings downgraded our credit rating to non investment grade in accordance with their respective internal practices to reflect their individual decisions in the beginning of the third quarter of 2018 to reflect the downgrade Turkeys sovereign rating. Fitch and Moodys both put our company on negative outlook, while S&P changed the outlook to stable from negative by mid-2018. A decrease in our free cash flow, an increase in our net debt position or more generally a change in financial policies and projections, a material increase in investment and acquisition plans or shareholder returns and an increase in corporate governance issues could also result in a further credit rating downgrade. In November 2018, our contract with Moodys ended. We continue to receive credit rating services from S&P and Fitch Ratings.
Some of our borrowing agreements contain cross default clauses, which could trigger an event of default under such agreements in the event of a default by a Group company under its own borrowing agreements (such default by that Group company being subject to certain thresholds).
Regulatory decisions and changes in the regulatory environment could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
We are subject to a significant range of legislative and regulatory requirements, both in Turkey and internationally. Compliance with new and existing laws and regulations has had, and is likely to continue to have, a significant impact on the ways in which we do business. This may include but is not limited to the impact on our ability to set our pricing and offer new and existing services, including converged services, on customer use of our services, the way we handle, process and store customer data, the terms of our subscriber contracts, the way we can communicate with customers, including in particular our ability to contact subscribers with our offers, our ability to implement any planned or future network or infrastructure sharing initiatives and our ability to obtain and maintain licenses. Furthermore, the laws, regulations, regulatory orders and licenses under which we operate are subject to interpretation and enforcement by regulators with which we are not always in agreement. Complying with regulations may be costly, and failure to comply may lead to significant penalties, criminal prosecution, adverse publicity and the loss of licenses in the affected line of business or country and could adversely affect our business, financial condition and cause significant reputational and brand damage with customers, investors and regulators. Furthermore, our licenses generally have specified terms and renewal is not assured. For more information on regulation and how it may impact our business, see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry.
Pricing is one of the areas in which we are subject to regulation. In the recent past, the ICTA and Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (formerly the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications of Turkey) (the Turkish Ministry) regulations and actions relating to our voice, SMS, data and value added services have negatively affected our pricing and our ability to design and launch campaigns and offers. One of these regulations regarding the retail pricing per voice minute has been lifted and the regulatory burden has consequently been significantly reduced. However, the retail price cap in mobile has been reintroduced by the ICTA in October 2018. In addition, interconnection rates are still set by the ICTA, and, there is a possibility that further regulatory actions may adversely affect our companys wholesale revenues. In addition, the ICTA has determined and may in the future determine that we are an operator with significant market power and as a result impose certain constraints on us, while imposing less stringent ones on other mobile telecommunications operators in the market, both of which may adversely affect our business and financial condition. For more information, see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry.
Expectations and standards with regard to privacy and data protection have been increasing both globally and in Turkey. Stricter privacy laws and regulations are being adopted or existing legislation is being more strictly interpreted and enforced by the authorities, which require companies to invest more diligence and effort towards ensuring compliance. While we are primarily subject to Turkish data protection legislation, the European General Data Protection Regulation and other foreign privacy legislation also have the potential to affect our business through some of our subsidiaries established in the EU and other countries, as well as some of our products and services provided to persons in the EU. Breach of such regulation may potentially result in penalties up to a maximum of 4% of global annual turnover or EUR 20,000,000. Ensuring compliance with these various privacy legislations is a longlasting commitment, which requires substantial costs, and it is possible that despite our efforts, governmental authorities or third parties will assert that our business practices fail to comply. Changes in privacy legislation or in interpretation of the existing legislation could have an adverse effect on our business and data processing operations and/or subject us to significant civil and criminal penalties, business disruption or reputational harm.
Furthermore, given that we process personal data, namely of our customers we are subject to the Law No. 6698 on The Protection of Personal Data and the regulations of the Turkish Personal Data Protection Authority, as well as data protection legislation under the Electronic Communications Law and the ICTAs data protection regulations. For more information, see Item 4.B. Business Overview-Regulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry. Should we fail to properly implement and comply with these data protection laws and regulations, we might face administrative fines of up to approximately TRY 1,470,000 per breach, depending on the nature of the failure(s), as well as criminal sanctions or other regulatory actions by the Personal Data Protection Authority, and face administrative fines up to 3% of yearly net sales of the ICTA-regulated companies in breach. Changes to such data protection laws may impose more stringent requirements for compliance and impose significant penalties for non-compliance. In particular, we are facing increased risks with regard to these laws and regulations as the number of our Paycell customers -in relation to whom we hold sensitive data such as credit card information- increases rapidly. If we or those with whom we share information fail to comply with these laws and regulations, our reputation could be damaged, possibly resulting in lost future business. In addition, the cost and operational consequences of responding to breaches and implementing remediation measures could be significant.
The ICTA has introduced new regulations or changes to regulations in a number of areas that could affect our business, including the following:
Customer reimbursements are now more highly regulated, which will increase our liability and place a higher administrative burden on our company. For example, reimbursements must now take place in under a month (unless another period is set forth by a decision of the ICTA), and we may face penalties should we fail to meet this requirement. Additionally, we will be subject to the obligation to transfer unpaid reimbursements to a universal service fund.
The ICTA has taken decisions in the fiber market that have favored the incumbent Turk Telekom, in particular exempting the fiber market from market analysis (so called fiber holiday). The ICTA has not announced its final market analysis for fixed wholesale local and central accesses. The fiber holiday may continue to be in place depending on the ICTAs final decision.
The ICTA reintroduced the mobile retail price cap obligations, from which Turkcell had been exempt since 2016. The ICTA adopted a decision, which sets new price caps applicable to fees for activation/deactivation, name/title change, account takeover, MSISDN change, SIM card change, detailed bill information, effective as of October 1, 2018. Following this decision, new price caps applicable to calls, SMS, international calls and directory assistance service have also been introduced, effective as of January 1, 2019. Turkcell applied for withdrawal of this decision, which was rejected by the ICTA. Turkcell filed a lawsuit for stay of execution and the cancellation of Article 1 of the decision. There is no progress on the case as at March 7, 2019.
The ICTA has cancelled the deregulation of the SMS/MMS Termination Market. Consequently, the SMS/MMS termination service will continue within the scope of obligations under the Mobile Call Termination Market Analysis. Also, the Mobile Access and Call Origination Market deregulation transition period has been extended until April 12, 2019. Within this period, Turkcells Significant Market Power (SMP) designation and our obligations under Mobile Access and Call Origination Market will be maintained until the concerned market is deregulated.
The ICTA had extended its double opt-in rule in 2018, requiring consumers to submit two approvals before purchasing value added services, from gaming and music services to all value added services that are purchased via SMS. This is an obstacle to the purchase by our customers of our services, which may adversely affect our services revenue. The ICTA may further regulate value added services, for example by considering app services as being in the scope of value added services regulations. Currently, it remains unclear whether the rules for value added services are applicable to operator applications. In addition, the administrative sanctions to be applied in the event of failure to comply with the obligations relating to value added services have been extended via the amendment made by the ICTA to the Regulation on Administrative Sanctions.
In accordance with the decision taken by the ICTA on April 12, 2018, operators are now subject to new processes related to the reimbursement of the remaining balances to prepaid subscribers whose subscriptions are terminated for various reasons. For instance, operators must reimburse the balance within 15 days from the termination date, in failure of which:
If the subscriber applies to the operator within two years following the termination of the subscription agreement, the remaining balance must be reimbursed to him/her.
Notwithstanding the above-mentioned right of application, if the user re-subscribes to the same operator within two years following the termination of the subscription agreement, the remaining balance must be deducted from the first invoice.
The new version of the Regulation on Consumer Rights in the Electronic Communications Sector, which came into force in April 2018, mainly preserves the provisions of the former regulation. However, under the new regulation, the first on/off operation in a calendar year must not be charged if the services were suspended/disconnected due to non-payment within due date.
The ICTA requires an update of Turkcells subscription agreements reflecting the new consumer rights regulations. Changes include more strict consent obligations regarding subscription choices and the cancellation of operators right to restrict subscriptions of subscribers with unpaid bills for other subscriptions.
An ICTA decision favoring subscribers with special needs, veterans and, widows/widowers and orphans of martyrs came into effect on January 1, 2019, requiring operators to offer their services with a 25% discount. The discount is offered upon proof of identity and the subscribers special need; however there is a high risk of fraud and consequently, of a decrease in our profitability. As of March 7, 2019, approximately 18,000 subscribers are registered to benefit from this discount.
The ICTA has put forward more stringent conditions regarding caller line identification and the use of alphanumeric titles, limiting businesses choice in titles for their advertising and ultimately threatening the growth of our bulk SMS business.
An increase in the wholesale prices for fixed broadband services provided by Turk Telekom is foreseen, following its request to increase the wholesale prices in 2018. This could affect our retail broadband business; however, this increase has not been approved by the ICTA as of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F.
The Turkish Ministry informed the operators on June 7, 2018 that that they primarily have to request from the most prevailing operator in terms of infrastructure in Turkey - which is Turk Telekom to perform the excavation work on their behalf. Although Turkcell filed a lawsuit to remove this measure, this situation might negatively affect our ability to expand our fibre network and our future investments.
Taxation and charges are also areas in which we are subject to specific regulations. We are for example subject to a Special Communication Tax (SCT), which is set at 7.5% across all product lines, and transceiver and receiver unit surcharge payments are set at 5% of monthly net sales since January 2018. Such taxes have affected, and could continue to adversely affect, consumer demand for products and services and our results of operations.
We are increasingly involved in providing financial services to our customers. As a result of the establishment of our insurance agency company and our participation finance company (not operational yet) as well as our existing operations in consumer finance, payment and e-money services, we are subject to a variety of banking and finance laws and regulations (the principal regulators include the BRSA and the Insurance Directorate under Undersecretariat of the Treasury), and pursuant to our focus on services such as TV and music, we are subject to broadcasting and copyright laws and regulations. In 2017, Turkcell Enerji, which we fully own indirectly, has obtained an electricity supply license from EMRA for the purpose of electricity energy trading and wholesale and retail electricity sales. This company is subject to laws and regulations governing the electricity market in Turkey. These regulations are different from those that we currently encounter in our core communications business in Turkey and we will need to obtain and develop the expertise required to comply with these laws and regulations, which may be costly. As we enter new businesses, such as the automotive industry, service coupons and meal cards, we will also be exposed to the regulatory regimes and decisions specific to those businesses.
If we, our local partners with whom we enter into cooperation agreements or similar agreements, or one of our key suppliers fail to comply with laws and regulations regarding unethical business practices, including bribery and corruption, and international sanctions, this could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
We are subject to various laws and regulations relating to unethical business practices, including bribery and corruption, and international sanctions. Bribery and anti-corruption laws in effect in many countries prohibit companies and their intermediaries from making improper payments to public officials for the purpose of obtaining new business or maintaining existing business relationships. Certain anti-corruption laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) also require the maintenance of proper books and records, and the implementation of controls and procedures in order to ensure that a companys operations do not involve corrupt payments. Since we operate in several countries, and given that some of our clients, or local partners with whom we enter into cooperation agreements or similar agreements, are government-owned entities and that our projects and agreements often require approvals from public officials, we face the risk that our employees, local partners, consultants or agents may take actions that are in violation of our policies and of anti-corruption laws. In many parts of the world where we currently operate or seek to expand our business, local practices and customs may be inconsistent with our policies, and could violate anti-corruption laws, including the FCPA and European Union regulations, as well as applicable economic sanctions and embargoes. Our employees, local partners or other parties acting on our behalf or with whom we enter into cooperation agreements or similar agreements, or our suppliers, could violate policies and procedures intended to promote compliance with anti-corruption laws or economic sanctions, regardless of whether we had participated in such acts or had knowledge of such acts at certain levels within our organization. Any of the foregoing could result in criminal prosecution and sanctions, fines penalties, withdrawal of licenses against us, companies in which we invested, and our and their officers and employees and significant damage to our reputation, and negatively affect our competitive advantage and financial position. There can be no assurance that acts of corruption will not occur or be alleged in respect of any of our activities or those of our current or past affiliates.
In particular, one of our key suppliers, Ericsson, has been the subject of corruption allegations and investigations, including in respect of its Turkish operations. Although we have not to our knowledge been implicated, no assurance can be given that these allegations and investigations will not touch our Group. Furthermore, we have strong commercial ties to several Chinese vendors from which we have in the past purchased network equipment, and currently have a significant installed base of their equipment, including in the context of the development of our 5G network infrastructure. We also have access to financing from the China Development Bank which facilitates the purchase of Chinese equipment. Should any one of these vendors become subject to U.S. sanctions which would affect our ability to purchase their equipment in the future and require us to find alternative suppliers, or should we be compelled to terminate or suspend our relationships with these vendors for any other reason, namely as a result the ongoing tensions between China and the U.S., this may lead to an increase in our costs or otherwise affect our ability to develop and maintain our increasingly advanced network infrastructure and negatively affect our competitive advantage and financial position.
We hold interests in several companies that may expose us to various economic, business, political, social, financial, liquidity, regulatory and legal risks and may not provide the benefits that we expect, and our pursuit of acquisition opportunities may increase these risks.
Our investments in subsidiaries and associated companies within Turkey and internationally have and are likely to continue to expose us to economic, political, social, financial, regulatory, currency devaluation and legal risks. These risks have affected and could adversely affect our result of operations and the carrying value of assets in our financial statements.
Through our subsidiaries in Turkey and internationally, we engage in businesses outside of the scope of our core mobile business. These other businesses are subject to risks that are in some respects different from those of our mobile business. We will need to obtain the expertise required to compete and operate in these new businesses, which may be costly. No assurance may be given that we will succeed and that we will not incur losses that could adversely affect our business and financial condition. For example, several of our subsidiaries are providing financial services including, for instance, insurance, providing credit, payment intermediation and bill payment services, which are different from those in our traditional telecommunications activities and increase our exposure to certain risks that are common to both. Providing financing and financial services to our customers exposes us to liquidity and market risk, credit risk, fraud risk and cyber-attack risks, in particular with respect to credit cards and personal information that we process and hold. This includes through the expansion of our mobile payment business, Paycell, in Turkey, Ukraine and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
We also have a consumer finance company Turkcell Finansman A.S. (Financell), which manages the high working capital requirements and bad debt expenses arising from the high demand in the Turkish market for bundled offers featuring both communications services and a communications device, particularly a smartphone. Having commenced operations in 2016, Financell carried loans outstanding at December 31, 2018 totaled TRY 4.2 billion. While our cost of risk has improved to 1.97% in December 2018 from 2.26% in December 2017, this may increase particularly as the credit portfolio increases, or in the event that our lending criteria fail to preserve the quality of our assets, and/or in the event of economic activity and macroeconomic slowdown in Turkey and in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where we also offer consumer financing. The foregoing may lead to losses and eventual tightening of lending criteria, which in turn may cause a reduction of the loan portfolio, which is likely to affect our profitability. Furthermore, the demand for consumer loans might be negatively affected by financial conditions, particularly interest rates and FX rates since most smartphones pricing is largely dependent on hard currencies. With regard to Financells swap agreements, if the FX rates are volatile and, for example, result in a substantial difference between the rates forecasted by our treasury and the spot rates at maturity, this could result in significant losses and a decrease in revenue and otherwise affect our profitability. The Turkish financial sector, including banks, financial leasing and factoring companies, payments and e-money institutions and consumer financing companies, is regulated by the BRSA. The BRSA may enact changes in regulations regarding consumer finance activities, which might restrict part of our consumer finance business. As such, initially on August 15, 2018 and later on February 26, 2019, restrictions on the number of installments depending on the purpose of the loan have been adopted through an amendment in the relevant legislation. The maturity of certain type of loans (other than loans to consumers for housing finance and complementary goods and services in relation to home renovation/improvement, the financial leases for homes leased to consumers, other loans for the purpose of purchasing real estate, loans for the purpose of financing education and learning fees, loans for any refinancing of the same) are explicitly determined under the Regulation on the Principles regarding Incorporation and Activities of Financial Leasing, Factoring and Financing Companies. Accordingly, Financell may provide loans of up to six months for mobile phones with a retail price of TRY 3,500 and above and up to twelve months for mobile phones with a retail price of below TRY 3,500, down from twenty-four months on average. This has negatively affected the number of smartphone sales in the Turkish market, which has had and is expected to continue to have a negative effect on the size of the digital services and solutions market. The long term growth prospects of our digital services and solutions businesses depend in part on the continuing expansion of the number of smart phone users in the market. Furthermore, on November 14, 2018, the BRSA has noticed the factoring, leasing and financial institutions via an article, restricting the distribution of dividends for 2018 and dividends earned before 2018 only to be distributed by prior approval of the BRSA. Furthermore, in February 2019, the President of Turkey was given the authority to increase the Special Consumption Tax rate on mobile phones from 25% to up to 50%. An increase in this tax may negatively impact the number of mobile phones sold in Turkey. We cannot rule out the possibility of further increases in tax rates or new taxes and charges, including on mobile devices, data, and services. These restrictions may include a prohibition on financing of specific goods or services in the future. More generally, the consumer finance sector is rapidly evolving and no assurance can be given that we will be able to adapt to market trends and that new competitors will not emerge. If this were the case, we may not be able to realize the synergies that we expect from our consumer finance business. Furthermore, our subsidiary Kule Hizmet ve İşletmecilik A.S. (Global Tower) operates a large portfolio of telecommunication towers in several countries. In the event of expiry, non-renewal or termination of certain concessions or licenses of Turkcell, Turkcell may be forced to transfer to ICTA the tower assets it owns where ground lease agreements are executed by Global Tower, which would lead to a loss of revenue and have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Turkcell Group has investments in emerging markets including Belarus, Moldova, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Ukraine and has activities that involve other emerging markets. Legal systems, institutions, commercial practices and economies in emerging markets tend to be relatively underdeveloped and some may also suffer from relatively high rates of fraud and corruption. Were we to be affected by corruption, we could incur significant penalties under applicable anti-corruption legislation, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as well as reputational harm. Turkcell Group also retains relevant risks with regards to its divested businesses.
In some countries, we hold our investments with another shareholder or local government and in some cases we are a non-controlling shareholder. Should there be a disagreement between us and other shareholders, no assurance can be given that we will be able to take the course of action we believe is appropriate. In these cases, we may consider exiting, or alternatively increasing our investment in order to take control, which may be costly. Furthermore, some of the countries in which we have businesses, and the companies and individuals that we come into contact with, may be the target of E.U., U.S. and international sanctions, as has occurred in Crimea. There can be no assurance that political, legal, economic, social or other actions or developments in these countries or involving such companies and individuals will not have an adverse impact on our investments and businesses in these countries. Investors may be reticent to invest in a company doing business in such countries or other countries that may be at risk due to the political instability. These factors could have an adverse effect on the demand for and the price of our shares. In this regard, we have and are likely to continue to experience issues in some of our Turkish and international businesses that adversely affect our Company. Recent issues include the following:
Our operations in Ukraine are adversely affected by the ongoing conflict with Russia, political instability, civil unrest and economic problems in that country. Tension with Russia escalated again since the Russian coastguard seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait. Following the event, martial law was declared in Ukraine on November 26, 2018 which lasted for 30 days. Due to the ongoing crisis in the Crimea region following its annexation by the Russian Federation, we were eventually obliged to discontinue services there in the fourth quarter of 2014. We completely wrote-off our assets in the Crimea region, while retaining our license and frequency rights. We continue to evaluate our options with respect to the disposal of lifecells assets in Crimea and the actions that we may take may raise challenges with respect to compliance with lifecells license requirements. Furthermore, the current military and political crisis in the Eastern part (mainly in Donetsk and Luhansk, otherwise referred to as the ATO zone) with Russia remains unresolved and could lead us to evaluate our options in the Eastern region. The ongoing crisis may further adversely affect the Ukrainian economy and our results of operations in Ukraine and/or the value and security of our assets and operations there. We are unable to predict the likely course or duration of these events, or the extent of the adverse impact that they have had and are likely to have on the telecommunications market dynamics and composition, our investment in Ukraine and our operations there. Additionally, presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March 31, 2019 and October 27, 2019 respectively may cause further uncertainty on both political and economic fronts.
In Ukraine, the local currency, the Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH), depreciated against the U.S. Dollar by 3.2% in 2017 and appreciated by 1.4% in 2018 according to National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). The UAH appreciated by 4.4% against U.S. Dollar as of March 7, 2019 as compared to closing rates on December 31, 2018. The National Bank of Ukraine, among other measures, continues to impose certain restrictions on the processing of client payments by banks and on the purchase of foreign currency on the inter-bank market. The IMF executive board approved a 14 month 3.9 billion USD stand-by agreement for Ukraine on December 18, 2018. The result of the presidential elections is also deemed critical for the IMF agreement. If Tymoshenko emerges victorious from the election, that scenario might complicate the deal with the IMF. Due to the tight monetary stance of the National Bank of Ukraine, inflation dropped down to 9.8% in 2018 from 13.7% in 2017. The National Bank of Ukraine is expected to maintain its conservative stance on monetary policy in order to keep the inflation in check towards its target of 5%. Ukraine has been on positive growth territory since 2016, at a rate of 2.5% both in 2016 and 2017. Growth is expected to have stayed in the positive territory in 2018 as well. As of December 31, 2018, our debt balance related to lifecell was UAH 4.9 billion (equivalent to TRY 925 million). lifecells foreign currency revenues were 6.5% of its total revenues and its foreign currency operational expenses were estimated at 14.5% of its total revenues as of December 31, 2018.
Our development strategy in Ukraine in 2015 was marked by our acquisition of the 44.96% in lifecell that we did not own, with a view to strengthening our regional position, a restructuring of lifecells balance sheet, and the acquisition of a 3G license at a cost of UAH 3,355 million (equivalent to TRY 376 million as of March 19, 2015) paid in 2015. In May 2015, lifecell made payment of UAH 350 million (equivalent to TRY 46 million as of May 8, 2015) and UAH 7 million (equivalent to TRY 1 million as of May 12, 2015) for the first installment of conversion of spectrum from military use. In April 2017, lifecell has made payment of UAH 299 million (equivalent to TRY 40 million as of April 28, 2017) for the second installment and in October 2018, lifecell has made final payment of UAH 230 million (equivalent to TRY 45 million as of October 31, 2018) for the third installment of the conversion. These increases in our investment have further increased our country and currency risk exposure.
The 4G license process was conducted in two phases in the first half of the year 2018. Accordingly, lifecell was awarded with 15 MHz spectrum in the 2600 band and 15 MHz spectrum in the 1800 band on January 31, 2018 and on March 6, 2018, respectively, at a total cost of UAH 1,704 million (equivalent to TRY 346 million as of March 7, 2019). Significant deployment costs were incurred in 2018. Our success in obtaining a 4G license has increased our exposure to Ukraine and there is no assurance that we will monetize this investment.
In another development, there is a possibility that the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) may be launched in Ukraine in 2019. The implementation of MNP may lead to a high churn of subscribers between operators. In some cases, MNP has been more disadvantageous for the third player in the market.
Additionally, in the near future, there may be another licence tender in Ukraine, which may increase our costs and consequently negatively affect our profitability in Ukraine. Furthermore, should there be a change in the ownership of any of our competitors; the dynamics in the competitive environment may change to our disadvantage, which may adversely affect our financial and operational performance. Apart from these economic and political risks, our operations in Ukraine could also expose us to operational, competitive, regulatory and legal risks, all of which may prevent us from delivering our strategic targets. These risks have affected and could adversely affect our result of operations.
Although the Belarusian economy returned to growth in 2017 following two years of recession and is expected to remain positive for 2018, the economic situation remains fragile.
The country still remains vulnerable to global shocks which may trigger renewed weakness in the countrys ability to service its external debt and further depreciation of the local currency, BYN, which could in turn lead to a further reduction in the value of our investment in this country. We also believe that there is a risk of an increase in inflation in particular as a result of monetary easing by the Central Bank. According to the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus the BYN depreciated against the U.S. Dollar by 0.7% in 2017 and further depreciated in 2018 by 9.5%. The BYN appreciated by 1.0% as of March 7, 2019 as compared to the closing rate on December 31, 2018. Devaluation risks still remain, as limited currency reserves, high debt repayments and the current account deficit coupled with the close ties to the Russian economy put the recent BYN stabilization at risk and creates inflationary and devaluation pressure. Belarus has suffered from hyperinflation in the past and may again in the future.
In line with our strategic priority of improving our balance sheet structure, debt of Belarusian Telecom was restructured in 2015. As part of the restructuring, Belarusian Telecoms total existing intra-group loans were converted into subordinated loans, provided directly by Turkcell. As of December 31, 2018, Belarusian Telecoms debt was BYN 1.7 million (equivalent to TRY 4.2 million as of December 31, 2018) owed to financial institutions and a EUR 612 million (equivalent to TRY 3.7 million as of December 31, 2018) subordinated loan owed to Turkcell.
In Belarus, as the third operator in the market, we face regulatory and operational difficulties and no assurance can be given that the situation will change in our favor in the future. These risks have affected and could adversely affect our reputation and results of operations.
A 4G tender might be held in 2019 in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus where we have a subsidiary called Kibris Mobile Telekomunikasyon Limited. Such tender may require additional investments, including in fiber, which would in addition require us to obtain permits that we have no certainty of receiving and without which we would have difficulty operating a 4G network profitably. Also, there may be a tender to privatize the incumbent telecom operator, TRNC Telecommunications Office, although this has not yet been the subject of an official announcement. We face the risk that we may not be permitted to participate in the tender, and/or that the tender be awarded to one of our main competitors, which would adversely affect our growth and our competitiveness in the region. Further, this tender may include the issuance of a third mobile licence, which may increase the competition and adversely affect our results of operations. In the near past, there have been political discussions regarding the reunification of Cyprus, which, if resumed, may bring growth opportunities for our subsidiary, but may also lead to risks including unfavorable changes in applicable regulations, an increase in competition, an increase in capex requirements and loss of revenues.
We hold a 41.45% stake in Fintur, which has operations in Moldova at current, and Telia Company (through Sonera Holding B.V.) holds the remainder. Following inconclusive negotiations regarding the purchase by us of Telia Companys stake in Fintur and KCell, we decided to sell our Fintur stake and Fintur was classified as
an asset held for sale in our financial statements and reported as discontinued operations in the fourth quarter of 2016. Accordingly, a binding agreement with respect to the transfer of our shares in Fintur to Sonera Holding B.V. has been signed on December 12, 2018 for a total consideration of EUR 350 million subject to closing adjustments. The transfer of shares is expected to be completed following the obtainment of necessary regulatory approvals. No assurance can be given however that we will successfully close the transaction, or that we will not pursue another course of action. Should there be a disagreement between us and the other shareholder (Telia Company) in the future for any reason whatsoever, no assurance can be given that we will be able to take the course of action that we believe appropriate, including with respect to operational and strategic matters.
In 2018, prior to us selling our stake in Fintur, Fintur sold the shareholdings it owned in three telecommunications companies:
on March 5, 2018, Fintur transferred its shareholding in Azertel Telekomunikasyon Yatirim Dis Ticaret A.S (Azercell) in Azerbaijan to Azerbaijan International Telecom LLC;
on March 20, 2018, Fintur transferred its shareholding in Geocell LLC in Georgia to Silknet JSC of Georgia through its 99.99% subsidiary Gurtel Telekomunikasyon Yatirim ve Dis Ticaret A.S.; and
on December 21, 2018, Finturs 51% total shareholding in Kcell JSC in Kazakhstan was transferred to Kazakhtelecom JSC.
In October 2018, we established Turkcell Foundation (Foundation), with the intention to bring mainly all charities and donations namely in respect of technology and education under one roof on a voluntary basis. The board of directors of the Foundation consists of five members, all of which have been appointed among the high-level executives of Turkcell. The Foundation may be exposed to various Turkish regulatory and legal obligations specific to foundations.
Our international and Turkish subsidiaries may not benefit us in the way we expect for the reasons cited above, as well as other reasons, including general macroeconomic conditions, poor management and legal, regulatory or political obstacles. For many of these subsidiaries, we do not expect to achieve desired levels of profitability in the near or mid-term, and we may be required to record impairments. We may also in response to such conditions consider increasing, restructuring or exiting certain of our investments. In addition to the foregoing, the new Turkish Commercial Code and related legislation may require us to provide new capital or other financial support to certain of our controlled subsidiaries, which may divert resources from other needs.
Furthermore, in addition to investing in our international operations, we also engage in business through roaming agreements in a number of countries. In international markets in which duopoly markets exist, such as the United Arab Emirates or the Maldives, operators tend to increase their roaming prices despite the overall trend of declining roaming prices in the world, which could increase our roaming costs. The terms on which we enter into roaming agreements may change over time, adversely affecting our ability to sustain or enter into such agreements on commercially viable terms.
We face risks related to our dependence on network and IT systems and the products and services we provide through third party suppliers as well as our exposure to technological changes in the communications market, including industries where we traditionally do not compete.
We are dependent on certain systems and suppliers for information technology (IT) and network technology (NT) services, and also carry a significant inventory, and our business continuity is at risk due to our exposure to potential natural disasters, sabotages, regular or severe IT and network failures, human error, security breaches and other cyber security incidents and IT migration risk, any of which could have an adverse effect on our operations, damage our reputation and affect our relationships with our customers and/or our employees and result in a fine under relevant data protection legislation.
We are heavily dependent on IT and NT systems, suppliers of IT and NT services and our IT and NT employees for the continuity of our business and we are continually upgrading and converting our IT and NT systems. Although we devote significant resources to the development and improvement of IT and NT and of security, backup and continuity systems, we could still experience IT and network failures and outages due to system deficiencies, human error, natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, unsuccessful migration to alternative or improved IT and NT systems, or other factors including but not limited to unintentional third party interruptions. These factors also put at risk the substantial inventory that we hold which, if damaged, could adversely affect business continuity and our results of operations.
Mobile networks are migrating towards internet protocol (IP) technology to transport information. These networks open up the possibility for IP-based services. However, once these services are introduced into the IP domain,
the mobile network may be harmed by potential attacks. The threats on the mobile network can originate from external sources, such as the public internet, or internal sources, such as terminals connected to our mobile network. Despite the systems and infrastructure which we have put in place to address these security concerns, we could encounter successful attacks on our infrastructure, which could have an adverse effect on our operations, damage our reputation and affect our relationships with our customers.
Our IT and NT services are exposed to hacking, sabotage and other cyber security threats, and terrorist or other destructive acts, any of which could have an adverse effect on our operations, damage our reputation and affect our relationships with our customers and/or our customers, incur substantial additional costs, result in a fine under relevant data protection legislation and lawsuits from affected customers.
Our commercial success is heavily dependent upon the security and continuity of our services, and maintaining the security of our customers, employees and suppliers personal and financial data, intellectual property, and other confidential and sensitive data is essential to our business. In common with other high-profile businesses which are targeted for cyber-attacks, our networks and systems are constantly exposed to a variety of different cyber threats and we have experienced an increased number of sabotage incidents, as well as attempted cyber-attacks of varying degrees of sophistication by unauthorized parties attempting to obtain access to our computer systems and networks. We believe that no such attacks have succeeded in obtaining access to our critical systems, although in practice such attacks may develop over long periods of time during which they can remain undetected.
Based on our Cyber Defense Center practices, we have experienced many privilege theft and escalation attempts which have been stopped before causing any harm to our services and products. Also, many phishing and malware activities were detected and stopped, notably a global malware attack in October 2018 aimed at several telecommunication companies including Turkcell, which aimed at taking control over our clients and servers. So far, none of these attacks are regarded as material incidents. In June 2017, an incident took place (the Petya attack) which impacted many public entities and companies, including our subsidiary lifecell in Ukraine, resulting in a loss of data (although minimal and not sensitive). A successful hack could disrupt our network and our ability to provide services and/or could result in, for example, unauthorized access to, misuse, loss, or destruction of our data or systems and theft of sensitive or confidential data, including personal information of our employees and customers, and theft of services and/or funds. We do not have cybersecurity incident insurance, and a compromise of our security systems or those of our business associates, that results in the information we hold being accessed by unauthorized persons, could adversely affect our reputation with our customers and other stakeholders, as well as our operations, results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, and could result in litigation against us or the imposition of penalties. In addition, a breach could require that we expend significant additional resources related to the security of information systems and could disrupt our operations.
Although we closely follow general technological trends in communications and technology, we may be unable to adapt to rapid technological changes in communications and information technology, which could result in higher capital expenditures and a greater possibility of commercial failure.
Rapid technological changes in communications and information technology are redefining the markets in which we operate and the products and services we offer, shortening product life cycles and facilitating the convergence of various segments, including in our core mobile communications businesses. If we fail to anticipate, invest in and implement new technologies with the levels of service and prices that customers demand or to respond effectively to technological changes, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected. In addition, such new technologies require significant capital expenditures and it is impossible to predict with any certainty whether the technology selected by us will be the most economical, efficient or capable of attracting customer usage, or whether such technologies will be developed according to anticipated schedules, will perform according to expectations or will achieve commercial acceptance. Although we are following general technological trends in communications and technology, there can be no assurance that we will be able to develop new products and services that will enable us to compete efficiently.
We have become active in providing products and services for industries other than telecommunications, many of which are developed and/or maintained by third party providers. Our reliance on these third party providers to help us navigate the regulatory, security and business risks of industries where we traditionally do not compete adversely affects our business.
The operation of our business depends, in part, upon the successful deployment of continually evolving products and services, including for applications in industries other than telecommunications, such as TV, music, energy, mobile financial services, insurance agency services, corporate services such as meal coupons, contactless smart card for fare payment on public transport such as the Istanbul Card, mobile education solutions, authentication solutions, data center services and entertainment and community services. We are reliant upon third party providers to help us navigate risks relating to security, regulations and business in the industries where we do not traditionally compete. Changes in such industries may impair our partners business and/or negatively impact the content we are developing, such as for entertainment, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
We are subject to a variety of risks with respect to our Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs) performance.
Spectrum limitations and frequency costs may adversely affect our ability to provide services to our subscribers and the cost to us of providing such services.
Our spectrum licenses have specified terms and are subject to renewal upon a payment of a fee, but renewal is not assured. The loss of, or failure to renew, our licenses could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition. Those licenses have also specified radio spectrum. The spectrum is a continuous range of frequencies within which the waves have certain specific characteristics. The number of subscribers that can be accommodated on a mobile network is constrained by the limited amount of spectrum allocated to the operator of the network and is also affected by subscriber usage patterns and network infrastructure. After the IMT Advanced (known commercially as 4.5G) auction held on August 26, 2015 in Turkey we have 2x10 MHz of FDD spectrum in 800 MHz band, 2x12.4 MHz of FDD spectrum in 900 MHz band, 2x30 MHz of FDD spectrum in 2100 MHz band, 10 MHz of TDD spectrum in 2100 MHz band, 2x29.8 MHz of FDD spectrum in 1800 MHz band, 2x25 MHz of FDD spectrum in 2600 MHz band and 10 MHz of TDD spectrum in 2600 band. Although the acquired spectrum can potentially be used for the next generation network technology known as 5G, some services that are specific to 5G and our future capacity needs will require us to eventually obtain new spectrum. If we are unable to maintain or obtain licenses for the provision of 5G specific telecommunications services or if our licenses are not renewed or are renewed on less favorable terms, our business and results of operations could be harmed. On the other hand, an earlier than expected 5G spectrum tender by the ICTA with the possibility of excessive prices can result in additional costs and investment, including capital expenditures. If the demand for 5G services fails to materialize at a level in line with the industry assumptions, the return on investment may not meet our expectations. Any of the foregoing factors could affect our profitability and our competitive position.
As our subscriber base and their demand for mobile services and data grow and as we offer a greater number of services, we will require additional capacity. We may face capacity problems, which may in turn lead to deterioration in our networks quality and may negatively impact our operational results.
We were awarded a license allowing us to deploy an IMT advanced network (4.5G) in Turkey in October 2015. There are certain coverage and local production obligations imposed by the tender. Potential increase in coverage requirements or failure to abide by the requirements of our licenses or applicable regulations may have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
We have achieved a major step forward in the development of telecommunications in Turkey with the deployment of 4.5G networks in 2016. Our 4.5G build-out requires significant financial investments and there can be no assurance that we will be able to meet all of the 4.5G license terms and conditions. The cost of the 4.5G license as well as the capital expenditure required in connection with our 4.5G build-out is significant. Furthermore, the license agreement contains certain terms that may weigh on the profitability of this investment and may have an adverse effect on our 4.5G investment plans in the future. These include terms regarding minimum required use of local equipment and procurement from local small and medium sized enterprises engaged in production in Turkey in meeting infrastructure obligations, an active network sharing obligation for a portion of the population, high coverage obligations for roads and railroads and significant taxes and spectrum usage fees, which will increase as the number of frequencies used increases. With respect to the local procurement requirement, there is not enough research and development, product development and production capacity in the local market to meet the license requirements and thus it has not been possible to comply. We have requested ICTA to waive this requirement initially for 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. However, the ICTA has not yet responded to our Company. In addition to the above obligations, we must ensure that our network equipment suppliers employ a certain number of engineers and local researchers in their local R&D centers. Although efforts have been made, we do not believe that compliance has been achieved. No assurance can be given that ICTA will not find us to be in breach of our license as a result of the foregoing. More generally, demand for 4.5G services may also not be at the level we expect, such that the return on investment we make in connection with 4.5G may not meet our expectations. Any of the foregoing factors could harm our competitive position and our profitability.
In addition, if we fail to obtain additional frequencies in the future at a reasonable cost, the competitive coverage advantage of our Company may be adversely impacted. The cost of obtaining new frequencies has increased significantly in recent years and is expected to continue to increase. This has had and is likely to continue to have an adverse impact on our cost of providing competitive coverage and also on our results of operations.
Consistent with the nature of terminal technology development, traffic on the 2G network is expected to shift to the 3G network and, once fully deployed, to the 4.5G network. However, terminal penetration is the key factor in providing the expected shift in traffic. Penetration may stay low or our subscribers may choose to stay on the 2G or 3G network for reasons such as the 2G networks lower battery power consumption. In addition, coverage will depend on the full deployment of the 4.5G network, compared to the coverage level of the 2G and 3G networks.
There are alleged health risks and zoning limitations related to our BTS may adversely affect our ability to provide services at certain areas. The fiber business is also affected by local limitations.
We are aware of allegations that there may be health risks associated with the effects of electromagnetic signals from BTS and from mobile handsets. While we believe that there is currently no substantiated link between exposure to electromagnetic signals at the level transmitted by our BTS and mobile handsets and long term damage to health, the actual or perceived health risks of mobile communications devices could adversely affect us through a reduction in subscribers, reduced usage per subscriber, increased difficulty in the leasing and acquisition of site locations for base stations and exposure to potential liability. Furthermore, we may not be able to obtain insurance with respect to such liability on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
In recent years, legal proceedings have been brought against mobile operators seeking the removal of base station sites for health reasons. In addition, the Turkish Supreme Court overruled the decisions of some local courts, finding that a base station in question could have negative effects on human health over the long term. If the number of those cases increases or if new regulations were to result, these could have a material adverse effect on our operations and financial results. Such legal proceedings may make it more difficult for us to establish and maintain such sites. Furthermore, there are conflicting and confusing reports in the media about the health effects of BTS. These reports have even caused local residents in certain regions to form large protests in strong objection to the BTS sites. Such obstacles have made it increasingly difficult to build new BTS sites and maintain our existing sites. The ICTA has issued an updated regulation which further tightened electromagnetic field limits. This may negatively impact network quality and increase our capital expenditures.
There are zoning limitations related to our BTS that require operators to obtain construction permits and certificates, which may be costly and may have an adverse effect on our operating results. Zoning law in Turkey requires mobile operators to obtain certifications for all existing and new BTS, which may result in significant compliance costs and/or closing of BTS for which certification cannot be obtained, negatively impacting our financial condition. An exception to this requirement for base stations was rescinded by a court decision. As a result of this situation, some municipalities take actions to suspend the construction of BTS or order their demolition. The Planned Areas Zoning Regulation has been in effect since October 1, 2017. The necessity of obtaining a building permission certificate and a construction permits document, which is not possible in practice, has been abolished by the new regulation. However, there remains some uncertainty regarding the provisions on building aesthetics and silhouette, permits of the flat owners and the project implementation. Any difficulty in maintaining or building BTS due to health concerns and our inability to obtain the required permission and certificates, may negatively impact the quality of our network, including our ability to expand and upgrade it, and affect our operational performance.
In 2012, metropolitan municipalities were authorized to consider the requirements of city and building aesthetics and electronic communication services when certifying BTS sites. Municipalities regulate the choice of operators BTS locations, and if we do not have, or are unable to obtain, a site selection certificate in our preferred location, we may have to move our BTS to another less desirable location. In addition, the Site Selection Certificate Regulation entered into force in January 2018, according to which the site selection certificate and fee was set at TRY 2,400 (TRY 2,970 for the year 2019), applicable only to BTS sites established after December 2012. Such regulation is likely to lead to additional operational costs, and the certificate processes for implementation of sites may delay the permit process.
Our fiber business must excavate to lay new cables and repair existing cables, and there is an obligation to get permission for excavations from authorized municipalities or institutions. In some areas, excavations may have to be stopped due to the high cost of tariffs requested from municipalities. Our investment plans may be affected due to excavations being banned during certain seasons within the administrative boundaries of municipalities. Also, since June 2018 operators primarily have to request from the most prevailing operator in terms of infrastructure in Turkey - Turk Telekom to perform the excavation work on their behalf, which might negatively affect our ability to expand our fibre network and our future investments (see Regulatory decisions and changes in the regulatory environment could adversely affect our business and financial condition). In some cases, we could face the risk that, although we get the approval of the Turkish Ministry institutions subordinate to the Turkish Ministry do not recognize these approvals and do not give permission to excavate. In addition, a new law has increased the number of metropolitan municipalities and in some cases, the size of their territory was increased, which may have the effect of increasing our coverage obligations and the number of BTS required to meet them. Furthermore, right of way conflicts with major municipalities to establish fiber optics infrastructure may affect our ability to provide services and to maintain operational excellence. Related regulatory actions in the future are likely to increase our costs and affect results of operations, in many cases, adversely.
We are dependent on a small number of suppliers for network equipment, information systems and handsets and for the provision of data and services. We also rely on a small number of distributors. The failure of any of our counterparty such as suppliers or distributors may have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
Like all telecommunications network operators, we purchase our communications network equipment from a limited number of major suppliers. Our business is dependent on a small number of critical suppliers in areas such as network infrastructure, information systems and handsets and distribution. Further, we have worked with only two distributors in Turkey since 2015 which creates concentration risk. Any financial difficulty or failure of any of our suppliers and/ or our distributors in terms of timing and quality may adversely affect our business and financial condition. There can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain equipment from one or more alternative suppliers on a timely basis in the event that any current supplier for any reason, including that the technological requirements for our increasingly advanced infrastructure are too complex, is unable or unwilling to satisfy our demands. Our competitive position could also be adversely affected if our suppliers fall behind technological developments compared to the suppliers of our competitors. Adverse economic conditions have negatively affected and may continue to affect our domestic and international suppliers, leading to a contraction in their business, which in turn may lead to a decrease in the quality of the services that they render to us and adversely affect timely delivery of such services, negatively impacting our business and operations. In particular, if prices at which we purchase products from our domestic and international suppliers increase, namely as a result of currency depreciation and inflation both in Turkey and internationally, we need to pass on all or a large portion of these additional costs to our customers to be able to maintain our margins. However, we may be unable to increase the selling price of products or services to fully or partially offset the price increases by our suppliers (some of which have considerable negotiating power), particularly if our main competitors choose not to implement such price increases. In addition, our existing license agreements or new regulations may require us to purchase network equipment from specified suppliers or meet certain specifications regarding our existing suppliers. Equipment from these suppliers may not always be compatible with our existing equipment or the supplier may fail to integrate it, and our employees may not be familiar with the technical specifications and maintenance requirements of equipment from these suppliers. Furthermore, if our suppliers fail to meet the requirements, we may end up violating the terms of our license agreements. These factors could also have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
Turkcells complex ownership structure and ongoing disagreements among our main shareholders have adversely impacted in the past and may impact decision-making on important matters in the future. These ongoing disputes may lead to further regulatory or legal actions, and affect the ownership and control of our company.
Our principal shareholder is Turkcell Holding A.S., which holds 51% of Turkcells shares as of March 7, 2019, based on the Companys share book. Sonera Holding BV sold 13.07% of our shares to the market in two tranches (May 10 and September 21, 2017) which led to an increase of 48.95% in our publicly held shares.
Turkcell Holding A.S. is 52.91% owned by Cukurova Telecom Holdings Limited and 47.09% by Telia Finland Ojy. Cukurova Telecom Holdings Limited is 51% owned by Cukurova Finance International Limited and 49% by Alfa Telecom Turkey Limited. According to public filings (a Schedule 13D filed in November 2009), Alfa and Telia Company entered into an agreement regarding a possible consolidation of their holdings in Turkcell into a new company. In a Schedule 13D filed on December 16, 2014, Alfa has deleted references to this agreement.
Cukurova and Alfa are involved in a long-running dispute regarding, in summary, amounts due by Cukurova to Alfa and Alfas claim to take ownership of Cukurovas indirect 13.8% interest in our Company in settlement of such amounts. In 2014, as a result of a court decision, Cukurova paid Alfa $1.6 billion to release this claim. Cukurova has been provided loan financing amounting to $1.6 billion by the Turkish state-owned Ziraat Bank for which an indirect 13.8% interest in our Company has been provided as collateral. According to the latest publicly available information, Alfa and Cukurova remain in a stalemate over a right given to Alfa to buy Cukurovas stake and rights of Cukurova to either buy Alfas stake or sell its own stake to Alfa. This dispute and other disputes have effectively blocked shareholder decision-making on important corporate matters, and could have an adverse effect on the ability of our management to execute business decisions and take other actions. We cannot predict how the resolution of this dispute will affect our Company, whether other disputes will be resolved and whether our shareholders will be able to achieve agreement on matters regarding the operation of our Company.
The shareholding structure and the ongoing disputes have adversely affected our company in a number of ways and present a number of risks, including in particular:
Our Articles of Association contain quorum and majority requirements, at various levels, for shareholder meetings and decisions. Failure to achieve a quorum or the required majority vote can block decisions that require shareholder approval. Prior to our shareholders meeting held in 2015, we have had difficulty convening shareholder meetings and numerous items submitted to our shareholders have not been approved,
including the distribution of dividends, the approval of our dividend policy, the election of independent board members, the release of directors for actions taken and the approval of financial statements. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, due to lack of quorum, the annual general assemblies could not convene on time. A general assembly was eventually convened on March 26, 2015. The annual general assembly meeting for 2016 and 2017 convened on May 25, 2017 and March 29, 2018; respectively, but in both instances did not approve all items submitted to it. It was decided at the annual general assembly meeting for 2017 that three members of the Board of Directors appointed as per the decision of the Capital Markets Board (CMB) shall be dismissed and three new candidates proposed by Turkcell Holding A.S., our majority shareholder, shall be appointed in their place. Our Board of Directors is yet to call the Annual General Assembly Meeting of our Company for 2018.
A number of corporate governance requirements were enacted under Turkish regulations by the Capital Markets Board with mandatory effect from June 30, 2012.
We were unable to comply with some of these requirements because of a lack of consensus among our main shareholders, including a requirement that one-third of our Board members and that all of our Audit Committee members be independent.
Under the Capital Markets Law, the CMB has the power to take action against the Company, our Board members and our main shareholders in respect of the various governance issues that have arisen or to amend the Articles of Association without general assembly approval. Under such powers, the CMB had directly appointed all of the current members of our Board during 2013. The CMB appointed members terms of office will last until new appointments are made in accordance with applicable legislation, which may as in the past include by CMB appointment.
An Investor Compensation Center (ICC) was formed in 2013 by the CMB under the 2013 Capital Markets Law. Under the Capital Markets Law that deals with the duties and responsibilities of the CMB, it is stipulated that the ICC may use the rights vested on the general assembly in public companies whose ordinary general meetings of two consecutive financial years could not be made within statutory deadlines and whose board members have been nominated partly or wholly by the CMB. The Regulation on the Investor Compensation Center was published in the Official Gazette with no further details on how this right shall be exercised by the ICC. The form and scope of such actions are not clearly defined and we are not aware of any precedents, thus were we to find ourselves in this situation in the future, we may not be able to predict what actions the ICC might eventually take, if any.
No assurance may be given regarding the impact of past or future CMB actions, future ICC actions, or any future legal actions against our Company, on the overall company strategy, convening of our general assembly or the distribution of dividends.
Compliance with our home country governance rules is an important element of our compliance with the listing requirements of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Failure to comply with such rules could jeopardize the continued listing and trading of our ADRs on the NYSE.
For so long as our main shareholders are in dispute and/or unable to achieve consensus, we are likely to continue to experience difficulties obtaining corporate decisions, including with respect to the matters discussed above, and we may have difficulty obtaining decisions regarding our business and operations. This situation may also lead to further regulatory and legal actions being taken in respect of our Company, the nature and effects of which we cannot predict. Ongoing disputes among the shareholders may affect the ownership and control of our shares, the demand for and price of our shares and our ability to manage our business, and no assurance can be given that the interests of these shareholders will be aligned with those of our other shareholders.
We are involved in various claims and legal actions arising in connection with our business, which could have a material effect on our financial condition.
We are subject to investigations and regular audits by governmental authorities in Turkey, including the Competition Board, the ICTA, tax authorities and certain other parties, and governmental authorities in other countries in which we have operations. We are currently involved in various claims and legal actions with such authorities. We set aside provisions on an as-needed basis with regard to our ongoing disputes in line with applicable accounting standards. However, no assurance can be given that the provisions we set aside will be sufficient to cover any actual losses under these matters, or that new disputes will not arise under which we would face additional liabilities and reputational risk. For a more detailed discussion of disputes that we presently believe to be significant, see Item 8. Financial Information and Note 37 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F.
We face a risk of tax audits and claims in many different areas that are subject to taxation, such as corporate tax, value added taxes and others. Such audits and claims have led to significant tax assessments and penalties in the past and may again in the future. In addition, changes in tax laws and non-tax regulations may lead to the growth of our tax burden and may, as a result, materially adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Disputes related to taxation have been particularly significant and major penalties have resulted. Current tax disputes include the following:
We have had ongoing disputes regarding the application of the Turkish Special Communication Tax (SCT) to prepaid card TL/package sales made via our sales channels over numerous years. In accordance with the Law no.6736 the Company filed applications for the restructuring of penalties and interest on the Special Communication Tax regarding the disputes on the tax amount for the years 2008-2012 in November 2016. The tax office accepted the restructuring application for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012, and we paid the restructured amount and settled the disputes in November 2016. On the other hand, the tax office rejected the application for the restructuring of SCT regarding the dispute on the tax amount for the year 2011. The Company also filed a case for the cancellation of aforementioned rejection act of Tax Office for the year 2011. The case is pending as well as the cases regarding the cancellation of the SCT assessment for the year 2011.
In accordance with the Law no.7143, in August 2018, the Company filed applications for the restructuring of penalties and interest on the SCT regarding the disputes on the tax amount for the years 2013 and 2014. In August 2018, the tax office accepted the restructuring application for the years 2013 and 2014, and Company paid the restructured amount and settled the disputes by October 2018.
However, our Company remains under investigation on the same matter for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Although the Ministry of Finance has addressed this issue through Communiqués enacted on January 1, 2018 for periods after December 31, 2017, we may be subject to penalties or litigation with the tax authorities for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Following a limited tax investigation at our Company with respect to Value Added Tax (VAT) and SCT pertaining to financial years 2015 and 2016, we were informed by the Large Taxpayers Office that no issues were identified for 2015. However, the Large Taxpayers Office made an additional request with respect to the taxation of applications included in some of the bundled offers and packages offered to our customers for financial year 2016 and imposed a tax assessment of TRY247.8 million in total, comprising TRY53.8 million in principal and TRY80.7 million penalty in relation to SCT, and TRY45.3 million in principal and TRY68.0 million penalty in relation to VAT. A settlement request related to this assessment has been sent to the Revenue Administration for the period of 2016 on December 9, 2018. Depending on the outcome of the settlement, we may decide to take this matter to court.
Under our licenses (2G and 3G) and Authorization Certificate (4.5G) as part of our license, we pay a monthly treasury share equal to 15% of our gross revenue subject to some exemptions. We are currently subject to ongoing audits in this are, for periods through 2017, and the Turkish Treasury may change its opinions based on interpretations of treasury share calculations. Therefore, unanticipated treasury share liabilities and fines may also be levied. We have also had several long running disputes with the Turkish Treasury regarding claims for payments of additional treasury share and allegations of deficient treasury share and contribution share payments and penalties imposed within the context of our 2G and 3G Concession Agreements.
We also have been involved in several disputes regarding administrative fines imposed by the ICTA, warnings established by ICTA, and ICTAs additional radio utilization and usage fee requests made after ICTAs investigations on number of subscribers and radio utilization and usage fees regarding the years 2004 to 2014.
Under the Law No. 7061, we have settled the related Treasury share and ICTA disputes described above, and increased the tax base within the scope of Law in order to restructure treasury share, contribution share to the universal service fund, contribution share payment and administrative fees for the periods for which examination is ongoing or has not been yet initiated. The settlement amount including interest on installments is TRY 600.8 which was paid out in 2018. No assurance can be given that further disputes will not arise with regard to the year 2018 and future years.
Based on the Laws stated above, all the installments have been paid and processes have been completed. In this regard, we have closed the possibilities with regard to investigations upon treasury share, universal service contribution and ICTA as of January 01, 2018.
According to Serial Nr. 7061 Law, as of January 1, 2018, Treasury Share investigations will be made by the Ministry of Finance. Investigations are held by the Ministry of Finance for the first time and there is no assessment for the period of January to September 2018. An investigation related to the last three months of 2018 was initiated on February 7, 2019.
The Company is also under investigation for (i) the year 2017 with regard to SCT and for (ii) the year 2018 with regard to SCT, Corporate Income Tax and VAT.
The Company Management decided to apply for VAT and corporate income tax base increase mechanism for 2017 in accordance with Law Serial No. 7143; accordingly, there will be no tax assessment for the applications related to VAT and CIT but the Company may remain subject to tax assessment for other taxes payable by it.
Under the Ministry of Trade (formerly Ministry of Customs and Trade) investigation with regard to value added services, subscription contracts and device campaigns, we received an administrative fine amounting to TRY 116.2 million. We filed a lawsuit for the stay of execution and cancellation of the penalty. After filing the lawsuit, the administrative penalty decision was withdrawn and the related audit reopened. The Court decided that there is no need to grant a decision regarding the withdrawal of the administrative fine. The case is in appeal progress. On the other hand, as a result of the investigation the Ministry of Trade decided to impose an administrative fine amounting to TRY 138 million against the Company. The Company filed a lawsuit for the stay of execution and cancellation of the administrative fine. The case is pending. No assurance can be given that significant penalties will not again be imposed and that further disputes will not arise.
Administrative fines were requested in the context of the ICTA investigation related to some reporting errors (both for 3G and 4.5G) and the failure to fulfill the obligations regarding the minimum required use of local equipment and procurement from local small and medium-sized enterprises for the 2013-2016 periods under 4.5G licence terms. Furthermore, an additional fine may be requested in the investigation carried out by the ICTA for the following reporting period, on the same grounds.
The Turkish Competition Board has for several years alleged that we have abused our dominant position in the Turkish mobile market through our exclusive practices directed at our dealers. While there is no ongoing investigation of Turkcell regarding such allegations, this and similar actions may have financial consequences and hinder our ability to respond to the competition.
For a more detailed discussion of our disputes that we presently believe to be significant, see Note 37 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F.
Although we maintain and regularly review our internal control over financial reporting, there are inherent limitations on the effectiveness of our controls, particularly as our Company grows and enters into new businesses.
We maintain and regularly review internal control over our financial reporting. However, internal control over financial reporting has inherent limitations and there is no assurance that a system of internal control over financial reporting, including one determined to be effective, will prevent or detect all misstatements on a timely basis. A control system, no matter how well-designed and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance regarding financial statement preparation and presentation. This risk is exacerbated by our rapid growth into new activities, which creates additional challenges in identifying risks and designing and implementing systems to control them. Furthermore, we operate in a decentralized structure in which most compliance functions are managed at the level of our operating companies rather than at the parent company level, which can further complicate the process of identifying risks and designing and implementing systems.
Our systems may not always allow us to detect and prevent fraud or other misconduct by our employees, representatives, agents, suppliers, dealers or other third parties. We may be exposed to fraud or other misconduct committed by our employees, representatives, agents, suppliers, dealers or other third parties that could subject us to litigation, financial losses and sanctions imposed by governmental authorities, as well as affect our reputation. Such misconduct could include misappropriating funds, conducting transactions that are outside of authorized limits, engaging in misrepresentation or fraudulent, deceptive or otherwise improper activities, including in return for any type of benefits or gains or otherwise not complying with applicable laws or our internal policies and procedures.
Our latest review as of December 31, 2018, similar to last year, has revealed certain deficiencies in our controls, although none that we believe constitutes a material weakness. Our controls have in the past suffered from deficiencies and no assurance can be given that others will not emerge in the future. A failure to detect or correct deficiencies and weaknesses in a timely manner could have an adverse effect on the accuracy of our financial reporting and on our operations and may also cause financial losses.
Our business, consolidated financial results and/or operational performance could be adversely affected unless we retain our key personnel, our partners and their employees.
Our performance depends, to a significant extent, on the abilities and continued service of our key personnel. Competition for qualified telecommunications and technology personnel in Turkey and elsewhere is intense, in particular in the area of cyber-security. In addition, we depend on our dealers, distributors and their employees for the growth and maintenance of our customer base. The loss of the services or loyalty of key personnel could adversely affect our business and financial condition and could lead to breaches of confidentiality, particularly if a number of such persons were to join a competitor.
Muhterem Kaan Terzioglu resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer of our Company, effective March 15, 2019. Murat Erkan, our Companys Executive Vice President of Sales, is now serving as acting Chief Executive Officer. Our future success will be dependent upon the ability to identify and engage a suitable candidate within a reasonable time period and, thereafter, the ability of the new Chief Executive Officer to effectively transition into this role. Our new Chief Executive Officer could make organizational changes, including changes to our management team and may make changes to our Companys structure and business strategy. These changes could adversely affect the success of our business and our ability to compete effectively, which could impact our revenues, operations, and results of operations.
Our ADS price may be volatile, and purchasers of ADSs could incur substantial losses.
The market price of our ADSs may be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations, in particular due to the fact that trading in the ADSs will take place in different currencies (U.S. dollars on the NYSE and Turkish liras on the Borsa Istanbul), and mostly at different times (resulting from different time zones, different trading days and different public holidays in the United States and Turkey), resulting in the trading prices of these securities differing on these two markets. Securities markets worldwide experience significant price and volume fluctuations. This market volatility, as well as general economic, market or political conditions, could reduce the market price of our ADSs in spite of our operating performance. In addition, our operating results could be below the expectations of public market analysts and investors due to a number of potential factors, including changes in our quarterly operating results or dividends, additions or departures of key management personnel, failure to meet analysts earnings estimates, publication of negative research reports about our industry, failure of securities analysts to cover our shares or changes in financial estimates by analysts, litigation and government investigations, changes or proposed changes in laws or regulations or differing interpretations or enforcement thereof affecting our business, adverse market reaction to any indebtedness we may incur or securities we may issue in the future, changes in market valuations of similar companies or speculation in the press or investment community, announcements by our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, dispositions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments, adverse publicity about the industry we operate in or individual scandals. Consequently, in response to these events, the market price of our ADSs could decrease significantly, and purchasers of ADSs could incur substantial losses.
|ITEM 4.|| |
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell), a joint stock company organized and existing under the laws of the Republic of Turkey, was formed in 1993 and commenced operations in 1994. Our principal shareholder is Turkcell Holding A.S., which holds 51.00% of Turkcells shares based on the Companys share book. Based on publicly-available information, we believe that Turkcell Holding A.S. is 52.91% owned by Cukurova Telecom Holdings Limited and 47.09% by Telia Sonera Finland Oyj. Based on publicly-available information, we believe that Cukurova Telecom Holdings Limited is 51% owned by Cukurova Finance International Limited and 49% by Alfa Telecom Turkey Limited.
The address of our principal office is Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S., Turkcell Kucukyali Plaza, Aydinevler Mahallesi Inonu Caddesi No:20 Kucukyali Ofispark, Maltepe, Istanbul, Turkey. Our telephone number is +90 (212) 313 10 00. Our website address is www.turkcell.com.tr. In July 2000, we completed our initial public offering with the listing of our ordinary shares on the Borsa Istanbul and our ADSs on NYSE.
We operate under a 25-year GSM license granted in April 1998, a 20-year 3G license granted in April 2009 and a 13-year 4.5G authorization certificate granted in April 2016.
Our GSM license was granted in April 1998. Under our license, we pay the Undersecretariat of the Treasury (the Turkish Treasury) a monthly treasury share equal to 15% of our gross revenue. Of such fee, 10% is paid to the Turkish Ministry for a universal service fund. We also operate under interconnection agreements with other operators that allow us to connect our networks with those operators to enable the transmission of calls to and from our GSM system.
In early 2009, we were granted a 20-year type A 3G license, which provides the widest frequency band and we signed the related 3G license agreement on April 30, 2009. The 3G license agreement has similar provisions to the aforementioned 2G license agreement.
In 2013, we won an auction held by the Turkish Ministry related to universal service, which requires installing sufficient infrastructure to uncovered areas with a population of less than 500 and the operation of the service in these
areas for three years. This contract was renewed through December 31, 2018 and the extension contained new requirements to provide mobile broadband services and to operate the new and existing networks together. Recently the contract was extended again with same conditions through December 31, 2019
In the 4.5G auction held on August 26, 2015, we were awarded a total frequency band of technology agnostic 172.4 MHz, the largest amount of spectrum of any operator, for EUR 1,623.5 million (excluding VAT and interest payable on the installments). We commenced offering 4.5G services from April 1, 2016. The 4.5G license is effective for 13 years until April 30, 2029. The total fee was paid in four installments, where the last installment amounting TRY 1,535 million (originally EUR 413.8 million, converted by the buying exchange rate on January 2, 2017 announced by CBRT) was paid in April 2017.
Turkcell has a total frequency bandwidth of 234.4 MHz, which corresponds to 43% of total spectrum available to the mobile operators in Turkey. The large spectrum assets, including the wide frequency bands on 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz, along with a strong network deployment, have enabled us to provide the fastest 4.5G speeds over 1 Gbps through carrier aggregation combinations and availability of advanced user devices supporting new features. In this scope, in April 2018, we showcased 1.2 Gbps peak speed in our live network with a commercial smartphone, aiming to provide our customers with the highest peak speeds in the world provided by the latest technological advancements. According to the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) report dated February 2019, Turkcell supports up to 1.2 Gbps speeds on its network which makes it one of the fastest mobile operators in the world. This allows customers to get better network experience and access mobile services at speeds comparable to fiber broadband.
Following the 4.5G launch, Turkcell focused on providing innovative and pioneering digital services; which differentiates its offerings from the competition. We develop and manage digital services and solutions to address the diverse needs of both consumers and corporate customers, thereby enriching their lives. Thus, Turkcell defines itself as a digital operator.
In 2018, we had total revenues of TRY 21,292.5 million and we reported net income of TRY 2,021.1 million (excluding non-controlling interest). For the year ended December 31, 2018, we spent TRY 7,643.0 million on capital expenditures including non-operational items, 3G license fee payment in Ukraine and the impact of IFRS16 standard on lease contracts, compared to TRY 4,087.4 million and TRY 3,494.4 million in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Capital expenditures in 2017 and 2016 related mainly to our 4.5G license fee payment, and the GSM and fixed-line network investments of the Company, Superonline and lifecell in Ukraine.
Our subscriber base has grown substantially since we began operations in 1994. At year-end 1994, we had 63,500 subscribers. By year-end 2018, that number had grown to 48.9 million for the Group.
In addition to our operations in Turkey, we have various international operations. For more information, see Item 4.B. Business OverviewInternational and Domestic Subsidiaries.
Since 2016, we have strived to pioneer the provision of digital services in Turkey, and in line with this strategic vision we provide a wide range of cutting edge digital services over our leading network, on top of offering high-end mobile and fixed voice and data services as a converged operator. We have now become a digital operator, while maintaining our strong position in the market due to our customer-oriented approach as well as our ability to quickly provide diverse solutions to meet our customers communication and digital needs throughout the day.
We have shifted to an organizational structure with the aim of increasing efficiency and simplifying our business processes, as well as strengthening our position as a provider of converged communications and digital services. We have integrated our marketing efforts and sales channel; developed an internal company performance monitoring platform and have established customer services as a key focus area.
We have differentiated our network through its quality and speed of service, and have extensive spectrum rights covering 43% of the total spectrum available, extensive 3G coverage and the broadest 4.5G license of any operator in terms of spectrum allocation. We have also focused on building out an advanced fiber network to support our mobile and fixed offerings (including broadband and television), through our 43.3 thousand km fiber network in Turkey as of December 31, 2018. We are capable of delivering our fiber internet service to 6.44 million households in 28 cities with our own infrastructure and through partnership engagements.
We had 48.9 million subscribers in Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Germany as of December 31, 2018. In Turkey, we had 36.7 million total mobile, fixed and IPTV subscribers as at the same date.
Our business is divided into two main reportable segments: Turkcell Turkey and Turkcell International.
Turkcell Turkey. Our Turkish telecommunications business represents the largest share of our business, accounting for 85.8% of our revenues and 85.7% of our Adjusted EBITDA in the year ended December 31, 2018. During the first half of 2015 we realigned our strategy in Turkey to focus on developing innovative and integrated telecommunications solutions for consumer, corporate and wholesale customers in Turkey by leveraging our leading brand, extensive customer base, technological capabilities and strong distribution channels. We have invested in what we believe to be the most advanced mobile and fiber networks in Turkey and have the broadest 4.5G spectrum in Turkey, which we believe provides us with a competitive advantage by allowing us to provide high quality and high speed data service to our customers, as well as providing digital services on top. Revenues from data and services and solutions have been growing rapidly, with an aggregate growth of 18.2% in the year ended December 31, 2018.
Turkcell International. Turkcell International accounted for 6.8% of our revenues in the year ended December 31, 2018. We have telecommunications operations in a number of emerging market geographies that we believe are complementary to our operations in Turkey and the potential to export our business model. These geographies include Ukraine (which accounted for 4.3% of our revenues in the year ended December 31, 2018), Belarus (which accounted for 1.4% of our revenues in the year ended December 31, 2018) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (which accounted for 0.8% of our revenues in the year ended December 31, 2018) and Germany.
All other segments. Mainly comprised of our consumer financing services, information and entertainment services in Turkey and call center revenues. This segment accounted for 9.1% of our revenues in the year ended December 31, 2018, of which 1.7% is attributable to intersegment eliminations.
We have a strong track record of profitable operations with total revenues for 2018 of TRY 21,292.5 million, Adjusted EBITDA in 2018 of TRY 8,788.0 million and net income in 2018 of TRY 2,021.1 million (excluding non-controlling interests). We have achieved these results while continuing to invest in our network to support our strategy of offering innovative solutions, with capital expenditures for 2018 of TRY 7,643.0 million.
We are the only company listed on both the NYSE and the Borsa Istanbul, and had a market capitalization of TRY 27 billion as of December 31, 2018, making us the sixth most valuable publicly traded company in Turkey at that time.
GSM, one of the digital standards for mobile communications, was developed in 1987 to facilitate unification and integration of mobile communications worldwide.
Since Turkcell was founded in 1994, mobile technology has evolved from GSM (2G) to UMTS/HSPA+ (3G) to LTE/LTE-Advanced (4G/4.5G), providing new capabilities and extensive improvements in customer experience. 2G was originally intended to carry voice, with some limited data and messaging capabilities whereas the focus in 3G shifted more to data, along with simultaneous voice and data capability. 4G has brought fully IP-based architecture where everything is considered data. Turkcell currently has all of these technologies in its mobile networks to serve customers who use and depend on them based on their subscription profiles and terminal types. With the advent of 4G/4.5G technologies it has become possible to introduce more sophisticated services utilizing lower latency and higher data speeds.
Our Company has also branched out in to the development of fixed line networks, including fiber-optics connecting directly to the home, creating a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
b. The Turkish Telecommunications Market
We believe that the Turkish telecommunications market has growth potential due to favorable demographics, including a relatively young population and lower penetration levels compared to Western Europe and other developed markets.
According to a TUIK announcement, the estimated median age of the Turkish population is 32, which is lower than elsewhere in Western Europe, and the majority of the population lives in urban areas. There were 82 million people living in Turkey as of December 31, 2018.
There are currently three major operators in the telecommunications sector in Turkey, Turkcell Turkey, Vodafone Telekomunikasyon A.S. (Vodafone) and Turk Telekomunikasyon A.S. (Turk Telekom and together with its mobile segment (formerly known as Avea) and TTNET, Turk Telekom Group). In 2018, the total revenue of the Turkish mobile and fixed markets was TRY 49.3 billion compared to TRY 42.6 billion in 2017, according to the operators announcements (for the calculation of total market revenues, non-group call centers and financial services revenues are added to Turkcell Turkeys reported revenue and Turk Telekoms construction revenue is excluded).
Vodafone entered the Turkish mobile market by acquiring Telsim on May 24, 2006 from the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (SDIF). Turk Telekom Group is 55% owned by Levent Yapilandirma Yonetimi A.S.
Turkcell began its digital transformation in April 2015, with the vision of becoming a digital operator a provider of the full set of digital experiences for its customers and a leader in the digitization of the economy in countries where it operates.
Almost four years on, we now define ourselves as a digital operator. Having reached 169 million digital apps and services downloads as of the end of 2018, we aim to become a global digital leader with 1 billion apps and services downloads globally in the coming three years (driven in part by the expanstion of our services to additional geographies, including through partnership arrangements). Referring to the total number of minutes in a day, we seek to create value and customer engagement for each and every one of the 1,440 minutes. In short, our strategy is to fulfill the term Digital Operator 1440 and to expand this digital model globally with operator partnerships. This strategy is also abbreviated as DO 1440 as a reference to Turkcell Groups execution-focused approach.
This strategy has allowed us to expand customer engagement from traditional communications to a wide range of digital activities including, among others, search and browsing, entertainment and information, IP-based communication, personal storage, productivity apps in areas as diverse as agriculture, transportation and digital management. This is enabled by our significant mobile and fixed network capabilities, which provide the seamless connectivity required for the penetration of our digital services.
We also help enable the digitalization of other players in the business ecosystem of the countries where we operate. We have turned our credentials management capabilities into a digital service, adopting GSMA (The GSM Association)-led Mobile Connect technology as Fast Login a safe, secure and seamless identity authentication gateway to numerous websites and mobile apps for both Turkcell and non-Turkcell customers. We have expanded in fintech through our subsidiary Paycell, providing seamless digital and digitally-supported payment opportunities to customers both online and in the physical space. Together, Fast Login and Paycell form our e-commerce platform, through which we support content and service owners, adding digital customer care, cybersecurity and data center/cloud services where necessary. Our strategy is focused on developing these capabilities further and expanding them to more customers as we contribute to the value creation in the digital economy.
Approximately, two-thirds of our mobile customers use at least one Turkcell digital app in addition to voice and data services. Similarly, nearly every one out of two fiber customers use our IPTV services. Increasing the percentage of multiplay remains a core part of our strategy, as we continue to see greater customer engagement, higher ARPU and lower churn among adopters of our digital services.
In September 2017, our confidence in the relevance of our digital operator model had resulted in the launch of a brand based entirely on data and digital services: Lifecell. Lifecell marked another first in our digital operator strategy through its offers that seek to meet all communication and digital needs through mobile data and digital services. Our customers can make calls via BiP, listen to music via fizy, enjoy viewing through TV+, and search through Yaani with a dedicated data quota. In 2018, in line with our policy of making our business model open to all players of the digital ecosystem, we launched Lifecell Mix which curates apps and services from other providers with a dedicated internet quota, enabling greater choice for the end-user. As of the end of 2018, Lifecell subscribers had reached 2.5 million.
We continue to support our digital operator model with investments in industries that have synergies with our digital business. Our consumer finance company, Financell which is Turkeys largest issuer in terms of the number of credit lines extended continues to enable users to access smart devices, most notably smartphones and tablets. Our energy company Turkcell Enerji focuses on renewable energy and uninterrupted power solutions. Our involvement in strategic projects in Turkey city hospitals, domestic cars, connectivity in major infrastructure projects including the new Istanbul airport leverage our joint capabilities in network technologies, big data analytics, digital interface development and, increasingly, machine-learning.We expand the know-how generated in Turkey internationally to our subsidiaries in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Belarus and Ukraine. Furthermore, in early 2018, we established Lifecell Ventures, which facilitates operator-to-operator partnerships globally, taking Turkcells digital products and services, know-how and business practices to other operators that seek to transform their business into digital models.
III. Customer Segmentation and Services
a. Customer Segmentation
In Turkey, as at December 31, 2018, we had a total of 36.7 million subscribers including 33.7 million mobile subscribers, 2.4 million fixed broadband subscribers and 613.4 thousand IPTV subscribers. As at December 31, 2018, we had 3.4 million total TV users, including OTT TV only customers.
With our digital operator vision and as part of our increased focus on customers, we take a number of actions designed to increase customer loyalty, and such loyalty actions are designed in line with the targeted segments lifestyles, needs, priorities, and expectations.
The aims of the segmentation are to:
increase the loyalty of existing Turkcell customers;
with the support of Turkcell digital services, create value for changing needs of customers.
ensure behavioral and emotional brand loyalty;
ensure a seamless series of positive brand experience throughout all customer touch points; and
attract new customers.
Turkcell Turkey divides its customers into three main categories:
In the consumer category, we manage our mobile customers either under the mass segment or under one of our two large sub-segments, youth and premium. In line with our goal of being a digital operator, we seek to create value for our customers by bundling Turkcell digital services such as BiP, fizy, Upcall, TV+, Yaani and lifebox in multiplay propositions.
Our digital brand Lifecell embraces the opportunity of by delivering our own OTT services with a tariff model that is focused on digital services, thus encouraging its customers to explore every aspect of communication and entertainment on the internet. Lifecells motto: All is possible with internet, all you need is Lifecell.
Fixed consumer customers are consolidated under a single segment (residential) and managed under the consumer category along with mobile consumers. By positioning the residential segment under the consumer category, we aim to enhance convergence between mobile and fixed businesses. Under the residential segment, we have our fiber internet customers, who use our own fiber infrastructure, and our DSL customers, to whom Turkcell is a reseller.
The corporate category for our mobile and fixed customers comprises our Small and Medium Business customers and our Enterprise customers. We provide differentiated mobile communication offers for each of these customer types, as well as campaigns and co-branded activities with selected companies from other sectors to create added value for targeted segments.
Our wholesale category focuses on managing wholesale voice, data and roaming services with the national licensed operators, international operators and network-centric business owners such as data centers and content providers.
For roaming services, the wholesale category strives to achieve the best international coverage for customers to have continuous communication wherever they travel and to enable all visitors to enjoy the service quality of Turkcell.
For wholesale data and voice services, our main strategy is to become the regional junction point in an increasingly digitally hyper-connected world, and while promoting our infrastructure in the international market, we are focusing on growing as a preferred wholesale partner of local operators in the domestic market as well.
We provide high quality mobile and fixed voice, data, TV and digital services to our subscribers throughout Turkey. We provide a range of traditional telecommunication and digital services to our customers, enabling them to call, search, stream music and watch videos and roam abroad. Our mobile subscribers can choose between our postpaid and
prepaid services. Currently, postpaid subscribers sign a subscription contract and receive monthly bills for services. Prepaid subscribers must purchase a starter pack, which consists of a simcard with 3GB of monthly data and a balance of TRY 35 or monthly usage allowance with 1000 minutes and 6 GB of data, together with a one-time 3GB additional data quota, while the top-up (TRY refill) cards or usage allowance (package refill) cards (both physical and digital) can be purchased in amounts ranging from TRY 30 to TRY 180. As of December 31, 2018, we had 14.9 million prepaid subscribers and 18.8 million postpaid subscribers, compared to approximately 15.6 million prepaid subscribers and 18.5 million postpaid subscribers as of December 31, 2017.
We provide a range of fixed services in Turkey including voice, broadband and digital services to consumers and a wider range of services to our corporate customers, including cloud services and traffic carrying. We provide these services through a combination of our own fiber infrastructure, through partnership engagements and leased copper ADSL lines. Starting September 2018, our contracts with our customers are for a period of 12 months,. As of December 31, 2018, we had approximately 2.4 million fixed line customers of which approximately 1.4 million were fiber and 905.6 thousand were ADSL customers.
(i) Voice Services
Voice services are one of the key services that we provide to our customers. Voice services consist of high quality mobile communication services on a prepaid and postpaid basis and fixed voice services for consumers and corporate customers.
Our broadband services consist of mobile broadband, fiber to the home/building and ADSL Docsis, and LTE.
We launched our LTE (4.5G) network simultaneously in 81 city centers in Turkey on April 1, 2016.
The launch of 4.5G has provided increased network abilities and data speeds. We believe that 4.5 services coupled with the wider availability of technological products has contributed to a more connected life for our customers, resulting in an increase in overall internet usage.
Smartphones, which combine the features of a mobile phone with those of other popular digital mobile devices (e.g. personal digital assistants, media players, GPS navigation, digital camera) and have an open operating system (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows Mobile,) allowing access to the internet and running a variety of third-party and owned software applications, are an important component of the growth of our mobile broadband and digital services businesses. Smartphone penetration on our network reached 74% by the end of 2018, up from a 72% penetration at the end of 2017. To increase penetration of our 4.5G services, we launch 4.5G enabled smartphone campaigns throughout the year. As of December 31, 2018, subscribers who have signed up for 4.5G on our network have increased to 31 million, up from 30 million as of December 31, 2017. This represents 91% 4.5G subscriber penetration of our mobile customers in Turkey. The table below shows the number of smartphones in our network and smartphone penetration for the periods indicated:
Number of smartphones in our network (millions)
Smartphone penetration is calculated as the ending number of smartphone subscribers (excluding smartphone subscribers with deactivated status) divided by the ending number of Turkcell mobile voice subscribers (excluding Turkcell subscribers with deactivated status). Since the national launch of 4.5G in April 2016, the share of 4.5G enabled smartphones on our network increased to 80% (corresponding to 18.0 million), at the end of 2018, up from 15.7 million at the end of 2017.
A wide variety of data offers are made available as part of our voice and terminal bundled campaigns, where terminals are sold by dealers, to increase LTE available device penetration, create a unique terminal experience and enhance the broadband internet experience. Since February 2014, selling smartphones through credit cards with installment plans has been banned in Turkey. Turkcell initiated Turkcell Finansman A.S. (Financell), which enables customers to buy devices with installment plans, to whom Financell provides loans of up to 12 months. Smartphones with a retail price at or above TRY 3,500 and tablets can be offered with a maximum six-month installment plan, whereas this can go up to 12 months for smartphones with a retail price of up to TRY 3,500.
Distributors, dealers, Financell and Turkcell offer joint campaigns to the subscribers, which may include the sale of devices by the dealer and a communication service to be provided by us. In addition, we are selling handsets ourselves as a principal. A variety of devices are offered through these campaigns, such as smartphones, LTE available modems and
tablets and some complimentary products such as accessorizes, game consoles, headsets and virtual reality sets. Throughout 2018, we delivered attractive joint campaigns with models of brands in high demand such as Samsung, Apple, Huawei and some local handset manufacturers such as Vestel and General Mobile. We have also offered Turkcell-branded T series smartphones and a tablet with Android operating systems since 2010. We believe this contributes to increased smartphone penetration and data usage and further builds customer loyalty by offering a technologically advanced product at a competitive price. We launched the latest version of our T-series smartphone, the T80 in July 2017 and our first 4.5G enabled T-series tablet was launched in April 2016. Both devices have sold more than 100 thousand units in Turkey. In 2019 and onwards, device leasing, which will be the first such leasing opportunity in the Turkish market for retail customers, will be another solution for us to facilitate the sale of smartphones and other LTE-enabled devices.
When we sell goods or services as a principal, income and payments to suppliers are reported on a gross basis in revenue and operating costs, respectively. If we sell goods or services as an agent, revenue and payments to suppliers are recorded in revenue on a net basis, representing the margin earned.
We offer fixed broadband internet packages to our residential customers. We also offer internet, voice and TV bundles, where we benefit from the use of our own fiber. We need the incumbents network to provide services outside our own fiber infrastructure, and in these circumstances we differentiate our offering with our customer services. Therefore, outside of our own fiber infrastructure we are only able to offer double-play packages with broadband and voice to our customers. We do not offer IPTV service on DSL because our TV technology is IP based and has a multicast structure, and for technical reasons DSL infrastructure cannot support this kind of service. We emphasize our no hidden prices value proposition with our broadband products by not charging our customers for activation, modem or installation services separately, and by offering high-speed fiber broadband at attractive prices.
We also serve our customers with Wireless to the Home service SUPERBOX, which offers wireless high-speed internet access for customers who do not have fiber connectivity. The required equipment is included in the subscription plan and uses the LTE Advanced network as a backhaul to provide internet connectivity in customers premises.
(iii) Digital Services and Solutions
Over the course of the past three years, Turkcell has invested in building its own digital apps and services, reaching 169 million downloads worldwide. Today, our portfolio covers our communication platform BiP that has a broad range of features, our music platform fizy, TV platform TV+, local search engine Yaani, secure login service Fast Login, the digital payments company Paycell, and our digital magazine platform Dergilik (which is in the process of being renamed Okudo) among others. We are investing in Turkeys data infrastructure with state-of-the-art data centers which host local, regional and global players. We contribute to the digital integration of various vertical industries from health to transportation.
Since the beginning of this year, we are also focusing on taking this model abroad in cooperation with other trusted telecom operators and digital players in other countries.
After the 4.5G launch and due to our digital services strategy, one of our main targets is to increase mobile and fixed multi-play customers. Mobile triple play refers to mobile customers who use voice, data and at least one of our strategic digital services, and as of December 31, 2018, our mobile triple play ratio reached 66.7%, up from 55.8% a year ago. As of December 31, 2018, mobile triple play revenue share in mobile revenue increased to 82%, from 73% a year ago. On the fixed side, the multi-play with TV ratio refers to those customers who use our fixed residential services and our IPTV service. As of December 31, 2018, the multi-play with TV ratio increased to 48.6%, from 44.4% year over year.
Turkcell seeks to differentiate itself by providing innovative and pioneering solutions in collaboration with its strong solution providers and various partnerships.
Turkcell is focused on developing and managing digital services and solutions to address the diverse needs of both consumers and corporate customers, thereby enriching their lives all around the world. These services are designed around enhancing the communication experience of our customers via better call management and messaging services, enriching their on the go experience by using digital technologies, especially in the areas of information and entertainment (i.e. television, communication, education, music and sports) enabling our customers to access information according to their needs and providing e-commerce services such as secure login and mobile payment services.
Turkcell has numerous active in-house developed mobile applications which can be downloaded from app markets (App Store, Play Store, etc.) available for both iOS and Android platforms. These applications are all-access, as they are
available for any user regardless of their choice of mobile operator. Some of these digital services are owned and managed through Lifecell Ventures, a 100% subsidiary of Turkcell incorporated in the Netherlands. Nearly all of these apps are created by our in-house mobile application development team, comprised of approximately 1,200 engineers dedicated to developing and sustaining superior digital services experience.
Among others, below are the strategic digital services on which we focus (in no particular order):
BiP is an Integrated IP-based communication platform;
TV+ enables subscribers to watch live television channels and on-demand video content on their mobile devices and through the IPTV platform;
fizy is a digital music platform to stream and download music, listen to radio and watch video and live concerts;
lifebox is a personal cloud service that facilitates data storage;
Dergilik (currently being re-branded as Okudo) is a digital publishing platform which enables access to popular magazines and newspapers published in Turkey;
Yaani is a search engine application, designed to understand the unique syntax of Turkish;
Paycell is the single platform that offers various payment services;
My Account (re-branded as Digital Operator) is an application for our customers to track their bills and usage, change their settings and make transactions and purchases;
Goals on Your Mobile (Goller Cepte) allows fans to follow their team and be updated on a wide variety of categories such as game scores and player transfers;
Turkcell Academy provides digital learning contents and services in various categories such as technology, innovation, personal development, marketing, leadership and certificate programs;
UpCall is a call management service, which only Turkcell subscribers can use; it enables users to identify the caller ID, reach unknown numbers and block spam calls.
Kopilot connects cars to smartphones and enables real-time monitoring of metrics on the vehicles performance and driving experience.
Supercam ensures the safety of the home and workplace through communication with internal and external cameras.
We regularly monitor the performance of our digital services portfolio through KPIs including the number of downloads, three-month active users (number of unique users who, in the last three months, have logged in the app at least once) and other KPIs that are relevant to each individual service.
Integrated IP-Based Communication Platform (BiP)
BiP was downloaded 33.4 million times in 192 countries as of December 31, 2018. The application supports eleven languages. As of December 31, 2018, BiP has 11.5 million 3-month active users. In 2018, 148 million messages were sent daily on average.
The most important features of BiP includes:
Instant messaging, sending photos, videos, audios and documents;
Group messaging with multiple people, instant translation ability;
Integrating two numbers under BiP;
Discover section on business, contests, weather and many more;
High quality VoIP, video call, group video call up to 10 people;
Entertaining content: Creating and sharing internet memes, a wide range of emojis;
Disappearing messages in the pre-defined time;
Communicating with non-BiP users via SMS and network call; and
BiP Discover section offers a connected life experience as a marketplace that consists of various entertainment and information services. This section offers two way communication between users and services. BiP Discover serves more than 200 different servicesincluding top Turkish banks, TV Shows, celebrities, content providers and customer serviceswith around 50 million followers. In 2018, BiP also started to offer a gaming section which had seen 4.8 million unique visitors.
Turkcells multi-screen TV platform TV+, launched in October 2014, delivers an enhanced television viewing experience to its subscribers anywhere, any time with more than 150 channels. Its unique features as compared to other platforms include the abilities to pause and rewind live streams, record to cloud and the capability to switch between four screens. As of December 31, 2018 TV+ reached 3.4 million subscribers, 613.4 thousand of which were IPTV users. Customers who have downloaded TV+ reached 10.8 million. TV+ offers the Ultra HD supported 4K content box and 4K content on IPTV platform. Within the scope of the strategy consisting of appearing on every screen, we deployed TV+ also on Apple TV, Android TV, and Smart TV applications.
Turkcells digital music service fizy enables its users, through the application and the web version, to access a number of songs, videos, live concerts and radio channels with high quality sound on a monthly subscription fee that also includes data available for this service free of charge. Users can discover new music with the Weekly Discovery List feature, and have the flexibility to listen to their favorite songs offline. As of December 31, 2018 fizy was downloaded 20.3 million times and had 3.2 million 3-month active users. In 2018, 30 concerts were broadcasted live on fizy and watched by 1.2 million users. Fizy is also available in Ukraine, Germany, Belarus and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkcells personal cloud service, lifebox is the first local storage service in Turkey and globally provides all users the ability to store their photos, documents, and videos in one secure, convenient and personal space with auto syncing abilities and to share them easily. Everyone who downloads and logs into the lifebox application is given a 5GB of storage space free of charge. In 2018, lifebox began to offer also a phone book synchronizing feature. As of December 31, 2018 lifebox was downloaded 9.6 million times and has 2.6 million 3-month active users, with 41 files uploads per user per day on average.
Our digital publishing app, Dergilik gives users access to more than 1,500 popular magazines, including international ones, and more than 50 newspapers published in Turkey. All magazines and newspapers available on Dergilik can also be downloaded and read on a monthly subscription fee. The Dergilik service is enhanced with auto-download, favorite pages and magazines features. Dergilik users can also reach websites of magazines and newspapers free of data charge. As at the end of December 2018, Dergilik was downloaded by 9.6 million customers and reached 12.5 million 3-month active users, including users who utilized the Dergilik magazines and newspapers via browser. Dergilik is in the process of being renamed as Okudo which is expected to be completed in 2019.
Yaani is Turkeys search engine and browser, providing a fast, secure and stable browsing experience combined with a unique set of features through the Yaani Browser. Yaani is available for both iOS and Android and also through its website. Yaani was created based on Turkeys specific user patterns and can access local content first, making each search relevant. With Yaani, Turkcell adds Turkey to the list of countries to have their own search engines. Yaani was downloaded 7.2 million times and has 3 million 3-month active users by December 31, 2018.
Paycell is a techfin platfom providing digital payments and core financial solutions such as e-money and direct carrier billing. Paycell offers quick and easy payment services to around 5.2 million customers through following Paycell products and services. Paycell App was downloaded 2.6 million by the end of 2018. Paycell Direct Carrier Billing is a convenient way to pay for digital contents; Prepaid Card is the easiest way to make daily payments for unbanked and banked customers; Payment Gateway & Wallet (Card on File) solution has millions of users and cards for payment services; and Bill Payment services cover more than 300 institutions.
Goals on Your Mobile (Goller Cepte)
Goals on Your Mobile is a sports application designed for the four top soccer clubs and live score fans. It provides instant super league goal videos, VAR videos, betting analysis and the latest news. The app was downloaded 8.3 million times and has 1.6 million active users as of December 31, 2018. The service has a new simple and more user-friendly UX (user experience) since the last quarter of 2018.
Turkcell launched the Turkcell Academy service in 2014. Enriched with Turkcells technology and training know-how and content partnerships with top institutions worldwide, Turkcell Academy provides an access to a digital and innovative world. Turkcell believes that accessible knowledge with mobility will offer equal opportunities in education and empower people.
Turkcell Academy offers services for consumers and corporates. As the consumer service, Turkcell Academy has a website and mobile application that provide digital learning contents and services in various categories such as technology, innovation, personal development, marketing, leadership, certificate programs.
Regarding the corporate service, the Learning Management System (LMS) of Turkcell Academy enables to easily prepare trainings, courses, exams and questionnaires. User management on the LMS is easy-to-use and the platform also allows detailed training-tracking and reporting. Besides these advantages of Turkcell Academy LMS as a training tool; it is also a highly developed evaluation tool with its capabilities of simultaneously reporting the responses.
Turkcell Academy mobile application was downloaded 2.8 million times by the end of 2018.
My Account (Digital Operator)
One of our priorities as Turkcell is to drive customer loyalty through the digital platform. Within the scope of this strategy, we have invested in our digital self-service channels. The primary channel is our mobile application called My Account with which we provide our customers the ability to track their bills, usage and settings and execute transactions and purchases. Our engagement activities combined with these offerings brought over 37.3 million downloads and 19.2 million 3-month active users in 2018. In the fourth quarter of 2018, My Account users generated 27% more ARPU compared to non-users. Our customer satisfaction and effort scores also indicate that we offer a simple and user friendly experience and make our customers lives easier with this service. In 2018, we also used My Account app as the platform to offer a well-appreciated marketing campaign Shake & Win, which has delivered 378 million gifts, where 34% of these gifts granted to customers were TV+, fizy, Dergilik, lifebox, BiP and Paycell. This has become a substantive medium for Turkcell subscribers to meet with and experience digital services. My Account is renamed as Digital Operator in the fourth quarter of 2018.
UpCall is an application enriching and facilitating our customers calling experience with its different features. When a call is received from a number that is not saved in the phonebook, the caller ID can be seen on the screen while the phone rings. The UpCall application also has a smart search feature that enables the access to the number of an unknown person or place through number query with name; the access to the identity of the owner of an unknown number; as well as the initiation of a group call with a single click. The application also offers its users the opportunity to add a topic, picture or a sticker to their calls. As of December 31, 2018, UpCall was downloaded 5.6 million times.
Kopilot was launched in July 2018 with the aim of making cars smarter. It connects cars to smartphones and enables real-time monitoring of metrics on the vehicles performance and the driving experience. Kopilot device and app track performance of vehicles, health, activity and location, providing helpful information on driving behavior, preventative maintenance and car issues.
Supercam was launched in June 2018 to ensure the safety of the home and the workplace with our internal and external cameras. Supercam provide a heightened experience to a growing number of users through its intelligent features.
Smart Places & Business Applications
Since 2009, Turkcell has focused on its M2M/IoT business, whose principal markets in Turkey are car telematics, team tracking, fleet management, POS terminals, security alarms, smart metering, mobile health management, smart agriculture and sales force automation applications. Turkcell launched Turkeys first M2M Platform in March 2012. With the M2M Platform, customers can manage their devices more effectively. As of December 31, 2018, the number of M2M subscribers increased to 2.4 million compared to 2.3 million as of December 31, 2017.
Turkcell will continue to pioneer this business line with the release of services on upcoming new technologies such as consumer/corporate IoT, NB-IoT (NarrowBand-Internet of Things). Turkcell aims to become a product factory and launch new end-to-end solutions on specific IoT verticals.
Smart transportation, a key internet of things vertical for Smart Places & Business Applications, refers to the integrated application of smart technologies and management strategies in mobility systems, which includes B2C/B2B vehicle tracking, connected car solutions and fleet management.
Smart Manufacturing & Energy
Turkcell designs industry 4.0 and energy solutions that increase the productivity of enterprises in the field of intelligent production and integrated energy solutions. Turkcell provides solutions to create smart factories and has explored various needs and solutions in the overall energy market. We have been offering smart energy solutions through partnerships since 2015 to help corporates monitor their energy consumption and increase their efficiency. Since 2017, Turkcell and Siemens have been working on a new smart energy service, targeting corporates in the market. In 2018, a demo version was successful; the commercial launch of the service is expected in 2019.
Smart Cities & Environment
Smart Cities and Environmental solutions aims to digitally facilitate the lives of citizens and help government institutions deal with challenges raised by urbanization and operate more efficiently. Turkcell aims to expand its role on the smart city value chain through its solutions for transportation, energy, environment, security management, etc. with its strong business partner ecosystem.
Turkcell also continues to support farmers by investing in the field of digital agriculture and livestock. In 2018, more than seventy thousand farmers were able to grow their crops more efficiently with the help of Turkcell SMS information services including village-based daily weather forecasts and right cultivation method recommendations.
Turkcell Filiz, launched in late November 2018, is a mobile application and used with the soil-weather IoT station. It provides instant data regarding the field and aims to increase productivity of the grower by helping their irrigation and spraying decisions according to soil and weather conditions.
Turkcell plans to launch smart home and building solutions to provide comfort and security for its customers living and working areas.
Business Applications & Society Solutions
Business Applications provides corporate customers with a competitive advantage by providing non-core industrial solutions. Fleet management, employee tracking, push-to-talk services, cloud based Saas products, digital invoicing solutions, and new generation cash register solutions are available to streamline customer processes and provide operational efficiency through new revenue streaming channels, better customer reach and experience.
With the rise of the enterprise applications market as well as improvements in mobile internet, cloud services and mobile devices, businesses have been undergoing a strategically important process of digital and mobile transformation. Turkcell continues to be a strategic business partner to companies in all industries for transformation projects that aim to render all processes manageable via mobile devices anytime and anywhere.
e-Company is a platform which digitally transforms companies accounting and transaction processes. This platform, with more than a thousand customers, helps companies save paper, cartridge and storage space costs.
Big Data Services
In addition, to using data analysis for internal purposes, to refine and improve its offering to customers, Turkcell also offers analytic services to companies to help them understand the sector dynamics with sector based analysis, get to
know their customer base by providing demographic and behavioral analysis or competitor analysis to help them support their marketing strategy with data. Companies could also benefit from Turkcells user based data through cloud as an input to their business analytics processes or also get predictive services with Turkcell AI capabilities through cloud to help them reduce churn ratio, create a customer credit risk, target the right customer for the right offer or find the right people to advertise for new customer acquisition.
Turkcell Insights as a Service
Turkcell relaunched B2B insight services in 2018 to create an end to end solution for B2B customer market research needs. Turkcell provides a comprehensive market research or performance report to several sectors on brands and competitors customer profile, branch visits, crowdedness, purchasing behavior etc. This serves as an innovative and data-based alternative for traditional market research. Also, base station signals are used for location analytics and mobility index projects to create data-based decision making process for transportation and public sectors, or help companies boost their outdoor marketing activities by enabling them to find the best locations that match their brand.
Location Based Services
Corporate customers can monitor and manage their sales forces and fleets with Ekip Mobil (Team Mobile). Team Mobile is a management console that allows customers to view their field teams/vehicles on a map, define alarms for specific regions and create direct communication channels to the field. Team Mobile can be used on any mobile device and comes at a minimal investment cost for the companies.
Digital Society Solutions
Turkcell is eager to use its digital and technical competencies to create value for society, help disadvantaged groups to obtain equal social inclusion and create a better future. This focus resulted in several digital society solutions, including Hello Hope, My Dream Companion and My Sign Language.
Hello Hope is a mobile application which aims at facilitating the lives of Syrian refugees in Turkey, launched as a corporate social responsibility project in September 2016. Previously recognized by the GSMA for best use of mobile technology in humanitarian and emergency situations, Hello Hope received another award from the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS), led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN body for the telecommunications industry in 2017. Additionally, Hello Hope was selected among globally inspirational projects by the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy. The mobile app reached almost 1 million downloads as of the end of 2018.
My Dream Companion (MDC) application enables visually disabled individuals to access information in a fast and easy manner, and provides them more active and independent social life. Users can access thousands of daily news, columns, audio books, trainings and magazines. MDCs indoor navigation technology provides visually disabled people with and access to detailed information with regard to the stores they are passing by in shopping malls, and directs them to the appropriate store. Transportation technology of the application provides accessible transportation experiences for visually disabled people. Moreover, MDC provides audio description over a mobile application -a world first- without requiring any extra equipment or software.
My Sign Language is a mobile application that seeks to improve communication between hearing impaired people and people who do not know sign language. Written or spoken words/expressions can be instantly translated into video by the 3D Sign Language translator. It includes the most comprehensive Digital Sign Language dictionary with more than 3,500 words. As at the end of 2018, the application was downloaded 100 thousand times.
Arikovani (means Beehive in Turkish) is a crowdfunding platform that helps entrepreneurs obtain funds needed to execute their technology or innovation-oriented projects through small to large support from the public. The main objectives of Arikovani are to increase Turkeys domestic technology production and to raise social awareness around technology production. By the end of 2018, 34 projects raised more than TRY 4.6 million with individual backers and corporate companies. Turkcell supports every project at the crowd funding stage and encourages other corporates to support these projects.
Digital Business Infrastructure
Turkcell aims to contribute to increasing companies efficiency through its digital business infastructure solutions such as Domain, DNS, Web Hosting and Database services.
Turkcell Smart WiFi provides Wifi Hotspot services for businesses with some core features that include the storing of wifi records, all access carrier, consumer analytics and customer-oriented marketing.
Turkcell Smart Fax service enables corporate customers to send and receive faxes digitally from anywhere.
Digital Messaging Services enables companies to expand and reach their customers through their messages.
Rich Content Messages is a digital Messaging Service that enhances the customers ability to send visual messages by reaching their customers at the right place and at the right time through our location-based SMS services. This service has helped our customers to create fast and efficient solutions for their marketing needs.
SMS Donation Services enables institutions and organizations to collect donations more conveniently.
Digital Identity Management Services
Fast Login is a secure universal login solution which allows consumers to securely access a wide array of digital services and websites using their mobile phone account for authentication. It is powered by GSMA under the Mobile Connect name and was launched in December 2015. Simply by matching the user to their mobile phone, Fast Login allows them to login to websites and applications quickly without the need to remember passwords and usernames.
Mobile Signature, launched in February 2007, enables mobile subscribers to sign electronic documents and transactions with a legally-binding digital signature using GSM SIM cards. Mobile Signature users can easily verify their personal identity in a digital environment and complete transactions remotely.
One Time Password is widely used by corporate customers for two-factor authentication controls in the context of transactions. The service allows users to send a single-use password via SMS to consumers when providing transaction authentication. It is widely used for online banking processes and login transactions.
Turkcell offers a wide range of cloud solutions for its corporate customers. These services range from co-location solutions to infrastructure (next generation virtual server, virtual data center), backup, disaster recovery and security services. In 2018, Turkcell managed over 5,000 virtual servers and protected more than 5 Petabyte of data for its corporate customers. As of December 31 2018, our datacenters are based across eight locations in Turkey on approximately 59,000 square meters of total data center indoor space.
In 2016, to meet Turkeys digital data management need, we built the nations largest Tier 3 Designed data center in Gebze, which has a closed area of 33 thousand square meters with 10 thousand square meters of white space, 30 MVA power capacity meeting the highest standards. In 2018, we have invested in Izmir data center that has a 14,500 square meters in total space.
We have integrated all of our cloud services on www.turkcellbulut.com. Through this platform, users may configure their infrastructure and software services within minutes and manage them through a self-service portal. Users can use the latest technologies providing business continuity over Turkcell Cloud without undertaking investment costs.
Turkcell offers cloud based applications from its data centers. Apart from the basic hosting and e-mail solutions, Turkcell offers cloud based (aaS) productivity applications such as e-company which enable corporate customers to manage their financial processes with already integrated accounting, e-invoice, e-ledger and e-archive invoice products.
Management of Hospital Information Systems
We have started the digital hospital era in Turkey by launching City Hospitals projects in cooperation with Ronesans Health Investment (four hospitals) and Akfen (one hospital). Five City Hospitals operate through Management of Hospital Information Systems built by Turkcell. We expect to complete another contract in 2019.
Turkcell Secure e-Commerce platform
As the usage of digital services increases, our customers tend to need a secure authentication and payment system for the products and services they access online. Responding to this need, we have established an e-commerce model (Turkcell Secure e-Commerce platform) in order to complement our own digital services, and to provide solutions for our corporate partners in the Turkish electronic commerce market. Internet users can securely login to digital services with our Fast Login. Further, users can shop online and use easy and safe payment methods provided by Paycell.
See Item 3.D. Risk Factors for a discussion of the regulatory changes affecting our digital services & solutions.
(i) International Roaming
Our coverage extends to many countries around the world through our roaming agreements. As of December 31, 2018, we believe we have further enhanced our position as a leading mobile operator of international roaming services in Turkey by expanding our partnership in 211 destinations throughout the world, pursuant to commercial roaming agreements with 592 operators.
Since July 2002, we have provided roaming services for prepaid subscribers of foreign mobile operators visiting Turkey. We were the first operator to provide such a service in Turkey. This service, called Passive Customized Applications for Mobile Network Enhanced Logic (passive CAMEL), can only be enabled if both operators have installed the passive CAMEL system on their networks. As of December 31, 2018, we offered prepaid roaming to the prepaid subscribers of 372 operators from 167 destinations.
Since October 2004, we have offered roaming services for Turkcell prepaid subscribers traveling abroad. This service, called Active Customized Applications for Mobile Network Enhanced Logic (active CAMEL), can only be enabled if both operators have installed the active CAMEL system on their networks. As of December 31, 2018, we offered prepaid roaming to Turkcell prepaid subscribers through 421 operators in 182 destinations.
Since October 2002, we have offered GPRS roaming. As of December 31, 2018, we made it possible for our subscribers to access the internet and reach their email accounts while passing through 199 destinations serviced our 495 GPRS roaming partners.
As of December 31, 2018, our subscribers can send SMS to more than 724 mobile operators located in 209 destinations, including North America and China. With a view to balancing international SMS traffic, we have 61 International SMS Interworking Agreements in place.
Since December 2005, our subscribers have been able to send and receive MMS to and from subscribers of foreign operators. As of December 31, 2018, our subscribers were able to send MMS to 390 mobile operators in 142 destinations.
On July 30, 2009, we became the first operator in Turkey to launch 3G roaming services in many different locations around the world. As of December 31, 2018, our subscribers enjoyed high speed mobile internet connections with 430 operators in 186 destinations.
On January 20, 2015, we launched LTE roaming services for our subscribers in many different locations around the world. As of December 31, 2018, our subscribers experienced LTE roaming services with 216 operators in 115 destinations.
On April 1, 2016, we launched LTE roaming services for visitor subscribers from many different countries. As of December 31, 2018, subscribers of 197 operators from 96 different locations experienced LTE roaming services on the Turkcell network.
We have entered into direct international roaming agreements with GSM operators around the world, including in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria. These arrangements have been entered into in the ordinary course of business and on arms-length terms that we believe to be in line with industry standards. Under the roaming arrangements in the listed countries, our net revenues for roaming on our Turkish network totaled less than TRY 7 million in 2018 while our net expense for our subscribers roaming on the networks of operators in the listed countries was less than TRY 3.1 million. In terms of revenue generation, we do not believe that our roaming arrangements with operators in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria are material. For additional details regarding our international roaming agreements with Syria, please refer to Item 4.B Disclosure Pursuant to Section 219 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA).
(ii) Wholesale Voice
Turkcell and Superonline Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Superonline) together supply wholesale voice service by establishing interconnection agreements with fixed line and mobile operators and international carriers.
As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell Superonline had interconnection agreements with more than eighty national and international carriers. Turkcell has interconnection agreements with Turk Telekom, Vodafone, Avea (mobile section of Turk Telekom) and other Fixed Telephony Service Operators and via these agreements, parties connect their networks to enable the transmission of calls to and from their mobile communications system. As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell had interconnection agreements with more than 75 fixed line and mobile operators and carriers.
For Turkcell, current interconnection rates are based on the ICTAs decision on Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs) and Fixed Termination Rates (FTRs). ICTA designated Turkcell as an operator having significant market power in the mobile access and call origination markets. Due to this designation, Turkcell is obliged to provide access and call origination service to MVNOs and directory service providers. As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell had agreements with 11 Directory Service Providers. Commercial negotiations in view of reaching agreements with MVNOs are ongoing. For more information, see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry.
(iii) Wholesale Data
Our vision on wholesale data is to become a preferred regional player in a digitally hyper-connected world. To do this, we have developed a robust infrastructure which includes 11 border crossings from Turkey to other jurisdictions. Five border crossings are towards Europe where we offer various options to connect with important European cities through protected and completely separate routes. Six of the border crossings are towards the East, where we offer capacity services to the Caucasus and Caspian region as well to the Middle East.
In accordance with our strategy, Turkcell Superonline is also establishing and executing a domestic wholesale business strategy to provide wholesale products such as bit stream access via its FTTx fiber coverage, infrastructure services, backbone transmission, Ethernet, IP transit capacities, cyber security and VPN services to operators, service providers and data center companies in the domestic market in Turkey.
Turkcell Superonline is leading the localization strategy for Turkeys data and internet traffic by developing partnerships with national operators, internet exchange platforms, Tier-1 operators, global/local content and cloud service providers to enable direct access to all networks and also commercializing internet traffic.
Turkcell Superonline, which aims to transform the Silk Road into the Fiber Road, and has been taking important steps to develop Istanbul as the worlds newest internet base due to its geostrategic location. Accordingly, the company provides a bridge between east and west, which supplies a continuous connection with partnerships with the Tier-1 operators and strategic partners between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, such as RCN. Today, we provide telecom services to more than 100 international operators including Tier-1 companies. As of December 31, 2018, we have the capacity to carry 7 Tbps of international traffic.
Our charges for voice, data and digital services consist mainly of bundles and also monthly fees, usage prices, and volume discount schemes and options under various tariff schemes.
We have various segmented tariff plans for mobile that target specific subscriber groups (postpaid or prepaid, corporate or consumer). A majority of our customers choose all-inclusive packages which include minutes to Turkcell, intra-company calls (for the corporate segment) and all national calls, data, and most of our digital services.
Turkcells fixed offers are based on speed and quota. The tariffs are designed upon the composition of the different needs of different customers. Turkcells own fiber infrastructure lets fiber offers with high speed up to 1000 Mbps, usually bundled with TV products. In 2018, Turkcell also begun to offer a tariff for a speed of 10,000 Mbps. ADSL offers up to 8 Mbps and has voice bundled tariffs. Since 2016, VDSL is offered to our customers using DSL products, with higher speeds up to 100 Mbps.
Turkcells strategy is focused on providing high quality service and creating value rather than competing on prices. Accordingly, Turkcell aims to offer the best network quality to its customers, and also to be a leader in digital services. Better user experience and differentiated offers provide Turkcell with the flexibility to price its tariffs based on cost and investments and to apply an inflationary pricing policy.
In the new communication landscape, our Lifecell brand in Turkey is focused on the creation of customer value through tariff models by positioning digital services as its main core. Digital services constitute a significant part of Lifecells value proposition as tariffs have unlimited BiP to BiP minutes, music subscription and streaming with the music app fizy, TV subscription and video streaming data with TV+ along with personal cloud lifebox and e-magazine app Dergilik. Lifecell launched a new tariff structure in July 2018 where customers can create their packages by choosing their own applications from a pre-defined list. Leveraging the same approach, in late 2018, Lifecell launched Hadi add-on packages through which customers can purchase hourly, daily and weekly data quota to watch videos or to share through social media without being limited by the data quota of their main tariff.
(i) Consumer Tariffs and Loyalty Programs
We mainly offer bundled packages including voice, data, SMS and various digital services. We focus on providing a leading mobile experience in Turkey, and in order to meet customer needs we offer a large portfolio of tariffs. Our tariffs are becoming more data based and enriched with digital services in order to meet customer demand.
We have various tariff bundled smart device campaigns offered jointly by our dealer channel in which minutes, SMS and data and digital services can be bundled with smart devices, which are expected to lead to higher mobile broadband and services usage.
Consumers need reliable, consistent and uninterrupted internet connectivity both for mobile and fixed networks. At Turkcell, we focus on providing the best customer experience in all channels supported by competitive offers and an extensive network. In 2018, we have continued providing the best service and fastest speed with 4.5G offers in mobile. With Lifecell tariffs, we offer digital values instead of traditional telecommunication services (i.e. minutes or SMS). The voice and video calls and instant messaging needs of our customers are met via BiP. Customers can listen to music on fizy, watch movies on TV+, read magazines and newspapers on Dergilik, store their data on lifebox application, search through Yaani with unlimited data and also obtain 24/7 customer service support via BiP. BiP serves as the main communication channel between Lifecell tariff and its subscribers where Lifecell provides customer services, new campaigns and retention activities via the BiP channel. We continue to pioneer with new tariff structures through our Lifecell brand.
In fixed broadband products (fiber and DSL internet), we have various tariffs for different internet speeds and quota. We offer 15 Mbps to 1000 Mbps internet speed for fiber internet, which we serve through our own infrastructure. In 2018, we have launched our fiber internet offer with 10 Gbps speeds, which is currently not offered by our competitors in Turkey. Starting in 2018, our fixed broadband tariffs are valid for a 12-month commitment (down from 24-months) while we continue to have customers on 24-month commitments. In late 2018, we have removed the fair usage quota from our fixed broadband tariffs, offering a constant speed experience for our customers. Furthermore, we have started to offer services to our customers through the Vodafone and Turksat infrastructure as part of our mutual infrastructure sharing agreements.
We also offer IPTV service TV+ on our fiber infrastructure and in 2018, we continued marketing our TV+ bundled offers. Our fixed voice service is bundled with our fixed broadband service. We also have tablet and desk phone campaigns in which the terminals are offered jointly by dealers, bundled with Turkcell Superonline fixed data products.
Turkcell intends to provide advantageous price schemes to consumer and corporate customers when abroad. With a customer-oriented focus, Turkcell offers alternatives to its subscribers with high- and low-roaming usage. All Turkcell postpaid customers can enjoy Roam Like Home offer, enabling them to use their domestic tariff while abroad by paying a certain daily fee.
We have three applications called Platinum, GNC, and SIM which serve as platforms for our loyalty programs.
Platinum is an application for both consumer and corporate subscribers with the Platinum tariff. The Platinum app provides privileges and gifts such as plane tickets or free cinema tickets, free books, attractive co-branding offers, car park services at several shopping malls and more. Our digital services such as TV+ and lifebox are bundled with Platinum tariffs.
GNC is an application for the youth segment for both Turkcell subscribers and non-Turkcell users. The GNC app gives free internet two times a week through gamification. The GNC App also provides co-branding offers, numerous opportunities for education and career via Turkcell Academy.
SIM is the first digital platform in Turkey that is specific to women for both Turkcell subscribers and non-Turkcell users. SIM provides information that women generally need in their daily lives from a single source. The usage of SIM is data free, enabling a better customer experience. Its users can access numerous special offers and discounts from different brands.
Further, we have been conducting a marketing campaign called Shake & Win, which can be deemed a loyalty program. The campaign is available through our online self-service channel My Account and extends various gifts including free one month subscriptions to some of our digital services, free daily or weekly data quota. We have also launched an interactive campaign called Surprise Point where customers join through BiP and visit certain locations to receive similar gifts as in the case of Shake & Win campaign. These campaigns not only have helped to increase data usage but also enabled our subscribers to become familiar with our digital services. These campaigns have also contributed to customer retention by increasing their loyalty.
(ii) Corporate Tariffs and Loyalty Programs
We offer a variety of bundle packages including voice, data, SMS, company on-net and/or flat minutes and digital services and solutions to meet our corporate customers communication needs. We also offer various campaigns in which voice, SMS and data packages can be bundled with different terminals. In addition, we provide various mobile data packages in order to meet different customer needs. These packages include shared data packages, URL-based packages, VINN Wi-Fi offers and tablet bundled campaigns.
In addition to mobile tariffs, we also address and provide solutions to our corporate customers different telecommunication needs with our total telecom solutions provider approach. Accordingly, we provide products such as VOIP, MPLS/VPN, data center, cloud, and mobile and fixed bundle offers to our customers from a single source. Our corporate customers benefit from the services provided through our data centers located in Kocaeli, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir on a total of white area of 20 thousand square meters, including co-location, cloud and security services.
For corporate customers, Turkcell Superonline provides internet services over its fiber-optic infrastructure with the latest transport technology and DSL infrastructure of the incumbent fixed operator. We have fixed internet offers and fixed internet and VoIP bundle offers. We have various tariffs for different internet speeds and quotas. We also offer fixed internet and exclusive tablet or smartphone bundles jointly to increase revenue and customer loyalty.
We have a program called Win at Work for our corporate customers. Win at Work, the first loyalty program focused on the B2B segment, offers several advantages to our corporate customers. With this program, Turkcells corporate customers get discounts in several areas. Also, this program is the first corporate converged loyalty program, providing discounts for both corporate fixed customers and corporate mobile customers. Our corporate customers can also benefit from the advantages of the My Account app as well as the Shake & Win campaign.
(iii) Wholesale Tariffs
In 2018, ensuring the necessary wholesale roaming cost basis to be able to support the new roaming consumer and corporate tariffs and propositions Roam Like Home was one of the main focuses of the Wholesale Roaming Agreements.
Based on Turkcells roaming agreements, Turkcell hosts subscribers of foreign operators on its network. When a subscriber of a foreign operator makes a call using Turkcells network, that subscribers operator pays us our inter-operator tariff (IOT) for the specific call type. IOT is a wholesale tariff applied between mobile operators with roaming agreements.
Interconnection rates in Turkey are based on the ICTAs decision on the interconnection tariffs for Turkcell, Vodafone, Avea, Turk Telekom and Fixed Telephony Service Operators.
With respect to data sales, Turkcell intends to provide competitive prices to promote Istanbul as a regional hub for peering and IP transit services and international capacities, as well as to support domestic wholesale market through its robust network with feasible commercial conditions.
Mobile churn rate is the percentage of disconnected subscribers calculated by dividing the total number of subscriber disconnections during a period by the average number of subscribers for the same period. For these purposes, we define average number of subscribers as the number of subscribers at the beginning of the period plus one half of the total number of gross subscribers acquired during the period. Churn refers to subscribers that are both voluntarily and involuntarily disconnected from our network. Under our disconnection process, postpaid subscribers who do not pay their bills are disconnected and included in churn upon the commencement of a legal process to disconnect them, which commences approximately 180 days from the due date of the unpaid bill. Pending disconnection, non-paying subscribers are suspended from service (but are still considered subscribers) and receive a suspension warning, which in some cases results in payment and reinstatement of service. Prepaid subscribers who do not provide the necessary payment for a period of 270 days are disconnected (this was changed in 2010 from 210 days). Under our churn policy, prepaid subscribers are disconnected from the system if they do not top-up above TRY10 during a twelve month period.
In the fourth quarter of 2015, 379 thousand subscriptions, and in the first quarter of 2016, 196 thousand subscriptions which were not topped-up within the stipulated period were disconnected. In the first quarter of 2017, our mobile churn policy was extended from the regulatory minimum in Turkey of 9 months to 12 months, except with regard to prepaid customers who last topped up before March of each year, which will be disconnected by year-end at the latest. Prior periods have not been restated to reflect the change in churn policy. The mobile churn rate for 2017 disclosed in this document have been positively impacted by this change, in part due to the fact that we have been successful in reactivating certain subscriptions during the additional 3 month extension. We believe that following this revision, the seasonality effect in churn rate, which is caused by periodic subscriber acquisition, has been reduced to a great extent.
Starting in the third quarter of 2018, we changed the presentation of churn figures to demonstrate average monthly churn figures which we believe corresponds to market practice. Accordingly, in 2018, the average monthly mobile churn rate increased to 2.1% from 1.9% in 2017 primarily due to the price increases throughout the year mainly to reflect higher inflation.
We have what we believe to be an adequate allowance for doubtful receivables in our Consolidated Financial Statements for non-payments and disconnections amounting to TRY 938.5 million and TRY 778.4 million as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively.
The churn rate for the fixed broadband products is calculated in the same way as the churn rate for the mobile products (except in fixed broadband, customers that change infrastructure from fiber to DSL or vice versa counted in churn rate). Fixed broadband subscribers who do not pay their bills are disconnected in 15-62 days according to the financial risk segments of the customers. The legal process commences approximately 104 days from the due date of the unpaid bill. The average monthly fixed churn rate was flat with 1.8% in 2018 compared to the same level in 2017.
The Turkish mobile communications market is affected by seasonal peaks and troughs. Historically, the effects of seasonality on mobile communications usage has positively influenced our results in the second and third quarters of the fiscal year and negatively influenced our results in the first and fourth quarters of the fiscal year. These seasonality effects have been less significant as we typically launch market campaigns to address the change in demand levels. Local and religious holidays in Turkey generally affect our operational results positively through higher consumption.
The Turkish fixed broadband market is also affected by seasonal peaks and troughs. Historically, the effects of seasonality on fixed broadband usage have negatively influenced our results in the third quarter of the fiscal year. This is mainly due to summer holidays when both usage and acquisition numbers decrease and churn increases due to residents moving.
VII. Mobile and Fixed Network
Statements regarding our 2G coverage are based on the ICTAs specifications as well as the TUIKs announcements regarding the population, and statements regarding our 3G coverage are based on the ICTAs 3G coverage calculation specifications issued on April 25, 2015. Statements regarding 4.5G coverage and performance are based on our own calculations, pending publication of ICTA specifications.
Our mobile communications network is designed to provide high-quality coverage to the majority of Turkeys population throughout the areas in which they live, work and travel. Coverage also includes a substantial part of the Mediterranean and Aegean coastline. We enhanced coverage in low-populated areas (populations of less than 1,000 people) as well. In terms of 2G, we have significantly exceeded the minimum coverage requirements of our license.
We have also expanded our mobile communications network to add capacity to existing service areas and to offer service to new areas. In addition, in 2018, within the scope of the Turkish Ministrys Rural Coverage Project as part of universal services which we started in August 2013, about one thousand 4.5G base stations covering 1,623 villages with populations of less than 500 were installed. As per the universal service obligation, the network infrastructure serving these areas has to be shared by all operators. People living in these villages are currently served by LTE services (in addition to 2G) in a similar service quality provided in the urban areas. The daily lives of the 250 thousand people in these villages have been improved thanks to enhanced mobile communication and high-speed mobile internet services. ULAKs 4.5G radio equipment was used markedly, corresponding to about half of total deployments.
We commercially launched 3G simultaneously in 81 provinces and major cities in Turkey in July 2009. As a result of the amendment to the Law for Metropolitan Municipalities, the number of metropolitan municipalities increased and the borders of some municipalities were extended. After this amendment, the ICTA increased our coverage obligations, defined in our concession agreement by its decision, based on this amendment. We filed a lawsuit for a stay of execution and the cancellation of this aforementioned decision. The Council of State granted a motion for the stay of execution of ICTAs aforementioned decision. The ICTA objected to this decision. The objection was also rejected in favor of Turkcell. The hearing was held on November 27, 2018 and it is expected that the court will grant a decision in 2019.
Benefiting from higher-quality communications provided by the widest spectrum in 3G, Turkcell will continue to offer seamless communications services to its customers with what we believe to be the most extensive coverage amongst its competitors.
In 2018, we have continued to develop and improve the coverage and capacity of our network. In urban areas, we increased both coverage and capacity by placing network infrastructure in commercial sites such as shopping malls, business complexes and entertainment centers. We have been using 3G and 4.5G Small Cells (such as Femto, pico and micro) to enhance our coverage and capacity where necessary. Additionally, 3G and 4.5G repeaters have been used to extend the network coverage without adding new sites.
At the IMT-Advanced (4.5G) tender held on August 26, 2015, Turkcell acquired large amounts of FDD spectrum: 2x10 MHz from the 800 MHz, an additional 2x1.4 MHz from the 900 MHz, 2x29.8 MHz from the 1800 MHz, additional 2x10 MHz from the 2100 MHz and 2x25 MHz from the 2600 MHz frequency bands. And for TDD frequencies, 1x10 MHz from the 2100 MHz and 1x10 MHz from the 2600 MHz bands were also acquired. All frequency bands are technology-neutral and can be used for any technology, providing efficiency and flexibility for spectrum usage in the network. We currently use the 900 MHz band for 2G and 3G, the 2100 MHz band for 3G and 4.5G, and the 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands for 4.5G.
Our fixed communications network is designed to provide high capacity and high-quality service to consumer and corporate customers. Moreover, we believe that it is very well designed and implemented to provide capacity to our mobile network. Our fixed network has capabilities to carry large volumes of data and internet traffic in the country and is also connected to national and international telecom operators.
As of December 31, 2018 our own fiber network reached 43,300 kilometers and connects 79 of 81 cities in Turkey. In 21 cities we have fiber to the home (FTTH) network and homepass, which means the number of premises that are connected to our fiber network has reached nearly 3.4 million. Through partnership engagements in 2018, we have become capable of delivering our fiber internet service to 6.44 million households in 28 cities. We also provide enterprise Wi-Fi services.
In the fixed access network we have two main network structures called fiber to the building (FTTB) and FTTH. In FTTB network, we are installing switches to access our subscribers. In FTTH networks, we are installing Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) and 10-Gigabit-capable symmetric passive optical network (XGS-PON) equipment which is the latest access network technology for residential and business subscribers. These network structures enable Turkcell to offer triple play services (High speed internet, TV, Voice over IP). The fixed access network also provides bandwidth requirement for mobile sites with Metro Ethernet services.
b. Quality of Service
The ICTA published a Regulation on Quality of Service in the Electronic Communications Sector on September 12, 2010, effective as of December 31, 2011 (see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry for further details). The Turkcell network is currently above the standards set by the statement by ICTA. Typically, Call Drop was one of the major Quality of Service figures that we focused on during 2018.
Dropped calls are calls that are terminated involuntarily and are measured by using the ratio of total dropped calls during all day. Using such industry standard for dropped calls, our dropped call rate for our 2G&3G network has further decreased below 0.29% in 2018.
The rate of service quality is being enhanced continuously due to extensive network optimization and investments in our 2G and 3G network to improve the quality and capacity of the network. According to statistics gathered from the vendors, Turkcell has one of the best 2G and 3G dropped call rates compared to other networks around the world. As Turkcell has built one of the most robust LTE networks globally, in terms of VoLTE performance, Turkcell has already obtained a low drop rate in VoLTE, which is below 0.26%.
We have been offloading voice and data traffic by utilizing small cells in the network for an improved customer experience. For this purpose, we are using a variety of solutions such as the Special Distributed Antenna Solutions (especially for major stadiums) indoor active systems that simplify deployment and streamline capacity/coverage expansions, and outdoor products to optimize the coverage and capacity of our Radio Access Network. Together with Turkcell Superonline, we have also implemented Wi-Fi offload integrated with the Turkcell 3G and 4.5G networks to further enhance the customer experience.
Turkcell received the first ISO 9001 certificate in 1999. Since then, independent firms have been auditing Turkcells management system annually and have been novating the certificate every three years within the scope of International Mobile Communications Design, Installation, Operation, Sales and After Sales Services. The recent certificate was received on November 4, 2016 and revised based on ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Standards on September 14, 2018. This certificate will be valid until November 29, 2019. In addition, Turkcell received the ISO/IEC 20000-1:2005 IT Service Management System Certificate in January 2011. As the first telecommunications company to receive the ISO 20000-1:2005 certificate in Turkey, Turkcell has promoted the adoption of an integrated process approach to effectively deliver managed services to meet business requirements.
On the fixed network side, we monitor traffic utilization in our access network continuously to prevent any saturation and upgrade the capacity as soon as possible. Turkcell modifies and redesigns the network topology to meet the future requirements which allows us to improve our quality of service performance.
The optical transmission network relying on Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) systems with Automatically Switching Optical Network (ASON), Optical Transport Network (OTN) and traditional Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) using protection mechanisms benefit alternative fiber routes wherever available. This increases the capabilities of re-routing in the event of service interruption. Thus, the delivered point to point services provides an experience up to 99.999% availability figures; a level of quality defining the transmission network as upper level carrier-class network.
c. Network Evolution
(i) Radio Network
We launched the LTE Advanced network (also known as 4.5G in Turkey) on April 1, 2016. We deployed 4.5G in all 81 provinces, including all counties. We also upgraded our in-building systems (such as those in venues and shopping malls) so as to enhance the 4.5G user experience of our customers indoors.
With the 172.4 MHz spectrum acquired in the 2015 auction, Turkcell spectrum holdings reached 234.4 MHz, corresponding to 43% of total spectrum assets acquired by the mobile operators in Turkey. Leveraging the advantage of our large spectrum assets and significant network infrastructure investments, our 4.5G network evolved from peak speeds of 375 Mbps to 1.2 Gbps. Currently, Turkcells 4.5G network supports LTE Advanced Pro technology, providing high-end features like 4x4 MIMO, 256QAM, 3-4-5 Carrier Aggregation, Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT), eMTC and LAA. In the future, as technology and its ecosystem evolve to new heights, we expect to introduce new capabilities to keep our technology leadership, enhance customer experience and enable new services.
We upgraded our network in 32 provinces by modernizing our 2G and 3G network, attaining higher capacity, better customer experience and up to 35% energy efficiency. This modernization has also enabled us to utilize our spectrum assets more efficiently and helped speed up our spectrum refarming efforts in 900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands. By on-airing more UMTS 900 carriers, we have enhanced our 3G coverage further to provide deep indoor and better rural coverage.
For voice services, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has been supported from day one to provide voice services over our 4.5G network. We activated EVS (Enhanced Voice Services) on our VoLTE voice service to further enhance the voice quality and thus became one of the few mobile operators in the world supporting this high-end feature. The applicable regulations mandate that our 2G network remains active until 2023; however most of our voice traffic is already carried by our 3G network, which has enabled us to gradually make our 2G network leaner without affecting our customers. With a larger terminal support base, we expect that voice services will be migrated to the 4.5G network from legacy 3G/2G networks.
In order to provide a solution for VPN over the wireless technologies like 4.5G, we have announced the Mobile VPN offer to our corporate customers. With this solution, corporates are able to connect to the internet cloud over a wireless interface using 4.5G technology, without sacrificing their service quality requirements. This is a fast and flexible solution for connections between their branch offices and headquarters.
We provide a Wireless to the Home service called SUPERBOX, which offers wireless high-speed internet access for customers without fiber connectivity. The required equipment is included in the subscription plan and uses LTE Advanced network as a backhaul to provide internet connectivity in customers premises. As part of 5G preparations, we have demonstrated 5G FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) capability in millimeter wave band, which was the first 5G live network test in Turkey.
Through our ongoing investment in LTE Advanced infrastructure, we became the first operator in Turkey to support NB-IoT, which is required for new generation innovative applications on LTE Advanced networks. Use of this
technology is now available on request across our whole LTE footprint and enables machines to communicate faster and more effectively. Furthermore, through our Cat-M network support which enables fleet management, asset tracking and smart metering, and which is presently supported by few operators in the world, we are able to provide higher data transfer throughput and have more mobility for machine to machine communications. With regard to international recognition in 2018, we won two technology awards for our accomplishments in RAN technology, namely for our Connected Parking project from IoT World Europe (Best End to End IoT Solution Award) and Smart Irrigation project from Telecoms World Middle East (Innovation Award).
For real-life scenarios in which the terrestrial network may be down or unable to provide the required coverage, we have developed a technology called Dronecell which provides 4.5G coverage from the air with the help of a micro base station installed on a drone. This solution can be useful when communications in the areas are affected by natural disasters, or when temporary coverage in some other areas are necessary.
Offering a unique experience to our customers with our strong 4.5G infrastructure, we continue our efforts to prepare our network for 5G. We have tested thoroughly the Massive MIMO technology (both for frequency division duplex (FDD) and time division duplex (TDD)), which can be deployed to meet capacity demand in dense areas. These collective activities help to maximize spectral efficiency, further enhancing network capacity and improving overall user experience. We believe that Turkcell has a significant competitive advantage with its Massive MIMO, in addition to having the widest spectrum in Turkey.
While we have been investing into new technologies, we also have been upgrading our 3G/2G networks to improve the user experience of our customers who continue to be served by the legacy networks. By conducting modernization projects, we have achieved an energy efficiency improvement up to 35% on our 3G/2G networks. The modernization also enables us to use multiple technologies (LTE, UMTS and GSM) in a mixed mode configuration in the same hardware units located at the sites, providing smaller footprints and cost reduction as we repurpose existing spectrum for newer technologies along with other benefits. It is also important to note that since the traffic volumes on the 3G network are still on the rise, we have been using newly acquired 2x10 MHz spectrum on 2100 MHz band as 5th and 6th carriers for additional capacity.
Regarding our 3G and 2G networks, we have supported up to 63.3 Mbps speeds using 3C-HSDPA (3 Carrier High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology for downloads and 11.5 Mbps using DC-HSUPA (Dual Carrier High Speed Uplink Packet Access) technology for uploads in our 3G network since early 2015. These technologies globally had their first commercial network activations by Turkcell. For GSM, although shrinking in traffic load and capacity, up to 300 Kbps download speeds are supported with EDGE technology for users having legacy terminals or in rural areas where GSM-only coverage exists.
Although the 900 MHz band is still being primarily used for GSM900, we have been rolling out UMTS900 to provide much stronger 3G coverage layer for voice calls redirected from the 4.5G network via the technique called CS Fallback (CSFB), deep indoor and improved rural coverage. This has been possible by some previous projects such as Thin Layer Project for GSM 900, by which we have extracted enough spectral capacity to partially re-farm the 900 MHz band for UMTS. As the next step, we have started deploying second UMTS900 carrier, which leads to a more efficient utilization of 900 MHz band and generate additional capacity. As we migrate 3G traffic to 900 MHz, we obtain a capacity boost in the 2100 MHz band, which allows us to repurpose it gradually for LTE. In this regard, we have started deploying LTE in the 2100 MHz band, previously used by 3G only, to use it more efficiently with LTE2100, enlarge our 4.5G footprint in a cost-efficient manner and improve user experience.
Furthermore, we have been closely cooperating with our network vendors for long term prospects through projects that enable Turkcell to deploy the latest technologies even before their availability on the market. This puts Turkcell at the forefront of the technology race and allows for the evaluating of the new technology benefits in the development phase, and then their timely deployment following their commercial availability.
Turkcell continues to provide extensive support to the projects involving domestic products, mainly for fulfilling the obligations related to the usage of domestically produced network equipment as per the 4.5G licence. We cooperate with domestic companies regarding base stations, antennas, transports and infrastructure solutions. ULAK Project initially started as an initiative taken by Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (UDI), aiming to design and develop national software and hardware components for an LTE-Advanced communication system and enhance Turkeys self-sufficiency in this area. ULAK has become a network vendor, producing 4.5G base stations. The first deployments of ULAK base stations in the network have been realized in a city in the north-eastern part of Turkey.
As a new technology, use of Massive MIMO in LTE can be a proper solution to increase radio network capacity. TDD Massive MIMO enhances spectrum efficiency by means of beamforming and multi-user MIMO techniques but it may also cause user throughput degradation due to the limited bandwidth of Band 38 we have and due to its support of at most 1-2 MIMO layers per user. To mitigate these issues, an innovative algorithm has been developed by Turkcell on the Self-Organized Network (SON) Platform to optimize Massive MIMOs benefits on system capacity, taking user experience into account as well.
In the scope of the next generation technology, known as 5G, Turkcell has been participating in international organizations such as 3GPP, ITU-T, NGMN, 5G-PPP and GSMA by joining meetings, work groups, projects and programs to follow the latest developments and shape its strategies for the future accordingly. In this context, Turkcell has started to lead NGMNs 5G Pre-Commercial Networks Trials project, aiming to test the 5G prototypes in the field. Turkcell has also signed agreements with vendors (Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung, ZTE, Aselsan) to collaborate in the research & development and work on various use case options. In addition to technology organizations and vendors, Turkcell has been doing some research activities with universities and research centers. An MoU for 5G Research and Development has been signed with some major universities in Turkey within the scope of The 5G Valley initiative led by the ICTA. As Turkcells first 5G-PPP (The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership) project, we have joined in 5G-MOBIX project to develop cooperative, connected and automated mobility for vehicles. In the context of this project, we will be developing Platooning use case for 5G on the Turkish-Greek border together with other local and international partners.
With the leading global vendors including Ericsson, Huawei and Samsung, we have been demonstrating and trialing 5G since 2017. In the scope of first 5G use cases, we tested FWA and AR/VR to take additional steps into the 5G era.
(ii) Transmission Network
Turkcell is the first operator in Turkey to start deploying All-IP NodeBs throughout its network. We are not only expanding our 3G network but also migrating legacy TDM-GSM sites to IP through the deployment of Abis over IP technologies. Thus, we currently have an All-IP mobile backhaul of more than 57,000 BTSs, Node-Bs and eNodeBs that provides resiliency, ease of operation and operational expense advantages. In addition, we have also invested in topology redundancy projects due to our IP/MPLS backhaul for better service availability. Backhaul bandwidth capacities were increased for wide coverage up to 450 Mbps 4.5G applications and the Microwave Radio Link network was modernized for Native Ethernet and Adaptive Modulation support to increase availability and reduce outages due to severe rain conditions. Usage of fiber connectivity is moving further from High-RAN aggregation points towards Low-RAN aggregation points. Furthermore, fiber to mobile site applications have been started for 4.5G readiness of sites with very high traffic. Due to higher bandwidth requirements of the 4.5G users, we are migrating from SDH based leased lines to DWDM or dark fiber multi-Gigabit Ethernet links on the high traffic aggregation points.
(iii) Core Network
The whole Turkcell Core Network is currently composed of IP based layered structure Next Generation Network (NGN) nodes, supporting all mobile standards, including 2G/3G/4.5G. By using a Geographical Redundant Pool (GRP) structure, we get (i) full redundant MSC-Ss, (ii) redundant physical interfaces to MGWs, (iii) CAPEX efficiency, and (iv) improvements in radio network KPIs. By implementing IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) based VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) and SRVCC (VoLTE Voice Continuity to 2G/3G), all subscribers can use seamless HDVOICE technology.
We have deployed and continue to develop our all IP Mobile Broadband GPRS network to provide the high speed and reliability to meet the demand of our businesses and consumers. 2G/3G/4.5G data services are given from our converged core network, which is designed to support all mobile broadband.
(iv) Fixed Network
Our fiber optic network provides up to 1000 Mbps high speed internet service in 21 cities across Turkey. We also provide superior triple play service experience to our subscribers. We are installing and investing in EDGE technology access equipment in our network. We believe that with this strategy Turkcell will be ready to offer future customer experiences. In February 2018, we began to offer 10 Gbps high speed internet as an on-demand service.
We are providing end-to-end Wi-Fi services for our Enterprise customers, which enables their guests to access WiFi. The Enterprise Wi-Fi service includes installation with authentication services, and further provides the necessary interface.
We announced smart Wi-Fi services for Soho Customer, which provides login and Wi-Fi connectivity to customers. The service provides plug and play for easy installations.
We also have started to use Turksat cable network for Fixed Virtual Network Operator (FVNO) services, with the goal of reaching more homes our services.
Turkcell is the first company in the world that has realized a commercial application of colorless and directionless ASON on a live traffic carrying network. Turkcell also introduced coherent 100G technology in the backbone along with optical ASON in the early stages at the end of 2012 and early 2013. In 2016, Turkcell also tested for 1 Tbps per wavelength using super channels on existing DWDM networks successfully.
Fixed networks provide backhaul that not only connects the signal towers to the telecom network, but also allows for enough bandwidth to support operations in 4.5G. This is creating an environment in which optical cabling and fiber to Ethernet media converters are among the most important parts of a mobile network. As a result, fiber will remain an integral part of telecom networks.
(v) Services and Platforms
We have an intelligent network and other service platforms enabling our services and we also provide secure and controlled access to the network for the content and service providers to provide messaging and data services. This infrastructure is being improved to open up more capabilities on the network for the application and content providers. New infrastructure also contains a portal where subscribers buy services, receive promotions and enroll for campaigns easily.
d. Network Operations
We have primarily employed experienced internal personnel for network engineering and other design activities while employing suppliers for our network infrastructure and as our partners in product/service development. Our suppliers install the base station cell site equipment and switches on a turn-key basis, while subcontractors employed by our suppliers perform the actual site preparation.
e. Network Maintenance
We have entered into several system service agreements. Under these agreements, our mobile and fixed communications network, including hardware repair and replacement, software and system support services, consultation services and emergency services are serviced by local providers. Our subcontractors perform corrective and preventative maintenance on our mobile and fixed communications network in the field, although providers repair all the network equipment. We have regional operation units with qualified Turkcell staff that operate and maintain our network in Turkey.
In addition, the Turkcell Network Operation Center located in Istanbul monitors our entire network 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and ensures that necessary maintenance is performed in response to any problem.
f. Site Leasing
If a new coverage area is identified, our technical staff determines the optimal base station location and the required coverage characteristics. The area is then surveyed to identify BTS sites. In urban areas, typical sites are building faces and rooftops. In rural areas, masts and towers are usually constructed. Our technical staff also identifies the best means of connecting the base station to the network. Once a preferred site is identified and the exact equipment configuration for that site is determined, we start the process of site leasing and obtaining necessary regulatory permits. Site leasing processes and construction of the masts or towers are performed by our wholly owned subsidiary, Global Tower. We lease the land and provide site management services (yearly rental payments, contract renewals, rework permits) through Global Tower. If we decide to buy the land, another wholly owned subsidiary, Turkcell Gayrimenkul Hizmetleri A.S., will handle the necessary procedures. We manage all these processes for technical demands also for Turkcell Superonline and Global Tower.
g. Business Continuity Management (BCM)
Turkcell Business Continuity Management identifies potential threats, their impact and provides a framework for building resilience with the ability to create an effective response that safeguards the interests of our key stakeholders, their reputation, brand and value-creating activities. We established the Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) to implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and improve the business continuity.
Turkcell BCMS is assisted by business continuity coordinators at technical and non-technical groups. Regular BCM training and awareness programs are carried out throughout the organization. The effectiveness of BCMS is monitored every year through internal/external audits, and integrated exercises, the results of which are reviewed in management review meetings. In 2018, we exercised and tested our business continuity plans, communication and warning procedures to ensure that they are consistent with the business continuity objectives.
Turkcells BCM will be able to cover the majority of Turkcells operations through potential environmental events and natural disasters. Our purpose is to ensure the continuity of the voice call, messaging, data/internet and societal security services for Turkcell, availability of fixed voice call services, data/internet, hosting services, data centers and societal security services for Turkcell Superonline, provision of site acquisition and contract management services for infrastructure requirements of mobile operators, TV/Radio broadcasters and technical infrastructure suppliers and installation, testing, commissioning, operation and maintenance of tower, in building, roof top infrastructure/Sites for Global Tower at acceptable predefined levels following disruptive incidents. Business continuity plans are prepared by taking into consideration the customers expectations, company policies and legal obligations. They are regularly exercised to guarantee the operation of time-sensitive business activities in case of business disruptions. We are continuously improving our business continuity capacity in accordance with the ISO 22301 Societal Security, Business Continuity Management System international while preserving our image as a reputable and solid integrated service provider.
h. Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)
Turkcells Enterprise Risk Management team is responsible for coordinating the process of identifying, assessing and overseeing actions by management and the companys business units to manage the risks that may affect the business objectives of the company. ERM supplies an information platform to management regarding the risks which may have an effect on the decision making process. Turkcell ERM aims to develop an approach of integrating risk management with the core management processes as well as enterprise risk culture. While doing this, Turkcell uses an ERM framework which is compatible with the COSO ERM framework and the ISO 31000 Standard. Based on the ERM procedures, risks are identified and evaluated in terms of impact and likelihood. Risk responses controls, issues and actions are developed and the whole process is monitored.
Turkcells ERM team is the owner of an enterprise risk database. A range of management tools are used for risk identification and evaluation such as workshops, brainstorming sessions, risk reporting from divisions directors and risk contacts, in-depth interviews with the management team and research reports while coordinating the process of identifying and assessing risks. The risk database, monitored by the ERM team and new risks and opportunities, updates on on-going risks, financial risks, cyber risks and risk and trend research from the world are reported to the Early Detection of Risk Committee bi-monthly.
VIII. Sales and Marketing
We design our sales and marketing strategy around subscriber needs and expectations. We try to ensure the loyalty of our subscribers by providing offers, campaigns and our advanced service delivery platforms.
a. Sales Channel
We support our sales efforts through one of the largest retail telecommunications distribution networks in Turkey, with 1,467 branded stores, many with prime locations, as well as more than 4,600 semi-branded dealers as of December 31, 2018. Our two exclusive distributors provide our products and services as well as consumer technologies (such as handsets, tablets, notebooks, IoT devices and accessories) and aftersales services for this wide network of dealers, while seven exclusive Turkcell Distribution Centers (TDCs) focus solely on semi-branded dealers. We also have a door-to-door sales force and home technology management team, which realizes approximately 115,000 connected home technology transaction per month. This provides us an important channel on which to distribute our integrated solutions directly into the homes of Turkish consumers. We also operate a dedicated corporate direct sales team of more than 450 personnel who can offer tailored solutions to their respective segments.
Our nationwide distribution channel is an important asset that helps us differentiate ourselves from our competitors and achieve our sales targets. Our strong and extensive distribution network consists of distributors, TDCs, Corporate Solution Centers, semi-branded dealers and Turkcell Branded Stores (Turkcell Plus & Turkcell) as well as points of sale for scratch cards and prepaid airtime, including digital channels, ATMs and Points of Sale (POSs). We sell postpaid and prepaid services, fixed and mobile solutions and digital services to subscribers through our distribution network. The number of branded and semi-branded dealers totaled over 6,000 sales points as of December 31, 2018.
Digital transformation has continued at full speed in our retail channel. At the beginning of 2018, we completed the physical transformation of Turkcell stores and have been offering the latest technologies and digital services to customers since then. In addition, sophisticated store concepts reflecting customer trends were put into place at selected locations. As the most important step in digital transformation, strategic infrastructure investments were realized at the stores where physical transformation was completed. The first major change occurred in the supply chain model. As of 2018, the product catalog presented to our customers was centralized in all Turkcell stores. Thus, more advantageous purchasing options and high-quality standard products were in place in stores. Turkcell retail partners began to supply commercial products through digital catalogs. The performance indicators in the procurement processes of the products started to be monitored in a transparent manner and efficiency was ensured.
With the experience gained from the transformation in exclusive Turkcell stores, the non-branded sales channel structure has been completely renewed. Following the optimization of the distribution structure, Turkcell Sales Points started to operate under the name of Digital Points of Sales (DPoS). DPoS started to be available on tablets and with the help of digital signature technology, all printed documents were removed from the process and customer data started to be transported through Turkcells 4.5G network. DPoS have been differentiated from Turkcell Stores by focusing on the renewed interface and widespread availability of basic products and services.
As the final step in digital transformation, the Turkcell GO project was launched, which digitized the sales dialogue between our employees and our customers. Thanks to GO, sales screens are now simple, easy to understand and transparent. Store employees can look at the sales screens with our customers, understand our customers needs with data and product information and easily offer the products according to these needs. GO, with its simple structure, has shortened the time for new store employees to specialize and learn new products.
Turkcell stores product portfolio has been enriched with new products such as SUPERBOX, subscription to Digiturk and Paycell. In addition, more than 150 institutions bills have become payable in Turkcell stores.
The scope and prevalence of the retail employee certificate program, launched in 2017, were expanded. The advanced certification program was launched for experienced employees and approximately 300 passed face-to-face training in cooperation with Marmara University.
Our non-branded dealer network provides us with a high penetration of Turkcell products and services in Turkey. Our 7 TDCs are aimed at enhancing our distribution effectiveness in the non-branded channel and ensure the timely and efficient distribution of Turkcell products and merchandising materials. They also facilitate the Turkcell brand and offer awareness in this competitive channel.
Alternative sales channels are re-designed under four main branches: Call center, Online Channel, which includes the companys web site and the My Account app, Non-Telco Sales and Turkcell Flagship Store.
We offer our customers fast and safe access to our products and services 24/7 via Call Center, our web site (www.turkcell.com.tr) and the My Account app. Our web site has been serving as a sales channel since 2012. Besides Turkcells digitalized products and services, we provide services for many categories, including smartphones, tablets, computers, mobile accessories and home technologies. Another channel is our non-telco channel (which consists of ATMs, Call Centers, internet branches of banks and chain stores) where we provide our customers with the opportunity to access Turkcells products easily and quickly. We also proactively reach our customers and satisfy their needs easily and safely when they need our products and services through our Telesales channel. Further, we also serve through our flagship store in Istanbul.
All dealers are compensated based on the number of new subscribers they sign up and the level of such subscribers usage, as well as additional incentives based on their performance.
Sales Management develops strong relationships with and promotes brand loyalty among dealers through a variety of support and incentive programs. Training programs aim to educate dealers personnel on the technical aspects of our products and services, as well as sales techniques to increase sales and enhance customer relations. Our specialized sales employees, who are obliged to obtain a certificate to be eligible to work in the stores, serve around 200 million visitors annually. The certification program for our employees is quite extensive and involves different stages. The program began in April 2016 and has been widened with the inclusion of online assessments. The program has been created with a view to improving employee experience and making Turkcell an attractive work place. The technological development projects, coupled with merchandising services, point-of-purchase (POP) materials and channel specific campaigns, helps to support the sales efforts across all of our sales channels.
Corporate clients are managed in four different segments: Public Accounts, Strategic Accounts, Major Accounts, Small and Medium Sized Businesses Accounts. The first three segments customers are directly contacted by Turkcells Account Managers, while dealers and telesales teams manage the Small and Medium Sized Business segment.
The corporate segment services consist of four basic categories including mobile telecom, fixed telecom, data center and cloud and information technologies.
Within Turkcells sales teams, along with Telecom Services, Mobile Product and Solution Specialists, Fixed Product and Solution Specialists, Corporate Data Network, DC Cloud, Cyber Security Specialists and Professional
Services teams specialized in IT solutions cater to the corporate clients. In 2017, vertical solution teams were formed to develop such solutions for eleven sectors including banking, retail, manufacturing, energy, local government, tourism, healthcare, education, IT/media, defense and logistics. These teams aim to create cross industry solutions to serve the digital transformation of Turkcells corporate clients.
Turkcell also provides turnkey mobile and digital transformation and IT outsourcing projects for large corporations with the contribution of solution partners in Turkcell Satis ve Dijital Is Servisleri A.S.
Turkcell has been on an exciting transformational journey towards becoming one of the worlds leading digital operators since 2015. We have worked tirelessly to evolve into a digital services-focused experience provider and enrich our customers lives with our digital services. Leveraging our network capabilities and the power of our 4.5G network, our services combine the best of the OTT world with the strongest capabilities of a converged telecom services operator, thus reaching what we believe to be higher standards of quality and customer experience.
Following the launch of 4.5G in Turkey in 2016, users began to increasingly rely on the Internet to meet their communication needs. This and our vision to add value to customers daily life with our digital services through the 1,440 minutes in a day, we created our digital brand Lifecell which includes the tariffs that provide all communication and digital needs entirely through mobile data and digital services.
We base our communication efforts on three pillars that underlie our digital operator strategy. The first pillar comprises our four key assets that we believe ensure our position as the market leader: our integrated mobile and fixed communication technologies, the social responsibility projects that we undertake throughout the year, our brand perception; and the firsts we have marked in the Turkish market. The second pillar involves customer conversations which spring from various products and services that target diverse needs of specifically identified customer segments. The third pillar includes our digital services that connect our customers with what the digital world has to offer.
c. Customer and Experience Management
The key part of our customer and experience management strategy is to provide basic and premium services through several channels by thinking and acting in a customer-focused manner in line with market trends and Turkcells mobile and fixed solutions. Our goal is to maintain a continuous relationship with our customers through fostering a high level of customer satisfaction. We continuously ask our customers how satisfied they are with the service they receive and for any suggestions through near real-time mobile surveys. We aim to achieve operational excellence throughout all customer touch points for every customer segment by continuously improving and simplifying processes and services. Customer feedback is the major input for Turkcells continuous process and journey improvement efforts.
With respect to provision of customer services we mainly work with our subsidiary Global Bilgi Pazarlama Danismanlık ve Cagri Servisi Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Global Bilgi). Turkcell Global Bilgi offers 24/7 contact center services at several sites. In 2018, Turkcell Global Bilgi managed approximately 130 million calls received through its interactive voice response system. Turkcells customer service strategies for contact centers are implemented by Turkcell Global Bilgi. We audit their operations along with monitoring whether customer services and customer satisfaction programs are executed in line with Turkcells customer strategies. Turkcell Global Bilgis success has been affirmed by a number of domestic and international awards in 2018. Turkcell Global Bilgi also offers telesales and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) helpdesk services.
We have prioritized the digitalization of our customers. Accordingly, we have invested in our online self-service channels and aim for the migration of our customers on those channel. The primary online channel is our mobile application My Account which was downloaded 37.3 million times and had 19.2 million 3-month active users as of fourth quarter 2018. The app enables our customers to track their bills, usage and settings, change tariffs and make top-ups to their plans and pay bills. Within the scope of convergence, both mobile and fixed customers can use My Account. In 2018, we have also enhanced our Omni channel activities like scheduling appointments for Turkcell stores, tracking requests and viewing SMS that are sent to/received from Turkcell. Additionally, our customers can contact us via online chat available on our main website or through My Account. We also use online chat applications to reach our customers proactively when they are stuck on our website or need assistance while buying a product. We have launched an AI-based chatbot called Turkcell Assistant instead of live chat agent. 75% of all chats regarding billing have been resolved by Turkcell Assistant without any agent involvement.
For corporate customers, account managers are assigned for an exclusive service. An account manager serves as the single point of contact and provides solutions in response to customer needs. While we serve our corporate customers by categorizing them under four segments, we also support them through e-mails, calls and dedicated back offices under
the umbrella of our contact center. We have corporate customer representatives to support direct requests from our public accounts, strategic and major enterprises, medium businesses and/or to support indirect requests received through our account managers. In addition, for small businesses, we aim to meet faster and higher quality service standards by providing online solutions to support our sales teams with our Field Support Desk. Moreover, we have enriched our corporate application called My Company with the addition of new tariff and bill features. In 2018, 140 thousand companies have experienced the convenience and speed of doing self-service transactions for their corporate lines by using My Company for a total of 80 million transactions.
Turkcell has been awarded the ISO 10002 certificate since 2011 and continuously renews its ISO 10002 certification every year in the scope of design, installation, operation, sales, and after-sales services of global mobile communications within Turkcell functions. The latest certification ISO 10002: 2004 Quality Management-Customer Satisfaction-Complaints Handling Certificate was awarded in 2018.
IX. International and Domestic Subsidiaries
A component of our strategy is to grow or improve our business in our home market and in the international markets where we are already present. Continued strong operations in the countries in which we are currently present is important for us. We believe these operations offer growth opportunities and will provide additional value to us in the future.
While continued improvement of our current operations is a key priority, we will seek and evaluate the opportunities of being a digital operator by offering our portfolio of digital and financial services, both in Turkey and in international markets, and increasing their number of users.
Ukraine - lifecell
We acquired our interest in our subsidiary lifecell LLC (lifecell, formerly known as LLC Astelit or Astelit) on April 2, 2004, by purchasing the entire share capital of Astelits parent, CJSC Digital Cellular Communications (DCC), from its shareholders.
On July 10, 2015, we completed the acquisition of SCMs 44.96% stake in our Netherlands-based subsidiary Euroasia Telecommunications Holding B.V, which owns 100% of LLC Astelit and which merged with Lifecell Ventures Cooperatief U.A. in December 2016. The terms of the acquisition required a payment of $100 million as consideration for the acquisition, the payment of Astelits debts obtained through and with guarantee of SCM Group, the termination of all guarantee agreements to which SCM Group is party and the release of SCM Group in this regard. In accordance with IFRS 10 Consolidated Financial Statements, the acquisition of the remaining 44.96% in Astelit for a total consideration of $100 million was considered an equity transaction and the deficit representing the difference between the non-controlling interests was derecognized and the consideration paid for the acquisition of shares amounting to TRY 929 million was deducted from retained earnings in July 2015.
Following this transaction, Astelits borrowings obtained from and with the guarantee of SCM Group was repaid in July 2015. The Group converted a material portion of Astelits borrowings to equity and restructured Astelits remaining borrowings in order to mitigate the foreign exchange risks associated with borrowings denominated in foreign currency. Astelits capital was increased by $686 million (equivalent to TRY 1,995 million as of December 31, 2015) and Astelit obtained $66 million (equivalent to TRY 192 million as of December 31, 2015) subordinated loan directly from the Company in the third quarter of 2015. As of 31 December, 2018, the company utilized loans fully denominated in local currency of UAH 4.9 billion (equivalent to TRY 925 million as of December 31, 2018) under the guarantee of Turkcell.
After ten years of successful history in the industry, on January 15, 2016 Astelit announced a new stage of its development which started with large-scale rebranding into lifecell, and in connection therewith changed its legal name to lifecell LLC on February 2, 2016. Under the new brand identity and with ongoing investments in 3G+ and 4G infrastructure and services, lifecell will continue its presence in the market, seeking to become Ukraines top data operator and usher in new possibilities in the countrys telecommunications landscape.
As of December 31, 2018, lifecell had 9.9 million registered subscribers. The majority of such subscribers were prepaid subscribers. lifecells three-month active subscribers reached 7.3 million as of December 31, 2018.
The company has been known in the market as one of the most dynamic and innovative ever since lifecell was the first to introduce a number of new technologies and products that had previously been unavailable to Ukrainian subscribers. The company is highly motivated to keep its innovation leadership in marketing and sales. There are 233 lifecell branded shops in 107 cities of Ukraine as of December 31, 2018. There are 105 facelifted and 128 rebranded shops as of December 31, 2018. In addition, customers can order lifecell services in 1,964 branded sales points and 24,978 other GSM and non-GSM sales points throughout Ukraine. As of December 31, 2018, lifecell provided roaming services in 198 countries via 301 roaming partners.
As of December 31, 2018, lifecell provided services in all cities in Ukraine (excluding Crimea and Sevastopol city) with a population of more than 2,000 inhabitants and in total more than 1,988 settlements nationally, and all principal intercity highways and roads. This corresponds to a coverage of approximately 92.19% of the population of Ukraine or 94.62% geographical coverage with 6,970 base stations. lifecell stopped recording revenues from Crimea and Sevastopol city starting from the end of September 2014 and impaired its assets in that region. Furthermore, in 2016 the operator has also ceased services and lost its revenue stream on the uncontrolled territories of Luhansk region and since February 2017 lifecell is unable to provide mobile services and stopped recording revenue on the disputed part of the Donetsk region. The company impaired its assets in the disputed part of Donetsk and Luhansk region in the fourth quarter of 2017. Cumulative capital expenditure for the development of lifecells coverage amounted to $2.2 billion as of December 31, 2018.
The Ukrainian telecommunications market is regulated by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (main state policy), the State Service of Special Communication Administration (SSSC) (technical policy aspects) and by the National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization (NCCIR) controlled by the President of Ukraine and which carries out general telecommunication market regulation and inspection.
lifecell is dedicated to further development of innovations in the market. NCCIR held the 3G license tender on February 23, 2015. lifecell submitted a bid of UAH 3,355 million (equivalent to TRY 376 million as of March 19, 2015) and was awarded the first lot, which is the 1920-1935 / 2110-2125 MHz frequency band. In May 2015 lifecell made payments of UAH 350 million (equivalent to TRY 46 million as of May 8, 2015) and UAH 7 million (equivalent to TRY 1 million as of May 12, 2015) for the first installment of conversion of spectrum from military use. In April 2017, lifecell had made payment of UAH 299 million (equivalent to TRY 40 million as of April 28, 2017) for the second installment of conversion. In October 2018 lifecell had made a payment of UAH 230 million (equivalent to TRY 45 million as of October 31, 2018) for the third installment of the conversion.
After winning the tender, lifecell launched 3G services on June 4, 2015, becoming the first operator to offer a 3G+ network in Ukraine and as of December 31, 2018 3G+ from lifecell is available in more than 7,789 towns and settlements in Ukraine and in more than 1,213 Ukrainian towns and settlements lifecell is the only operator providing the third generation network services. As of December 2018, lifecell has the widest 3G geographical coverage over the country based on its own calculations by using operators relevant disclosures. In February 2017, the company became the 3G speed leader according to the OOKLA speed test. 3G+ services on the lifecell network can be used by 3.4 million Ukrainians as of December 31, 2018. As of December 2018, lifecell is a leader of smartphone penetration with 75% on its high-speed 3G+ network in the Ukrainian telecommunication market.
NCCIR held the 4G license tenders for the 2600 MHz band on January 23, 2018 and for the 1800 MHz band on February 26, 2018. Lifecell was awarded 4G licenses for 15 years, at a cost of UAH 909 million (equivalent to TRY 173 million as of December 31, 2018), and UAH 795 million (equivalent to TRY 151 million as of December 31, 2018) for the 15 MHz in each frequency band, the latter of which was paid in April 2018. In February 2018 lifecell made payments of UAH 187 million (equivalent to TRY 36 million as of December 31, 2018) to PrJSC VF Ukraine, and in May 2018, UAH 19 million (equivalent to TRY 4 million as of December 31, 2018) to JSC Kyivstar for the installment of conversion of spectrum from operators use.
After winning the tenders, lifecell launched 4G services in the 2600 MHz band on March 30, 2018 and in the 1,800 MHz band on July 1, 2018, becoming the first operator to offer 4.5G services in Ukraine nationwide. As of December 31, 2018 4.5G from lifecell is available in more than 2,014 towns and settlements in Ukraine and in more than 609 Ukrainian towns and settlements lifecell is the only operator providing fourth generation network services.
In line with the Turkcell Groups digital services strategy, in 2017 the company launched a number of unique digital services. lifecell was the first mobile operator to launch the cloud application lifebox, the Ukrainian radio application fizy, the Ukrainian online magazines application lifecell Magazines, the sports dedicated application LifeSport offering no data consuming packages for video, social networks and digital communication. All these digital services are also available for the users of other telecom operators. In response to the need of the Ukrainian market for cardless and cashless payment services, lifecell introduced its online money transfer tool available online.
lifecell is continuously focused on company security (tools, processes, people) and investment in security infrastructure. In January 2017, lifecells Corporate Security Department developed Emergency Notification System (ENS). ENS is a cloud-based solution serving as a tool for instant emergency alerts and mass notification of a certain target audiences via voice messages, SMS and e-mail. The solution was applied by lifecell during the massive global cyber-attack on the June 27, 2017. The so-called Petya malware affected major companies and critical infrastructure in the country. However, it did not have a major impact on lifecells business continuity due to immediate reaction of the
companys security team and real-time alerts sent to the lifecell employees. In September 2017, the company signed a Memorandum for cooperating with the Department of Cyber police of the National Police of Ukraine and granted the cyber-police with the license for ENS, which helps the Ukrainian government in creating an environment that is resistant to IT security attacks and coordinate the actions of people in case of emergency.
In 2018 NCCIR approved an MTR decrease from UAH 0.15 to UAH 0.12 per minute starting from January 1, 2019. Lifecell would benefit from a further decrease of MTR rates along with the introduction of asymmetry to reflect operator cost if the regulator decides to do so in the coming years. Such a change would likely stimulate competition in the Ukrainian market, reducing the competitive barrier.
The MNP Procedure and Technical Requirements have been drafted with the involvement of operators and adopted by state authorities back in 2015. Tender for an MNP solution provider occurred on January 25, 2016. MNP was not launched in 2016 because the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine (AMCU) annulled the result of the initial MNP tender. There had been several claims to the court which were successfully resolved in spring 2018. In 2017 the NCCIR adopted a new Registration Procedure which allows remote ways of identification and will facilitate donor-led approach, where the registration is provided by donor within the MNP Procedure. New Registration Procedure came into force on December 13, 2018. The MNP introduction, which is expected to create a more competitive and transparent telecommunication market in Ukraine, is officially announced by NCCIR to begin on May 1, 2019.
In April 2016, lifecell LLC sold 811 towers to a subsidiary of Turkcell in Ukraine, Ukrtower LLC, and signed a tower lease agreement which allows lifecell to leaseback these assets.
As of August 2017, Paycell LLC has been incorporated as a subsidiary of lifecell LLC in order to operate as a financial institution and perform loan granting, leasing, money transfer and e-money services. Licenses for leasing and loan granting has been obtained as of October 2017, and licences for e-money and local currency transfers have been obtained in September and October 2018, respectively.
On July 29, 2008, Beltel Telekomunikasyon Hizmetleri A.S. (Beltel) signed a share purchase agreement to acquire an 80% stake in CJSC Belarusian Telecommunication Network (Belarusian Telecom), which provides services using GSM and UMTS technologies, for a consideration of $500 million. On August 26, 2008, control of Belarusian Telecom was acquired from Belarus State Committee on Property and $300 million of the total consideration was paid. An additional $100 million was paid in December 2009 and another $100 million was paid in December 2010. An additional payment of $100 million will be made to the seller when Belarusian Telecom records a full-year positive net income for the first time. For more information, see Note 27 (Other non-current liabilities) to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
At December 31, 2018, Belarusian Telecom had 1.5 million registered subscribers, the majority of which were prepaid, Belarusian Telecoms three-month active subscribers reached 1.2 million as of December 31, 2018. Belarusian Telecom had 150 exclusive and more than 300 non-exclusive sales points and the sales from online store continuously increases with the growing customer demand through online channels.
At December 31, 2018, Belarusian Telecom operated 2G and 3G services in all cities with a population of more than 10,000, and provided 2G services on all principal intercity highways and roads of Republic of Belarus, which corresponds to coverage of approximately 99.9% of the entire population of Belarus, or 97.7% geographical coverage. Belarus Telecom has also launched 4G service in August 2016 on LTE infrastructure established by JLLC Belarusian Cloud Technologies (beCloud) and provides 4G services throughout the country in 182 cities, towns or settlements as of December 31, 2018. In Belarus, the only LTE license is owned by beCloud at current and beCloud is the only infrastructure provider for LTE services. Availability of 4G services to our customers has improved the quality of data services and customer experience in using data services. Belarusian Telecoms data subscribers reached 700 thousand as of December 31, 2018.
In line with our strategic priority of improving our balance sheet structure, we have restructured debt of Belarusian Telecom in 2015. As part of the restructuring, Belarusian Telecoms total existing intra-group loans were converted into a subordinated loan, provided directly by Turkcell. Following the restructuring, Belarusian Telecoms debt is EUR 612 million subordinated loan (equivalent to TRY 3.7 billion as of December 31, 2018) owed to Turkcell as of December 31, 2018.
As of February 1, 2012, Mobile Number Portability was launched with a donor-initiated mechanism where subscribers who want to port their numbers had to apply to their existing operator, which was in favor of the dominant market players. In April 2014, the mobile number portability procedure was revised to a recipient-initiated mechanism. Popularity of the mobile number portability service has increased with the revision of the procedure. Belarusian Telecom is the leader of Mobile Number Portability in Belarus in terms of number of port-in subscribers count.
In Belarus, the lack of pricing regulations in the wholesale and retail mobile markets to prevent dominant operators abusive pricing practices continued to have an adverse impact on our business.
Belarus Lifetech LLC
Lifetech LLC, which is a subsidiary of Turkcell Group, was established in 2012. It is 99.9% owned by Belarusian Telecom and has more than 200 professionals located in Belarus. Lifetech LLC provides a full cycle of software development services and develops custom and platform-based solutions to its clients located in Belarus, Turkey, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Kuzey Kibris Turkcell
Kibris Mobile Telekomunikasyon Limited (Kuzey Kibris Turkcell), a 100% owned subsidiary of Turkcell, was established in 1999 in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As of December 31, 2018, Kuzey Kibris Turkcell had 0.5 million registered subscribers.
On April 27, 2007, Kuzey Kibris Turkcell signed a license agreement for the installation and operation of a digital, cellular and mobile telecommunication system with the Ministry of Communications and Public Works of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The license agreement became effective on August 1, 2007 and replaced the previous GSM-Mobile Telephony System Agreement dated March 25, 1999, which was based on revenue-sharing terms. The new license agreement granted a GSM 900, GSM 1800 and IMT 2000/UMTS license, for GSM 900 and GSM 1800 frequencies, while the usage of IMT 2000/UMTS frequency bands was subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions. The license agreement is valid for 18 years from the date of signing. The license fee was $30 million including VAT and financed by Kuzey Kibris Turkcell through internal and external funds.
On March 14, 2008, Kuzey Kibris Turkcell was awarded a 3G infrastructure license at a cost of $10 million including VAT, which was paid at the end of March 2008.
In the third quarter of 2010, Kuzey Kibris Turkcell completed and began operating the radio transmission (airlink) project providing direct international voice and data connection to the mainland.
In 2012, Kuzey Kibris Turkcell acquired Internet Service Provider and Infrastructure establishment and operation licenses. Kuzey Kibris Turkcell applied for a right of way to major municipalities and the Ministry of Transportation in order to establish a national fiber optic infrastructure. On January 24, 2014, a protocol between Kuzey Kibris Turkcell and the Ministry of Transportation was signed for the right of way for highway sides. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Lifecell Digital Ltd. has been incorporated in order to operate as an Internet Service Provider company and offer converged telecom services. Lifecell Digital Ltd. also acquired an infrastructure license in December 2018. Total fiber optic infrastructure implementation is at 69 kilometers by the end of 2018.
The National Regulatory Authority started to decrease mobile termination rates gradually in July 2014 over a year; with around 71% decline in total, from TRY 0.10 to TRY 0.03.
The Ministry of Transportation reduced the call charges 41% for off-net calls as of January 1, 2015. These price regulations had a substantial adverse effect on our business. According to the requirements of Electronic Communications Law, prepaid lines were registered. In addition, technical infrastructure was completed for IMEI registrations. The registration of IMEI numbers continue since early 2016.
At the end of 2016, for the first time in the communication industry, Turkcell launched its digital brand Lifecell in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, providing all its services through internet based digital services. As of December 31, 2018 lifecell subscribers have 80% more ARPU when compared to other subscribers.
As of January 22, 2018 mobile number portability (MNP) has come into effect in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkcell Europe GmbH (Turkcell Europe) was founded by Turkcell in 2010 as an MVNO providing service over the T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom AG) network. Headquartered in Cologne, Germany, Turkcell Europe commenced activity in March 2011.
Until the end of 2014, Turkcell Europe continued its operation as a MVNO and offered Turkcells service quality across both Germany and Turkey. In order to increase the efficiency of our operations in Germany, we made changes to the business model in 2014 from a wholesale traffic purchase agreement to a marketing partnership. The Marketing Partnership agreement between Turkcell Europe and a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom was signed on August 27, 2014 which involved the transfer of Turkcell Europe subscribers and operations to a Deutsche Telekom subsidiary as of January 15, 2015. The contract has been renewed on December 12, 2017 and remains in effect. Turkcell and Deutsche Telekom have agreed to rebrand Turkcell Europe into the lifecell brand. Going forward Turkcell aims to offer its digital services also in the German market. As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell Europe had 190,751 registered subscribers.
Financell B.V. was incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands in 2007 and had its registered address in the Netherlands. Financell borrowed funds from third party lenders with or without a Turkcell guarantee to fund other Turkcell subsidiaries. Due to other available options for funding the subsidiaries, the Board of Directors of Turkcell resolved to liquidate Financell B.V. on December 21, 2016 and liquidation was completed as of August 14, 2018.
Turkcell Global Bilgi
On October 1, 1999, Global Bilgi Pazarlama Danismanlik ve Cagri Servisi Hizmetleri A.S. (formerly known as Global Bilgi Pazarlama Danisma ve Cagri Servisi Hizmetleri A.S.) (Turkcell Global Bilgi) was established in order to provide telemarketing, telesales, and call center services, particularly for Turkcell Group. In 2005, Turkcell Global Bilgi completed its transition from call center to contact center as Turkcell Global Bilgi started to manage customer contacts at every channel. Since then, in addition to providing services to Turkcell, Turkcell Global Bilgi started offering customer care services to companies in finance, retail, energy, public sector and the airline industry. In 2016, Turkcell Global Bilgi announced its presence as a Customer Experience Solution Center. By completing its business model transition from Customer Care to Customer Experience, Turkcell Global Bilgi started to analyze customer experiences deeper and gained a vast experience. As of August 4, 2017 Turkcell Global Bilgi has obtained an R&D center certificate from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Industry. As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell Global Bilgi employed 12,034 employees, of whom approximately 64% provide Turkcell with customer care and retention services, around 27% serve customers of other clients and while the remainder works as administrative personnel. Turkcell owns approximately 100% of Turkcell Global Bilgi.
Turkcell Global Bilgi owns a 100% share of Global Bilgi LLC since 2008, which operates in Ukraine and provides telesales and call center services.
Inteltek Internet Teknoloji Yatirim ve Danismanlik Ticaret A.S. (Inteltek) offers information and entertainment services. Turkcell holds 55% of Inteltek through its wholly owned subsidiary Turktell Bilisim Servisleri A.S. (Turktell), while Intralot S.A. Integrated Lottery System and Services, a Greek company, holds 20% and Intralot Iberia Holdings S.A., a Spanish company, holds 25%.
Inteltek has entered into a contract on August 29, 2008 with Spor Toto Teskilat Baskanligi (Spor Toto Directorate) in order to run a sports betting business for ten years. In addition to the foregoing, Inteltek signed a mobile betting dealer agreement with Spor Toto on January 12, 2010, which gives it the right to operate 1,000 mobile terminals. On August 29, 2018, on the day its licence ended, Inteltek signed a new agreement with Spor Toto Directorate up to one year or up until a new license is tendered out. This contract, based on a specific Turkish legislation relating to gaming enacted in 2008, was entered into following numerous legal challenges to prior contracts.
On November 15, 2018, İnteltek agreed to sell its 51% owned subsidiary Azerinteltek QSC (Azerinteltek) to Baltech Investment LLC, shareholder of Azerinteltek with a 24.5% shareholding. The transaction was completed on January 11, 2019 for a total consideration of EUR 19.5 million.
On November 27, 2018, Spor Toto Directorate held the Tender For Procurement Of Fixed Odds And Pari-Mutuel Betting Based On Sports Competitions By Procurement Of The Same By Legal Persons Of Private Law (the Tender). Shortly after, Spor Toto announced the cancellation of the Tender where Inteltek was the only bidder. On February 13, 2019, Spor Toto held the Tender once again and Inteltek has been notified that the tender was awarded to the other bidder. Following a transition period of up to six months, Intelteks operations in sports betting will cease. Inteltek may consider exercising its rights stemming from the law within the respective time frame with respect to the tender process. Unless our legal challenge proves successful or there is a new tender, we expect that Inteltek will cease its activities in August 2019.
The respective revenues comprised approximately 1% of our 2018 consolidated revenues while 2019 contribution is anticipated to be lower considering our ongoing contract and the transfer process.
In 2017, Inteltek entered the digital gaming sector by developing a gaming platform for Turkcells BiP application. Inteltek has launched the kids-oriented gaming platform Playcell and the first board game app Backgammon Go to the Turkish market in 2018. In 2018, over 18 million users visited Playcell; the BiP gaming platform had 4.8 million unique visitors and more than 240 thousand users downloaded Backgammon Go. Inteltek will focus on growing its presence in the attractive gaming market.
Superonline Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Superonline) has a fixed telephony services authorization, which allows the company to provide call origination and termination for consumers and corporations, as well as wholesale voice carrying services. It also has authorization to provide satellite communication services, infrastructure operating services, internet services and wired broadcasting services, and mobile virtual network operating services. Currently, the company carries the majority of Turkcells traffic, previously carried by Turk Telekom (the incumbent operator). Turkcell Superonline was founded in 2009 through the merger of our subsidiary Tellcom with the Superonline business acquired from the Cukurova Group.
Established to be an innovative telecom service operator and with its extensive international connectivity, Turkcell Superonline offers its international and national clients wholesale voice termination, international leased data lines, internet access, telehouse and infrastructure services. Furthermore, Turkcell Superonline is in the retail broadband market, bringing fiber optics to residences. Turkcell Superonline provides fast communication technology with its own fiber optic infrastructure in Turkey and provides telecommunication solutions to individuals and corporations in the areas of voice, data and TV.
Turkcell Superonline is a telecom operator providing fixed network communication solutions to telecom operators, corporations and households in the areas of data, voice and video. Bringing one of the worlds fastest internet services to Turkey through cooperation with major international operators, we carry on investing in order to transform the Silk Road into a Fiber Road by expanding our own infrastructure across Turkey with a fiber network stretching to every corner of the country. We believe that the group synergy arising from being a 100% subsidiary of Turkcell Group, along with our top quality services and our stated goals above sets Turkcell Superonline as a worthy candidate to become the most preferred service provider of choice.
We believe that Turkcell Superonline differentiates itself through its commitment to the quality of after-sale services. Turkcell Superonline supplies corporations with industry-leading service-level agreements utilizing its professional technical support personnel and highly qualified team of consultants. Turkcell Superonline has been awarded the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System Certificate from Bureau Veritas. Turkcell Superonline aims to become one of the leading innovative telecommunications operators in Turkey and it intends to continue to seize opportunities in the internet and telecommunications markets.
Turkcell Superonline won the tenders of BOTAS, Turkeys state-owned pipeline company, and TEIAS, Turkeys state owned electric power transmission company, for the indefeasible right to use the capacity of the fiber optic cables already installed by BOTAS for 15 years in 2009 and TEIAS for 15 years in 2017 including the right to install additional fiber optic cables and the right to use the capacity of these fiber optic cables during the same period. These transactions have been both considered as a finance lease as the lease term is for the major part of the remaining useful life of the fiber optic cables already installed by BOTAS and Turkcell Superonline made a significant investment during the initial period of the lease agreement which is an indicator that the transaction is a finance lease. The recognized cost of the indefeasible right of use as of December 31, 2018 is TRY 118.0 million (December 31, 2017: TRY 113 million).
Turkcell Superonline began to provide 1000 Mbps service to homes in May 2011 for the first time in Turkey in line with the Turkcell Groups strategy to provide state-of-the-art technology for its customers with top-quality service. Turkcell Superonline has rendered Turkey as one of the first five countries in the world where a 1000 Mbps connection is provided to homes thanks to this service option. As of February 2018, Turkcell Superoline started to offer 10 Gbps connections on demand basis.
On March 7, 2013, Turkcell Superonline signed a share purchase agreement to acquire a 100% stake in Deksarnet Telekomunikasyon A.S. (Deksarnet) which is an affiliate of Vestel Elektronik San. ve Tic. A.S. Group. In July 2013, the control over Deksarnet was acquired from Vestel Elektronik San. ve Tic. A.S. Group for a consideration of TRY 3.4 million. Turkcell Superonline and Deksarnet merged on December 3, 2013.
On January 31, 2014, Turkcell Superonline signed a share purchase agreement to acquire a 100% stake in Metronet Iletisim Teknoloji A.S. (Metronet). In April 2014, the control over Metronet was acquired from Es Mali Yatirim ve Danismanlik A.S. for a consideration of TRY 27 million. Turkcell Superonline and Metronet merged on July 4, 2014. With this acquisition, Turkcell Superonlines fiber in-city coverage increased to 14 cities, up from 12 at the time.
Turkcell Superonline merged with Turkcell Interaktif Dijital Platform Icerik Hizmetleri A.S. on December 28, 2016 (Turkcell Interaktif). Following the merger, Turkcell Interaktif was deregistered from Istanbul Trade Registry.
As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell Superonline has 43.3 thousand km of fiber backbone covering 79 major cities in Turkey and has 8 border crossings. Turkcell Superonline has fiber in-city coverage in 21 cities and increased its homepasses to around 3.4 million as of December 31, 2018 from around 3.1 million a year ago. Including partnership engagements, we are capable of covering 6.44 million households in 28 cities. We have five border crossings to Europe, offering various diversity options to important European cities through protected and completely diverse routes. With our stable fiber infrastructure and six border crossings to the East, we offer capacity services through Middle-East, CIS and Asia. Our next generation network designed over this strong infrastructure enables us to deliver high quality solutions to telecom operators, multinational and national private corporations and the governmental institutions.
Turkcell Superonline is building and putting into motion its domestic wholesale business strategy as well providing wholesale products such as bit stream access via its FTTx fiber coverage, infrastructure services, backbone transmission, Ethernet, IP transit capacities, cyber security and VPN services to operators, service providers and datacenter companies in the Turkish domestic market.
Turkcell Superonline is leading the localization strategy for Turkeys data and internet traffic by developing partnerships with internet exchange platforms, Tier-1 operators, global/local content and cloud service providers to enable direct access to all networks and also commercializing the internet traffic. Turkcell Superonline aims to continue to invest in and expand its own fiber optic network and further utilize the group synergy created with Turkcell.
On December 18, 2017, the Turkcell Board of Directors approved the issuance of management agreement based lease certificates (wakala sukuk) in accordance with capital markets legislation by Turkcell Superonline through an asset leasing company in the domestic market, for an amount of up to TRY 300 million, up to 12-month tenor, on various dates and at various amounts without public offering, as private placement and/or to be sold to institutional investors. On January 19, 2018, application for the approval of the issue programme for lease certificates was made to the Capital Markets Board and the approval was obtained on March 1, 2018. The first issue of TRY 125 million with a 6-month tenor was made in March 22, 2018 and matured on September 13, 2018. It was followed by the second issue of TRY 75 million on December 13, 2018 with 103-day tenor and the third issue of TRY 100 million on February 13, 2019 with 121-day tenor, which concluded the issue programme under the CMB approval. On February 1, 2019, the Turkcell Board of Directors approved a new resolution to allow Turkcell Superonline to issue lease certificates for an amount of up to TRY 500 million under the same above conditions. Turkcell Superonline may continue to raise local currency funding through the issuance of lease certificates in the domestic market.
JCR Eurasia Rating has evaluated Turkcell Superonline in an investment-level category on the national and international scales and assigned the ratings on the Long Term National Scale as AA (Trk) and the Short Term National Scale as A-1+ (Trk) with Stable outlooks on May 29, 2018.
Kule Hizmet ve Isletmecilik A.S., (Global Tower) was established in 2006 as a 100% subsidiary of Turkcell and commenced its operations in 2007 to provide infrastructure management by leasing places on towers to private and public entities and institutions. It is the first and only tower company in Turkey and fifth largest tower company in Europe. In addition to Turkey, it has operations in Ukraine, Belarus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Today, it serves not only Mobile Network Operators (MNO) but also broadcasting, ISPs, energy, public institutions and other related industries. Its 100% owned subsidiary in Ukraine, UkrTower LLC, was founded in 2009 and its 100% owned subsidiary in Belarus, Beltower LLC, was founded in 2016. Beltower has a right of use agreement signed with Belarusian Telecom.
Global Tower operates a unique portfolio of 10,581 towers, 8,501 of which are located in Turkey. Global Tower owns 1,132 towers in Ukraine and operates 833 towers in Belarus, as well as 115 towers in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with right of use, through agreements with the tower owners to sublease them to third parties though revenue share agreements. An assessment process for a potential sale and lease-back arrangement relating to the remaining towers in Belarus is currently ongoing. Global Tower also provides service over 100 mobile towers. Global Tower provides fast and high-quality service to its customers in collaboration with its business partners.
In Turkey, Global Tower manages the processes of renting, maintaining and installing towers in 11 structured regions with its 5 solution partnerships. With this structure, the distance between any two service points in Turkey is less than 90 km.
Global Tower helps customers expand their network, peer-to-peer telecommunications and it provides broadcasting field infrastructure solutions, turnkey setup services and professional operation-maintenance services. With its project management, field rental, construction works, telecommunications equipment setup and ready-for use field delivery solutions, it helps private and public institutions reach more customers.
Global Towers wide service range consists of:
Shared infrastructure services in tower/rooftop/in house fields
TV-Radio infrastructure solutions
E2E and wind power infrastructure solutions
M2M / Scada / Telemetry Infrastructure Solutions
Mini Data Centre Infrastructure Solutions
Mobile Tower Solutions
Acclimatized System Room Solutions
Energy infrastructure solutions
Hybrid Systems Solutions (Solar / Wind)
Infrastructure Maintenance and Operation Services
Field Acquisition and Contract Management Services
Satellite telecommunication solutions and services
The Turkcell Board of Directors decided to initiate an initial public offering (IPO) of Global Towers shares in June 2016. However, due to adverse macroeconomic conditions in the markets, the IPO has been postponed. We are evaluating the IPO option for the coming periods if and when the financial market conditions become favorable.
Turkcell Teknoloji Arastirma ve Gelistirme A.S (Turkcell Teknoloji), a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkcell, commenced operations in 2007 in the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center Technological Free Zone in Kocaeli, Turkey. In 2015, Turkcell Teknoloji consolidated its operations in Kucukyali Technology Plaza, Maltepe, Istanbul, Turkey. Turkcell Teknolojis R&D center employs more than 800 researchers who have been accredited by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Industry. Turkcell Teknolojis established team of experts develops a wide range of convenient and reliable solutions with innovative roadmaps. Through integrated intelligence and high-performance core capabilities, (Data Analytics and artificial intelligence, Blockchain, Network Technologies, IoT, VR/AR), Turkcell Teknolojis comprehensive portfolio addresses the following domains: digital services, location-based services and platforms security, roaming solutions, blockchain software life cycle, artificial intelligence and big data processing, business intelligence applications, CRM solutions, network technologies, financial solutions, cloud solutions, mobile marketing, internet of things (IOT), revenue management solutions and campaign management solutions, music and entertainment services, Over-The Top (OTT) solutions and IP TV services.
Turkcell Teknoloji has continued to export technology and software to CIS, Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Turkcell Teknoloji Campaign Management System is deployed and used in ten countries Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Germany, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Moldova, Libya and Kazakhstan. In 2018, Turkcell continued to expand its customer base with digital services in Moldova, and looked for the new opportunities to implement its product catalogue with newly added products.
With the goal of being Turkeys leading R&D and innovation base, Turkcell Teknoloji demonstrates the value it attaches to innovation with its increasing number of patents each year. In 2018, the Turkcell Teknoloji R&D Center submitted over 453 new national and 20 international patent applications. As of December 31, 2018, Turkcell Teknoloji has 1,605 national and 128 international patents applications and 369 granted patents.
Turkcell Teknoloji cooperates with a wide network of national and international R&D companies, universities and research centers and plays an active role in international R&D programs. Hence, Turkcell Technology is an active participant in European collaborative research programs.
As a member of the boards of ITEA and CELTIC clusters of the Eureka program, which is a leading open platform for international cooperation in innovation involving over 40 countries, Turkcell Technology supports the establishment of the European research agenda. ITEA is a transnational and industry-driven Research, Development and Innovation programme in the domain of software innovation in ICT domain. CELTIC strengthens the competitiveness of the European industry by fostering European R&D cooperation in telecommunications and the well-being of society by stimulating innovative information and telecommunication services. Turkcell Technology also has a long history of developing research projects associated with Eureka programs, where we participated as a project leader, national leader or project partner. Turkcell Technology works closely with its national and global partners to initiate new projects in Eureka clusters and Horizon 2020 (Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme to promote discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market) calls which are publicly funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and the European Commission.
Turkcell Finansman A.S.
Turkcell Finansman A.S. (Financell, Turkcell Finansman), a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkcell, was established on October 22, 2015 with the approval of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA, the financial institutions regulator in Turkey) in order to provide financing solutions to Turkcell customers in the form of consumer loans. The company commenced operations in February 2016 after receiving the BRSAs operational permission and was re-branded as Financell in 2017.
Financell was launched nationwide in March 2016 in order to provide financing solutions to existing or new Turkcell customers for their handset, tablet or accessory purchases. With a prudent risk management approach, Financell mainly supports smartphone sales of Turkcell and thus cooperates with a wide network of Turkcell point-of-sales across Turkey.
Financell is funded by equity and borrowings from different sources. Even though the major funding source is bilateral loans from domestic and international lenders, Financell may also tap into the local debt capital markets for bond issues. In order to diversify its borrowing base, Financell also resorts to other funding alternatives such as asset backed securities (ABS). From April 2017 to December 31, 2018, Financell executed four ABS issuances via Aktif Yatirim Bankasi A.S. (a domestic investment bank) at an amount totalling TRY 360 million. The very first ABS issuance of TRY 100 million fully matured on December 21, 2018. Fitch Ratings assigned Financell BB Foreign and Local Currency Long-Term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) and AA-(tur) National Long-Term Rating.
Financell had 4.4 million loans outstanding and TRY 4.2 billion of consumer loans had been granted as of year-end 2018. Cost of risk has improved to 1.97% in December 2018 from 2.26% in December 2017. Coverage ratio as of December 2018 was 77.6%.
In September 2017, Financell established a branch in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus started handset financing operations The business grew throughout 2018 by offering financing options for smart devices.
Financell expanded its services in 2017 into insurance and bundled insurance products with consumer loans through a revenue sharing agreement with BNP Paribas Cardiff. In June 2018, Turkcell Sigorta Aracilik Hizmetleri A.S. (Guvencell, Turkcell Sigorta) insurance agency has been incorporated as a subsidiary of Financell in order to offer various insurance products. In December 2018, Guvencell launched its first product which is for women health insurance.
Turkcell Ozel Finansman A.S.
Turkcell Ozel Finansman A.S. (TOFAS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkcell, was incorporated on February 12, 2018 with the approval of the BRSA in order to provide financing solutions in accordance with Islamic financing principles for purchases of goods and services. The company is currently waiting for the BRSA licensing process.
Turkcell Odeme ve Elektronik Para Hizmetleri A.S.
Turkcell Odeme ve Elektronik Para Hizmetleri A.S. (Paycell or Turkcell Odeme) became operational as of March 2015 to create a convenient payment solution for users and to offer them a streamlined shopping experience under Paycell brand.
In August 2016 Paycell has acquired a Payment Service Provider License from the BRSA and became the first MNO subsidiary having this license in Turkey. With its brand Paycell, Turkcell has expanded its merchant network and reached over 2,000 merchants by implementing easy and secure payment methods to new areas such as mobile app stores, restaurant chains, parking lots, transportation services, physical goods and airport fast track services.
After it was awarded an electronic money payments licence in July 2017, Paycell has launched digital money, prepaid card and utility bill payments though Paycell application and various Turkcell shops. In December 2017 VISA has confirmed Paycells membership. As of December 31, 2018, 2.7 million credit and debit cards are registered at Paycell. Throughout 2018, the business grew at an accelerating rate and added on other features of peer to peer money transfer, expanded merchant integrations and increasing penetration of Paycell prepaid cards.
Paycell took its first step toward globalization in October 2017 by launching direct carrier billing services in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The business grew throughout 2018 with addition of other Paycell products. In 2018, Paycell launched e-money and local currency transfer services in Ukraine, allowing Ukrainian customers to make digital payments. Paycell plans to grow into other international markets offering Turkcells digital solutions worldwide.
As of December 31, 2018, Paycell had 5.2 million three-month active users (including direct billing service users) and the Paycell app was downloaded 2.6 million times. In 2018, including Financell, Paycell generated TRY 5.8 billion transaction volume.
Lifecell Ventures Cooperatief U.A. (formerly named Beltur Cooperatief U.A., Lifecell Ventures, Lifecell Digital) is a 100% subsidiary of Turkcell and it is incorporated in the Netherlands.
In line with Turkcell Groups strategic priority being a digital operator and spreading OTT products and services both in international and domestic markets, Lifecell Ventures is responsible for delivering our OTT services to the global markets and expanding Turkcell Groups footprint by launching new offerings, accelerating the companys owned OTT activities, growing current services and making strategic alliances. Lifecell Ventures uses technology to provide a digital experience to consumers worldwide and enable telecom operators to compete effectively by offering digital communications, entertainment, music, TV, transactional and e-commerce applications as well as cloud solutions on either a licence or a white-label basis. Lifecell Ventures business model is based on charging consultancy, brand and license fees in return for provision of digital service infrastructure and know-how to other operators. Lifecell Ventures has the ambition to contribute in taking telecoms to the next level, which is a more digital service focus rather than being an infrastructure company.
Lifecell Ventures signed cooperation agreements with ALBtelecom SH.a. (ALBtelecom) of Albania, CG Corp Global of Nepal and Digicel Group of Carribean following its already-signed agreement with Moldcell of Moldova within the scope of our international digital business which will allow the use of our digital services in total 39 countries. ALB Telecom, which operates in Albania with a population of 3 million, will initially start to offer BiP and lifebox services to its customers, and then will expand its offerings to include fizy, Yaani, Dergilik and Kopilot in accordance with the cooperation. Digicel Group operating in 31 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific will integrate these services into the infrastructure of operators in its countries of operations. With the agreement signed, CG Corp Global, part of the CG Group, will launch Nepals first digital operator that will offer our digital services BiP, lifebox, fizy, TV+, Dergilik and Fast Login to a population of around 30 million.
Lifecell Digitals business model is based on charging consultancy, brand and license fees in return for provision of digital service infrastructure and know-how to respective operators.
Turkcell Satis ve Dijital Is Servisleri A.S.
Turkcell Satis ve Dijital Is Servisleri A.S. (formerly known as Turkcell Satis ve Dagitim Hizmetleri A.S.) (Turkcell Satis) sells telecommunication and IT products through our flagship store and provides a wide variety of products via our website www.turkcell.com.tr. In 2016, Turkcell Satis started to sell equipment to other entities as corporate sales. In addition, since Turkcell Satis is experienced in the sector, it also acts as an intermediary between producer and distributors to support the determination of products, pricing, amount to be sold, sales support components and management of their inventory.
In January 2019, the companys legal name was changed to Turkcell Satis ve Dijital Is Servisleri A.S., and its area of operations have been expanded to cover end to end IT and technology related solutions and services for enterprises, including data center, cloud, security, digital transformation, system integration and IT managed services.
Turkcell Enerji Cozumleri ve Elektrik Satis Ticaret A.S. (Turkcell Enerji), a 100% owned subsidiary of Turkcell, was established on February 20, 2017 with the vision of being a leader for the transformation of energy markets in Turkey through digitalized, decentralized and decarbonized solutions. Turkcell Enerji supplies electricity to eligible residential, commercial and industrial customers in Turkey.
Turkcell Enerji owns an electricity supply licence, issued by the Energy Market Regulatory Board (EMRA), on May 11, 2017, for a period of 20 years. This enables the company to trade electricity and/or electrical capacity.
Sofra Kurumsal ve Odullendirme Hizmetleri A.S. (Sofra Kurumsal), in which Turkcell indirectly holds a 33.3% stake, was incorporated on July 24, 2018. Belbim Elektronik Para ve Odeme Hizmetleri A.S., a subsidiary of the Municipality of Istanbul, and Posta ve Telgraf Teskilati A.S., the Turkish postal services company, act as shareholders together with our subsidiary Turkcell Odeme. Sofra Kurumsal will provide services via various means such as service coupons, meal coupons, meal cards, electronic coupons and/or smart cards, in vehicle payments as well as smart keys.
Turkcell Foundation (Turkcell Vakfi, Foundation) was founded by our Company on October 11, 2018. The Foundation is a non-for-profit foundation aiming to develop and implement charity and donation programs with respect to, including but not limited to, technology and education.
Assets Held for Sale
Turkcell holds a 41.45% stake in Fintur Holdings B.V (Fintur), which holds interests in the mobile operation in Moldova as of March 7, 2019.
Telia Company A.B. (Telia Company), which is one of our major shareholders and also our partner in Fintur through a 58.55% stake held by Sonera Holding B.V. (Sonera), announced on September 17, 2015 that it had initiated a process in relation to its Eurasian assets with the ultimate aim of a complete exit. In line with the growth strategy in the region at the time, and as the minority shareholder in Fintur (which included assets in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova at that time), on February 26, 2016, Turkcell submitted a binding offer for the remaining 58.55% stake of Sonera in Fintur that Turkcell did not own and Telia Companys 24% direct stake in J.S.C. Kcell (Kcell) operating in Kazakhstan. However, the negotiations were inconclusive and we decided to sell our Fintur stake. Fintur was classified as held for sale and reported as discontinued operations since October 2016.
As part of this process, on January 26, 2018, Fintur, through its 99.99% subsidiary Gurtel Telekomunikasyon Yatirim ve Dis Ticaret A.S. (Gurtel), signed a binding agreement with Silknet JSC (Silknet), a joint stock company organized under the laws of Georgia, to transfer its 100% total shareholding in Geocell LLC, a limited liability company organized under the laws of Georgia for USD 153 million. The transaction was closed on March 20, 2018 following the receipt of regulatory approvals. On March 5, 2018, Fintur transferred its 51.3% total shareholding in Azertel Telekomunikasyon Yatirim Dis Ticaret A.S (Azertel) to Azerbaijan International Telecom LLC (Azintelecom), a company fully owned by the Republic of Azerbaijan, for EUR 221.7 million. The signing of the definitive agreement, the transfer of shares to Azintelecom and the transfer of proceeds to Fintur were completed simultaneously. On December 12, 2018, Fintur signed a binding agreement with JSC Kazakhtelecom to transfer its 51% total shareholding in Kcell for USD 302.6 million. The transaction was closed on December 21, 2018. These transactions have no impact on the Companys financial statements since Fintur is classified as assets held for sale. Simultaneously with the signing of the Kcell share sale agreement, Turkcell also signed a binding agreement with Sonera Holding to transfer its 41.45% shareholding in Fintur for EUR 350 million, subject to closing adjustments. The transaction is expected be completed following the receipt of regulatory approvals from the Moldovan authorities, although we can provide no assurance that such approvals will be obtained.
X. Potential Investments
Our efforts to selectively seek and evaluate new investment opportunities continue. Our strategy for growth involves selectively seeking and evaluating new investment opportunities and participating in those meeting our criteria. We may pursue inorganic growth opportunities both in Turkey and in countries where we are already present with a controlling stake in order to be able to leverage our experience and technological base. We may also pursue opportunities which include alliances, such as MVNOs, management service agreements and marketing partnerships, and may be in the area of mobile or fixed telecommunications and services.
We will evaluate the opportunities of being a digital operator by enriching the portfolio of digital products and financial services in certain international markets and increasing the users for our digital services and products.
On November 2, 2017, Turkcell signed the Joint Initiative Group Cooperation protocol and on May 31, 2018 Shareholders Agreement was signed by Turkcell with the intention to participate as a potential contributor in Turkeys Automobile Project. Under this protocol, the signing parties has agreed to determine the framework of the activities to meet requirements of the project for designing, developing, manufacturing an electric car and establishing sales and distribution network, and to establish a local company that will own the intellectual and industrial property rights of this car. Accordingly, on June 25, 2018, Turkiyenin Otomobili Girisim Grubu Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. (Turkiyenin Otomobili, TOGG, Turkeys Car) was incorporated, in which Turkcell has participated as a founding partner with a 19% stake and provided TRY 3.8 million as initial capital. AG Anadolu Grubu Holding A.S., BMC Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S., Kok Ulasim Tasimacilik A.S. and Turkcell have equal partnerships in TOGG each with a 19% shareholding; whereas Turkiye Odalar ve Borsalar Birligi holds a 5%. The CEO of TOGG was appointed on September 1, 2018. The capital of the company was increased to TRY 50 million as of October 17, 2018.
TOGG has been established primarily to produce the electric car referred to above and to carry out supporting activities within the framework of Turkeys Automobile Project. Turkcell continues its efforts towards developing smart transportation systems, leveraging on its high quality communication network and strong engineering and software capabilities embedded within its organization. We believe that we will make an important contribution to Turkeys Automobile Project as a technology partner with our knowhow and competencies.
XI. Disclosure Pursuant to Section 219 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA)
Based on our information and the information provided to us by our affiliates, as of the date of this annual report, we believe that certain of our business activities in Iran in 2018 and in 2019, and the business activities of certain of our affiliates, are subject to disclosure pursuant to ITRA Section 219.
During the year ended December 31, 2018, Turkcell and lifecell had international roaming relationships with the following companies in Iran and Syria: Telecom Infrastructure Company of Iran (TIC), MTN Irancell, Taliya Iran, Telecommunication Kish Co., KIFZO and Rightel and Syriatel and MTN Syria. During the year ended December 31, 2018, Turkcell and lifecell had gross revenues of approximately TRY 5.5 million and cost of approximately TRY 2.2 million attributable to these agreements. Turkcell has developed an OTT product called BiP which is available for download online for free. The Company believes that there have been downloads from within Iran, which have generated no revenue or profits. For details regarding the risks we face with regard to our business in Iran, please refer to Item 3.DRisk FactorsAny instability in the political environment and/or downturn in the economy, as well as volatile international markets and events and the threat of terrorism, in Turkey and/or internationally may have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
Turkcell has voice interconnection agreements with Tadbir Ertebatat-E-Sigma (Sigma LLC). During the year ended December 31, 2018, gross revenues attributable to these agreements were TRY 41 million, and net losses of approximately TRY 16 million.
Turkcell Superonline provided transit IP and leased line services through network interface agreements with TIC. During the year ended December 31, 2018, total revenues attributable to these agreements were TRY 10.7 million. Furthermore, Turkcell Superonline has a business relationship with Teleka Maedeh Co. (Telecom Idea) based in Iran. For the years 2017 and 2018 the services provided to this company generated no revenues, and the services received from this company amounted to approximately TRY 1.8 million. Payments for these costs were done to QBIC Electronics Trading LLC (a UAE company) which is authorized by Telecom Idea for receiving payments.
We have made enquiries of our major shareholders regarding activities in Iran and Syria.
Telia Carrier AB of Sweden is interconnected with the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company of Iran via an interconnection point outside of Iran, but did not exchange any international telephony traffic with TIC of Iran in the year ended December 31, 2018. Telia Carrier AB of Sweden receives international telephony traffic from the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment via an interconnection point outside of Syria. Telia Carrier AB does not send traffic to the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment via this interconnection point, as this agreement has been terminated. During the year ended December 31, 2018, gross revenues and net profits attributable to this business relationship were EUR 29 thousand and EUR 27 thousand, respectively.
Furthermore, we have been informed that Telia Finland, Telia Norge AS, Telia Denmark, Moldcell and Telia Lithuania had roaming agreements with Mobile Company of Iran (MCI), MTN Irancell, MTN Syria, Syriatel. For the year ended December 30, 2018, total costs associated with these agreements amounted to EUR 11 thousand.
Although it is difficult to do with a reasonable degree of certainty, we have concluded that our Iranian business partners described in this section may be owned or controlled indirectly by the Government of Iran. However, to our knowledge, none of the services provided by Turkcell and our affiliates in Iran described in this section have been used by the Government of Iran to commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran. Furthermore, we understand that the U.S. Department of the Treasurys Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued a general license authorizing U.S. persons to engage in certain of the activities described in this section. With the exception of the roaming agreement between Telia Denmark and Syriatel which has been terminated in 2018, we and our affiliates intend to continue the activities described in this section in 2019.
XII. Regulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry
All telecommunications activity in Turkey is regulated by the ICTA. The Electronic Communications Law No. 5809 (the Electronic Communications Law), which came into force on November 10, 2008, is the principal law governing telecommunications activity in Turkey. The Electronic Communications Law was published to correspond to the rapidly-evolving Turkish telecommunications industry, and all secondary regulations have been updated to be in accordance with this law. The duties of the ICTA, which may be exercised in a manner that is adverse to our operations and our financial results, include those described below.
The ICTA has the authority to grant licenses and set fees in the electronic telecommunications industry.
According to Article 8 of the Electronic Communications Law, electronic communications services are rendered and/or established (as in the case of an electronic communications network or infrastructure) and operated following the authorization made by the ICTA. Authorization is granted either through notification made in accordance with the principles and procedures determined by the ICTA, in cases where scarce resource allocation is not necessary, or by the granting of usage rights, in cases where scarce resource allocation is necessary (allocation of frequency, satellite position, etc.). Under the Electronic Communications Law, usage rights may be granted for up to 25 years; however, there is no clause relating to the term of notification. According to the Electronic Communications Law, the principles and procedures relating to the notification and granting of usage rights is determined by the ICTA through secondary regulations.
According to the Electronic Communications Law, usage rights can only be restricted where the resources are required to be operated by a limited number of operators and for the purpose of ensuring the effective and efficient use of the scarce resources. In cases where the quantity of rights of use is limited, Article 9-6(a) of the Electronic Communications Law allows the Turkish Ministry to determine the criteria, such as (i) the authorization policy regarding electronic communications services which cover the assignment of satellite position and frequency band on a national scale and which need to be operated by a limited number of operators, (ii) the starting date of the service, (iii) the duration of the authorization and the number of operators to serve. While the criteria are determined by the Turkish Ministry, the authorization is still granted by the ICTA.
Under Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law, the ICTA was authorized to determine the principles and procedures related to the process of personal data and protection of privacy and has published Regulations on the Protection of Privacy and Processing of Personal Data. With its decision rendered on April 9, 2014 and published in the Official Gazette on July 26, 2014, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided that Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law is a violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which stipulates data protection as a constitutional measure and that the measures should be regulated by the laws and therefore annulled the aforementioned provision (Article 51). The Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law, which was repealed by Turkish Constitutional Court, was amended and came into force on April 15, 2015. In the amended Article 51, the main principles of recording and sharing subscribers personal data are defined in general. In addition, ICTA is also authorized to determine the procedures and principles related to the process of personal data and protection of privacy. A public consultation regarding the draft regulation has been collected by the ICTA, however the new regulation has not yet been adopted.
The Electronic Communications Law establishes legal principles and broad policy lines that the ICTA must follow, some of which are stated below:
Creation and protection of a free and efficient competitive environment.
Protection of consumer rights and interests.
Protection of the objectives of development plans and Government programs as well as the strategies and policies set by the Turkish Ministry.
Promotion of implementations that ensure that everyone can benefit from electronic communications networks and services.
Ensuring non-discrimination among subscribers, users and operators under fair conditions.
Ensuring the conformity of electronic communications systems to international norms.
Protection of information safety and communication confidentiality.
The Electronic Communications Law also specifies general rules and principles relating to interconnection between operators. Agreements for interconnection are publicly available, but precautions are taken by the ICTA to protect commercial secrets of the parties.
The law entitled Universal Services and Amending Some Laws, Law No. 5369, determines the procedures and principles governing the provision and execution of universal service and the procedures and the rules relating to the fulfillment of universal services in the electronic communications sector, a universal public service that is financially difficult for operators to provide (and performance of a universal service obligation in the electronic communications sector). In accordance with Law No. 5369, the scope of universal services is determined periodically by the President of Republic of Turkey, which will not exceed three years.
The legislation designates the following as universal services: fixed-line telephony services, public pay telephones, telephone directory services to be provided in printed or electronic environments, emergency call services, basic internet services, passenger services to residential areas where access is solely provided by sea and sea communication and sailing safety communication services.
This law mandates that designated operators must provide universal services and the General Directorate of Communication can demand that operators provide universal services on a national and/or geographical basis. Turk Telekomunikasyon A.S. and the GSM operators are currently designated as universal services providers.
The Council of Ministers Decision No. 2011/1880, which was published in the Official Gazette numbered 27984 and dated July 4, 2011 allowed the use of the universal service fund to extend the mobile GSM network coverage listed in the annex of the decision to uncovered areas with a population of 500 or less. On February 13, 2013, we were appointed as universal service provider after a tender process and the related contract was signed on February 20, 2013. Under the aforementioned contract, Turkcell duly carried out its undertakings for installing sufficient infrastructure to cover 1,799 rural locations and the investment and operating expenses are compensated by the universal service fund of the Turkish Ministry. This contract was renewed until December 31, 2018 to add mobile broadband services to the existing infrastructure providing GSM services under Universal Service Law and to operate the new and existing networks together. Recently the contract has been extended with the same conditions as defined in the contract clause until December 31, 2019. The Electronic Communications Law also specifies general rules and principles relating to tariffs. Pursuant to the Electronic Communications Law, operators may freely determine the tariffs they apply in compliance with the relevant legislation and the ICTA arrangements. In the event of determination of the significant market power of the operator, the ICTA may determine the method of the approval, tracking and auditing of the tariffs. It may also determine the lower and upper limit of the tariffs and principles and procedures of the application of the same.
The Electronic Communications Law provides basic guidelines for the tariffs and pricing and thus leaves the detailed rules and enforcement to the ICTA. According to the law:
(1) The tariff may be determined as one or more subscription fees, fixed fees, call charges, line rentals, and similar fee items.
(2) Tariffs to be imposed in return for providing any kind of electronic communications services shall be subject to the following provisions:
(a) Operators shall freely determine the tariffs under their possession, provided that they comply with the regulations of the ICTA and the relevant legislation.
(b) If an operator is designated as having significant market power in the relevant market, the ICTA shall be entitled to determine the procedures regarding the approval, monitoring and supervision of tariffs as well as the highest and lowest limits of the tariffs and the procedures and principles for the implementation thereof.
(c) If an operator is designated as having significant market power in the relevant market, the ICTA shall be entitled to make the necessary arrangements to prevent anti-competitive tariffs such as price squeezing and predatory pricing and to supervise the implementation thereof.
(3) Procedures and principles pertaining to the implementation of Article 13 of the Electronic Communications Law, submission of tariffs to the ICTA and publishing and announcing them to the public shall be determined by the ICTA.
According to this regulation, the ICTA may intervene in the structure of our tariffs or may impose certain criteria relating to the revision of our tariffs. Pursuant to its decision in 2005, the ICTA designated Turkcell as having Significant Market Power (SMP) in the Mobile Access Call Origination Market while all three operators were designated as having Significant Market Power in Mobile Call Termination Market.
As a result of the significant market power designation in the Mobile Access and Call Origination Market, our Company was obliged to provide access and call origination services to other operators such as MVNOs and Directory Services Operators on a cost-based basis, while competitors can set their prices freely on commercial basis.
Upon the renewal of related market analysis; following an ICTA Decision dated April 12, 2017 and numbered 2017/DK-SRD/124, it has been decided that an ex ante regulation is no longer needed for Mobile Access Call Origination Market and that Turkcells SMP designation will be removed as of April 12, 2018 unless otherwise stated. However, the Mobile Access and Call Origination Market deregulation transition period is extended until April 12, 2019. Within this period, Turkcell will retain its SMP designation and obligations under the Mobile Access Call Origination Market regulation will continue.
Upon the renewal of Mobile Call Termination Market analysis, by ICTA Decision dated April 19, 2017 and numbered 2017/DK-SRD/131, it has been decided that SMS and MMS termination services will no longer be regulated as of April 19, 2018 unless otherwise stated. However, an ICTA decision on April 12, 2018 stated that deregulation of SMS/MMS termination services is cancelled and SMS/MMS termination services will be regulated on the Mobile Termination Market.
In addition to the duties and authorities stated above, the Law Regarding the Establishment of ICTA No. 2813 has been amended and ICTA has been given the authority to apply a conciliation procedure for the receivables including administrative sanctions (except for the receivables that are intermediated for collection and the penalty requirement for the treasury share) and the debts of ICTA. According to this provision, it is possible to settle on a part of the disputed amount and to waive the primary or secondary claims and the settled matters cannot be made the subject of a lawsuit or a complaint.
Telegraph and Telephone Law numbered 406 has also been amended and it has been regulated that in the event that the treasury share is not paid in full in the given period, ICTA has the right to impose a penalty in the amount of one full amount of the incomplete or unpaid treasury share.
c. Regulation on Quality of Service in the Electronic Communications Sector
The Regulation on Quality of Service in the Electronic Communications Sector, effective since December 31, 2011 is applicable to all operators that provide service to end users and sets out the procedures and principles to control the conformity of the services of operators. Mobile telephone operators are required to meet new service quality requirements and submit a report based on these requirements every three months to the ICTA. Additional requirements for service quality must be fulfilled. If the operators fail to reach these requirements more than once, this may result in the imposition of penalties. The results of quality measurements can also be made publicly available on the website of the ICTA for a period of one month, stating that the operator has failed to comply with the service quality requirements.
d. Regulation on Administrative Fines, Sanctions and Precautions in the Electronic Communications Sector
According to the Regulation on Administrative Fines, Sanctions and Precautions to be imposed on operators, effective as of February 15, 2014, the ICTA retains the right to impose fines in the event an operator submits incorrect or misleading documents or fails to submit documents as requested by the ICTA; does not submit such documents in a timely manner; does not permit inspection or audits to be made by the ICTA; uses unpermitted equipment or equipment not complying with standards or alters technical features of equipment; or does not pay fees arising from its use of licenses and frequencies; does not meet the regulations regarding numbering, number portability, calling line identification (CLI), access and interconnection, end-user tariffs, consumer rights, value added services (VAS), data protection, national security and public order, service quality and such or does not comply with the provisions of license agreements, telecommunications licenses and general authorizations or the legislation. The ICTA is authorized to impose sanctions and precautions as well as administrative fines.
In 2018, there has been another amendment to the aforementioned regulation which introduces a new provision addressing natural persons and private legal entities which are not operators under the Electronic Communications Law. According to the new provision, entities (including natural persons and private legal entities which are not operators) who fail to comply with the obligations determined by ICTA regarding national cyber-security activities and protective measures against cyber-attacks, or fail to implement the measures taken by ICTA, will be subject to administrative fines.
e. Regulation on Authorization regarding the Electronic Communications Sector
In 2009, the ICTA published the Regulation on Authorization regarding the Electronic Communications Sector (Authorization Regulation), which determines the principles and procedures for the authorization of the companies that seek to provide electronic communication services and/or to install or operate electronic communications networks or infrastructure. In 2016, there had been major amendments to the aforementioned Regulation. According to the amendments:
(1) Operators authorized with the limited usage right authorization may sell devices, make installations, carry out maintenance or give consultations if it is related to or necessary for its field of activity. As a result of this amendment, Turkcell is able to sell devices in relation with electronic communication services.
(2) Companies which apply to the ICTA to be authorized should have paid the minimum amount of paid capital set by ICTA. The operators authorized before the amendment of the Regulation are also liable to meet this condition. According to the ICTA decision dated March 31, 2016 and numbered 2016/DK-YED/195, the operators authorized to provide Public Access Mobile Radio Service should have minimum paid capital amounting to TRY 250,000 and the operators granted with other authorization types should have minimum paid capital amounting to TRY 1,000,000.
(3) All operators should obtain the consent of the ICTA prior to the transfer, acquisition or any other transaction regarding 10% or more of their shares. The operators authorized with limited usage right should also notify the ICTA within two months at the latest in case of a transfer, acquisition or any other transaction of their shares up to 10%.
(4) Operators should provide free call center services, which was not an obligation in the former Regulation.
(5) Operators should keep the traffic data of their customers for two years, which was set at one year in the former Regulation.
(6) Operators are liable to notify the ICTA of any amendments to the documents regarding the employees of the operators (including employee lists) which have been previously submitted to the ICTA.
(7) The ICTA is entitled to decline authorization applications and proceed with operator inspections to confirm the accuracy of the information and documents submitted during the authorization application.
In addition to the amendments of the abovementioned Regulation, the ICTA decision on Procedures and Principles Regarding the Usage of Caller Line Identification (CLI) was published; the liabilities of the operators are increased.
f. Regulation on Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
Pursuant to Article 32 of the Electronic Communications Law, operators are required to supply operator number portability.
MNP allows subscribers to keep their existing telephone number when changing their telephone operator, their physical location or current service plan. These regulations became operational in the fourth quarter of 2008. Since we believe the MNP regulations conflict with our rights under our license agreement, without due compensation, we filed a lawsuit in 2007 for the cancellation of the MNP regulation. While we do not object to the substance of mobile number portability, we do, however, believe that our rights under our license agreement should remain protected or, if they are violated, we should be justly compensated. The Court rejected the case in June 2009 and we appealed the decision. The Plenary Session of the Chambers for Administrative Cases approved the court decision. We applied for the correction of the decision. The Court rejected the Companys request of the correction of the decision. The Company made an individual application before the Constitutional Court, against the respective decision. In 2009, the ICTA issued a new Regulation on MNP, abolishing the 2007 regulation and amended some Articles of this Regulation in November 2015. For new subscriptions, subscribers of mobile operators cannot port out to another operator in the first three months if the line has not been transferred to another subscriber.
g. Regulation on Security of Network and Information in Electronic Communications Sector
In 2008, the ICTA published the Regulation on Security of Electronic Communication, which determines the principles and procedures for precautions to be taken by the operators for eliminating or derogating the risks caused by threads or weaknesses of (i) the physical area of the operators, data, hardware/software security and reliability, and (ii) sustaining the reliability of human resources. In accordance with the regulation, our Company is required to comply with TS ISO/IEC 27001 or ISO/IEC 27001 standards. Turkcell was the first mobile operator in Turkey to receive the ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification for its Network Operations function in 2008 covering all operations throughout Turkey. In 2011, Turkcells IT function was also certified for ISO/IEC 27001:2005 and Turkcells ISO/IEC 27001:2005 scope became one of the largest among telecommunication operators in Europe. In 2015, the Information and Communications Technology and Network departments successfully passed ISO 27001:2013 audits and were deemed to be in compliance with ISO 27001:2013 version. By having an ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certificate covering telecom infrastructure operations, Turkcell fulfills its regulatory obligations and offers its customers the benefits of an internationally-recognized secure management of operations and services. In July 2014, the ICTA repealed the above regulation and published the Regulation on Security of Network and Information in Electronic Communication Sector which requires the Company to set up and maintain a specialized team to detect, prevent and report all cyber events and work in coordination with the National Computer Emergency Response Center, in addition to the abovementioned obligations.
h. Turkish Competition Law and the Competition Authority
In 1997, the Competition Law (No. 4054) established a Competition Board. The Competition Board consists of seven members who are appointed for a term of six years and one-third of the Board members are renewed every two years. It is an autonomous authority with administrative and financial independence established to ensure effective competition in markets for goods and services.
The Competition Board can carry out investigations, evaluate requests for exemptions, monitor the market, assess mergers and acquisitions, submit views to the Ministry of Industry and Technology (formerly known as Ministry of Industry and Trade) and perform other tasks stipulated by the Competition Law. The ICTA can apply to the Competition Board if it determines that agreements regarding access, network interconnection and roaming violate the Competition Law.
Any person or legal entity may file a complaint with the Competition Board. The Competition Board can take necessary measures to prevent violations and may impose fines on those who are liable for such prohibited practices. The Competition Board may impose fines of up to 10% of the annual gross income of the operators, which is constituted by the end of the previous financial year and determined by the Competition Board. The ICTA and the Competition Board entered into a Protocol on Cooperation in 2002, followed by new Protocols in 2011 and 2015. The original Protocol established a framework whereby the ICTA and the Competition Board can cooperate on legal actions and policies regarding measures, regulations and inspections that affect competition conditions and competition in the telecommunications sector. The new Protocols regulate the mechanisms to improve cooperation between the ICTA and the Competition Board.
i. The Principles on the Applications Regarding the Anticompetitive Acts In Electronic Communications Sector
One of the principles that the ICTA must follow is the creation and protection of a free and efficient competitive environment. The Electronic Communications Law specifies that the ICTA is authorized to set rules (that do not contradict the Turkish Competition Law) to prevent anticompetitive acts, to investigate the operators as officio or upon a claim and to take necessary measures against the anticompetitive actions. Considering that the applications regarding the anticompetitive acts are made by different methods and are based upon a variety of documents, the ICTA published the Principles on the Applications Regarding the Anticompetitive Acts in Electronic Communications Sector on December 20, 2017 in order to clarify these points.
j. Regulation on the Establishment of Metropolitan Municipalities in Fourteen Provinces and of Twenty-Seven Districts and Amending Certain Laws and Decree Laws
The Law No. 6360 on the Establishment of Metropolitan Municipalities in Fourteen Provinces and of Twenty-Seven Districts and Amending Certain Laws and Decree Laws was published in the Official Gazette on December 6, 2012 and enacted on March 30, 2014 through municipal elections. The Law, increasing the number of metropolitan cities from 16 to 30, dissolves the legal entity of villages and special provincial administrations in cities where there are metropolitan municipalities. By the amendment of the Law for Metropolitan Municipalities, the number of metropolitan municipalities increased and the borders of some metropolitan municipalities were extended. After this amendment, the ICTA increased our coverage obligations, defined in our concession agreement, by its decision, based on this law amendment which requires us to make material capital expenditures. We filed a lawsuit for the stay of execution and
cancellation of the ICTAs aforementioned decision. The Council of State granted a motion for the stay of execution of ICTAs aforementioned decision. The ICTA objected to this decision. The objection was also rejected in favor of Turkcell. The hearing was held on November 27, 2018 and it is expected that the court will grant a decision in 2019. Since then the ICTA has been working on a new regulation aligned with the law no. 6360.
k. Regulation on Base Station Implementation in Electronic Communication Sector
In 2012, according to Law no 6360 and Municipality Law No 5393, the Metropolitan Municipalities were authorized to give site selection certificate to the BTS considering the requirements of city and building aesthetics and electronic communication services. The Site Selection Certificate Regulation was published in the Official Gazette dated January 27, 2018, numbered 30314, and entered into force on the date of its publication. According to this regulation, the Site Selection Certificate and the TRY 2,970 per station fee for the year 2019 will only apply to the BTSs established after December 6, 2012.
l. Zoning Law and Construction Certificate Requirement of Base Stations
The Supreme Court of Appeals rescinded the regulation regarding the base stations exemption from obtaining construction permits on October 1, 2009. The existing zoning law in Turkey requires mobile operators to obtain construction certificates for all existing and new base stations, resulting in the shutdown of some stations for which certification cannot be obtained. In Turkey, nearly half of the premises were built illegally without any permission. As a result, some municipalities started taking legal action such as affixing seals to suspend the construction or demolition orders against base stations, negatively affecting our coverage, quality of service and customer experience. We have also taken legal action requesting nullity of those acts. In addition, studies for altering zoning laws regarding procedures for building certifications are being prioritized.
The Planned Areas Zoning Regulation was published in the Official Gazette dated July 3, 2017 and became effective as of October 1, 2017. The necessity of obtaining a building permission certificate and a construction permit, which is not possible in practice, has thereby been abolished. This regulation authorizes the establishment of a BTS without a construction license process, provided that necessary precautions and approval of ICTA are taken, and provides a special BTS installation procedure. The following requirements must be met for BTS to be established on private land and in buildings:
The Site Selection Certificate should be received prior to the establishment of the BTS.
Operators must undertake the technical responsibility the installation.
The consent of flat owners should be obtained prior to the establishment of a BTS.
A static report for the BTS installation should be obtained by operators.
The appearance of the BTS should not negatively affect the aesthetics, appearance and silhouette of the buildings.
The size of the antenna should not exceed 1.55 meters on roof-top sites.
m. Regulation on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
In May 2012, the Regulation related to Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment was published in the Official Gazette and became effective. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations may impose some obligations on our Company and increase our operational costs.
n. Regulation on the Internet
Law no. 5651 for the Regulation of Web Content has been revised by Law no. 6518, which became effective on February 19, 2014. The new law required that all internet access providers, which include all mobile and fixed network operators as well as all internet service providers, would form a Union of Internet Access Providers (UAP) within three months, which was established. After the establishment of the UAP, if any internet service provider or any operator giving internet services fails to become a member of the UAP, it shall also be fined with an amount equal to one percent of the previous years revenues.
In addition, the new law raises the existing fines for not removing content as requested by the court. The law also introduces URL-based blocking of websites which requires new capital as well as operating expenditures for all internet access providers.
o. GSM Licensing in Turkey
The terms of license agreements are governed by the Authorization Regulation, and it provides that the ICTA approve the transfer of licenses to third parties, ensure continuation of services in the event of cancellation of a license and approve the investment plans submitted by licensees.
A GSM license is subject to the ICTAs right to suspend or terminate operations under the license on the grounds of security, public benefit, and national defense or to comply with the law. However, suspension or takeover of facilities under these circumstances is subject to the payment of compensation to the operator. The ICTA can also inspect such licensee and nullify its license if the licensee has materially failed to comply with the terms of its license. The ICTA may also terminate licenses in cases of gross negligence or non-payment of the authorization fee.
The licensee is responsible for installing telecommunications equipment in conformance with international signalization systems and numbering plans. Furthermore, the licensee is obligated to make the necessary investments to offer the licensed service, including the design of the service, the making of financial investments and the installation and operation of the facility required for the service. Licensees are allowed to determine the prices for services, subject to the regulations of the ICTA. Upon the expiry of a license, including termination, the facilities and immovables of the licensee, in operating condition, will be transferred by the licensee in accordance with the license agreement.
p. Our GSM License Agreement
Since April 1998, we have operated under a 25-year GSM license for which we paid an upfront license fee of $500 million. In 2002, we signed a renewed license agreement for our GSM license which provides that a monthly payment of 15% over our gross revenue paid to the Turkish Treasury shall be subject to the legal interest rate. If such payments are not duly paid twice in any given year, a penalty in an amount equal to triple the last monthly payment shall be payable to the Turkish Treasury. However, as a result of the aforementioned amendments made to the Telegraph and Telephone Law, it has been provided that in the event that the treasury share is not paid in full in the given period, the ICTA has the right to impose a penalty in the amount of one full amount of the incomplete or unpaid treasury share. The process of the amendment of the licence agreement in accordance with said Law is ongoing and the licence agreement is expected to be amended by the ICTA. In addition, we must pay annual contributions in an amount equal to 0.35% of our gross revenue to the ICTAs expenses. After the tender relating to the allocation of additional GSM 900 frequency bands, made by the ICTA in June 2008, the license agreement was amended to include the additional frequency band and was signed by Turkcell and the ICTA in February 2009, which made small additional changes in the articles of the license agreement entitled performance bond and allocated frequency bands and then it was signed again in February 2016 with small amendments.
Terms and Conditions
Under the license agreement, we hold a licensed concession to provide telecommunications services in accordance with GSM-PAN European Mobile Telephone System standards in the 900 MHz frequency band. Our license covers 55 channels and allocates telephone numbers between the 530 and 539 area codes in the national numbering plan. Our license also permits us to establish customer service centers, sign contracts with subscribers and market our services to subscribers. Our license was issued with an effective date of April 27, 1998, for an initial term of 25 years. At the end of the initial term, we can renew our license, subject to the approval of the ICTA, provided that we apply between 24 months and 6 months before the end of our license. Our license is not exclusive and is not transferable without the approval of the ICTA.
We paid a license fee of $500 million to the Turkish Treasury upon effectiveness of our license. On an ongoing basis, we must pay 15% of our gross revenue, defined as of March 2006 to exclude interest charges for late collections from subscribers and indirect taxes such as 18% VAT, as well as other expenses and the accrued amounts that are recorded for reporting purposes to the Turkish Treasury. We are required to pay 10% of our existing monthly treasury share to the Turkish Ministry as a universal service fund contribution. Since 2005, we are required to pay 90% of the treasury share to the Turkish Treasury and 10% to the Turkish Ministry as a universal service fund contribution. As of January 1, 2018, all of our treasury share is paid to the ICTA, which then transfers it to the Turkish Treasury and the Turkish Ministry as detailed above. The calculation method for the treasury share has also been revised and the following will consequently not be considered in calculation of the treasury share: overdue interests which are accrued to the subscribers for any unpaid balance, accrual amounts for the purpose of reporting, amounts for the purpose of correction accounting records which occur in the same year due to errors (such as customer information, type of business, amount, price).
Furthermore, under the Authorization Regulation, all kinds of share transfers, acquisitions and actions of the operators which are authorized by a Concession Agreement must be communicated to the ICTA, and such share
transfers, acquisitions and actions shall be made with the written approval of the ICTA if they result in a change of control component of such operators. The control component is defined as the rights that allow for applying a decisive effect on an enterprise, either separately or jointly, de facto or legally.
Our license subjects us to a number of conditions. It may be revoked in the event that we fail to meet any of these conditions.
Our license requires that we meet coverage and technical criteria. We must attain geographical coverage of 50% of the population of Turkey (living in cities or towns of 10,000 or more inhabitants) within three years of our licenses effective date and at least 90% of the population of Turkey (living in cities or towns of 10,000 or more inhabitants) within five years of the effective date of our license. This coverage requirement excludes coverage met through national roaming and installation sharing arrangements with other GSM systems and operators. Upon the request of the ICTA, we may also be required, throughout the term of our license, to cover at most two additional areas each year. Except in the event of force majeure, we must pay a late performance penalty of 0.2% of the investment in the related coverage area per day for any delay of more than six months in fulfilling a coverage area obligation. As at the end of 2018, we have met and surpassed all coverage obligations.
Our license requires that we provide services that, in addition to general GSM phone services, include free emergency calls and technical assistance for customers, free call forwarding to police and other public emergency services, receiver-optional short messages, video text access, fax capability, calling and connected number identification and restrictions, call forwarding, call waiting, call hold, multi-party and three-party conference calls, billing information, and the barring of a range of outgoing and incoming calls.
Generally, we must meet all the technical standards of the GSM Association as determined and updated by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and Secretariat of the GSM Association. Moreover, we must meet the standards that the ICTA imposes under Regulation on Quality of Service in the Electronic Communications Sector.
The license agreement regulates our ability to determine our tariff for GSM services. The license agreement provides that, after consultation with us and consideration of tariffs applied abroad for similar services, the ICTA sets the initial maximum tariffs in Turkish Lira and U.S. Dollars. Thereafter, our license provides that the maximum tariffs shall be adjusted at least every six months. The license agreement provides a formula for adjusting the existing maximum tariffs. For the adjustment of the maximum tariffs established in Turkish Lira, the formula is: the Turkish Consumer Price Index announced by the Ministry of Industry and Technology for Turkey minus 3% of the Turkish Consumer Price Index announced by the Ministry of Industry and Technology. For the maximum tariffs established in U.S. Dollars, the same method is applied to the USA Consumer Price All Item Index Numbers.
Although we believe the tariff structure in our license will, in most instances, permit adjustments designed to offset devaluations of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. Dollar, any such devaluation that we are unable to offset will require us to use a larger portion of our revenue to service our non-Turkish Lira foreign currency obligations. Additionally, in the event that the ICTA were to establish maximum tariffs at levels below those that would enable us to adjust our rates to offset devaluations, this could have a material adverse effect on our business, consolidated financial condition, results of operations and/or liquidity. The maximum tariffs set by the ICTA may constitute the highest rates we may charge for the services included in these customized service packages. Generally, the maximum tariffs set by the ICTA for particular services are set higher than the standard tariffs determined by the ICTA for those services. Such caps were in force at the beginning of 2016, until a decision rendered in March 10, 2016 by the ICTA annulled the maximum tariffs set by the ICTA in 2015. On September 20, 2018, the ICTA set the maximum tariffs at 0.5670 TRY/min for voice and TRY 0.4075 for SMS with regard to Turkcell and Vodafone on the basis of the obligations in their licence agreements. Since Avea does not have such an obligation in its licence, a policy decision was taken by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastucture for Avea to comply with maximum tariffs.
With respect to our retail tariffs, following a board resolution dated March 25, 2009, the ICTA set a lower limit solely for Turkcells on-net retail tariffs. In the following years our minimum on-net price level was changed several times by the ICTA, and was set at TRY 0.0073 for SMS and TRY 0.0428 for voice for the first two quarters of 2016. However, pursuant to a decision rendered on August 16, 2016, the ICTA removed the regulation on lower limit on on-net
retail prices and campaigns. These pricing regulations were valid on each and every single voice tariff and campaign, whereas we were obliged to maintain our minimum on-net SMS rate on network base. The table below shows the on-net prices and MTR rates until August 16, 2016:
|Before July 1, 2013||July 1, 2013 |
August 16, 2016
Minimum on-net voice price
Minimum on-net SMS price
The ICTA has in the past intervened and may again intervene with the charging period, impacting the prices we charge for our tariffs.
Relationship with the ICTA
The license agreement creates a mechanism for an ongoing relationship between us and the ICTA. The ICTA and Turkcell coordinate their activities through a License Coordination Committee (the Committee), which is responsible for ensuring the proper and coordinated operation of the GSM network, assisting in the resolution of disputes under the license agreement and facilitating the exchange of information between the parties.
License Suspension and Termination
The ICTA may suspend our operations for a limited or an unlimited period if necessary for the purpose of public security or national defense, including war and general mobilization. During suspension, the ICTA may operate our business, but we are entitled to any revenues collected during such suspension, and our license term will be extended by the period of any suspension.
Our license may be terminated under our license agreement upon a bankruptcy ruling that is not reversed or dismissed within 90 days, upon our failure to perform our obligations under the license agreement if such failure is not cured within 90 days, if we operate outside the allocated frequency ranges and fail to terminate such operations within 90 days or if we fail to pay our treasury fee.
In the event of termination, we must deliver the entire GSM system to the ICTA.
If our license is terminated for our failure to perform our obligations under our license, the performance guarantee given by us in an amount equal to 1% of the license fee may be called. The license agreement makes no provision for the payment of consideration to us for delivery of the system on such termination.
In the event of a termination of our license, our right to use allocated frequencies and to operate the GSM system ceases. Upon the expiration of the license agreement, initially scheduled to occur in 2023, without renewal, we must transfer to the ICTA, or an institution designated by the ICTA, without consideration, the network management center, the gateway exchanges, and the central subscription system, which are the central management units of the GSM network. We may apply to the ICTA between 24 and six months before the end of the 25-year license term for the renewal of the license. The ICTA may renew the license, taking into account the legislation then currently in effect.
Applicable Law and Dispute Resolution
Under our license agreement, any dispute arising from scope, implementation and termination of the agreement shall be brought before the Committee. If the dispute is not settled within 30 days before the Committee, it shall be referred to the parties. If the dispute is not resolved by the parties within 15 days, then it shall be settled by an arbitral tribunal in accordance with ICC Rules. The governing law of any arbitration is Turkish law and any such arbitration shall be conducted in English. Disputes relating to national security or public policy shall not be subject to arbitration proceedings.
Additionally, the Law No. 7061 dated November 28, 2017 has introduced the settlement mechanism set forth in a provision of the Tax Procedural Law No. 213 for the disputes in relation to the payment of the treasury share.
q. Authorization of 3G License
In 2008, the ICTA conducted a tender process to grant four separate licenses to provide IMT 2000/UMTS services and infrastructure. We were granted the A-type license, which provides the widest frequency band, at a consideration of EUR 358 million (excluding VAT). We signed the license agreement relating to 3G authorization on April 30, 2009 and then the agreement was renewed and resigned in February 2016 with small amendments which do not change the core of the service. The license agreement has a term of 20 years.
The 3G License Agreement has provisions that are generally similar to those contained in our license agreement relating to 2G. However, with respect to dispute resolution, while our 2G license provides for arbitration for the settlement of disputes, under the 3G License Agreement, disputes arising between the parties shall ultimately be settled by the Council of State of the Republic of Turkey.
With the 3G License Agreement, we are obliged to meet certain coverage obligations. We are required to cover the population within the borders of all metropolitan municipalities within three years and all cities and municipalities within six years. We are also obliged to cover every region with a population over 5,000 within eight years and population larger than 1,000 within 10 years. Following the amendment of the Law for Metropolitan Municipalities, the number of metropolitan municipalities increased and the borders of some metropolitan municipalities were extended. After this amendment, the ICTA increased our coverage obligations, defined in our concession agreement, by its decision, based on this law amendment. We filed a lawsuit for the stay of execution and the cancellation of this decision. The Council of State accepted our stay of execution request. ICTA objected to this decision. Objection was also rejected in favor of Turkcell. The hearing was held on November 27, 2018 and it is expected that the court will grant a decision.
With the 3G License Agreement, as opposed to the 2G License Agreement, the Company assumed an obligation related to its electronic communications network investments, such as the obligation to provide at least 40% of its electronic communications investments from suppliers that have a Research and Development Center in Turkey and the obligation to provide at least 10% of its electronic communications investments from suppliers that are small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) established in Turkey.
According to the Authorization Regulation, breaches by operators resulting in the termination of the GSM concession agreement for any reason shall also result in the termination of the operators concession agreement signed for IMT-2000/UMTS service. Also, if the GSM concession agreement is not renewed at the end of its natural expiration, the ICTA may continue to allow the utilization of the needed infrastructure by IMT-2000/UMTS services on terms and conditions to be set by the ICTA itself.
The statutes, rules and regulations applicable to our activities and our 2G and 3G licenses are generally new, subject to change, in some cases, incomplete, and have been subject to limited governmental interpretation. Precedents for and experience with business and telecommunications regulations in Turkey are generally limited. In addition, there have been several changes to the relevant legal regime in recent years. There can be no assurance that the law or legal system will not change further or be interpreted in a manner that could materially and adversely affect our operations.
r. Authorization of 4.5G License
In the IMT- Advanced (4.5G) tender held on August 26, 2015 to grant spectrum usage for 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz (FDD,TDD) and 2600 MHz (FDD, TDD), the Company purchased a total of 172.4 MHz, the broadest 4.5G (IMT) spectrum allocation of any operator in Turkey (including widest frequency bands on 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz) for EUR 1,623.5 million (excluding VAT and interest payable on the installments).
The tender gave equal opportunity to the operators in the low frequency bands utilized for coverage while enabled competition in higher frequency bands mainly used for capacity. The Company has reached a total frequency bandwidth of 234.4 MHz and our ownership in total bandwidth in the market increased to 43% (234.4 MHz / 549.2 MHz) with the new frequencies acquired. The operators will be able to utilize the new spectrum in a technology neutral way.
The ICTA granted Turkcells 4.5G License on October 27, 2015. The 4.5G License is effective for 13 years until April 30, 2029. According to the License, Turkcell started to provide 4.5G services from April 1, 2016.
The 4.5G License Agreement has provisions that are generally similar to those contained in our license agreement relating to 2G and 3G. According to the IMT License Commitments Document, the Company;
(a) must achieve population coverage of 95% of the population of Turkey and coverage of 90% of the population within the borders of all cities and all city districts within eight years,
(b) must cover 99% of highways, high speed railroads and tunnels with lengths more than one kilometers within eight years, 95% of double roads within six years and 90% of conventional railroads within ten years, and
(c) is obliged to share actively with other mobile operators, any new 3G or 4.5G site which it will decide to build within settlement areas with population of less than 10,000 and highways, double roads, tunnels, high speed railroads and conventional railroads, from the effective date of the License granted to the Company.
While building its infrastructure for 4.5G networks, Turkcell is required to purchase up to 45% of its network related hardware (i.e. base stations, switches, routers and as such) and software from local suppliers, and purchase 10% of the network equipment and software from local SMEs engaged in production in Turkey. The local network related hardware purchase requirement is defined in three periods: 30% for first year, 40% for second year and 45% for the third and following years. Reporting on these requirements should be made to the ICTA on a yearly basis. In case of a projection of a failure to meet the requirement for locally produced hardware and software due to the lack of sufficient local supply and other relevant conditions, the Company shall file an application to the ICTA 6 months before the due date, and request an easing or removal of the obligation. Based on the law, we have applied for the removal of the obligation for the first three 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 periods.
Breaches regarding the abovementioned obligations and the breaches resulting in the termination of the GSM and IMT-2000/UMTS concession agreements for any reason shall also result in the termination of the Operators 4.5G authorization. The Company may apply to the ICTA between 18 and 12 months before the natural end of authorization (April 30, 2029) for the renewal of the authorization. The ICTA may renew the authorization, taking into account the current legislation.
s. Licenses and Authorizations of our Subsidiaries
In addition to the foregoing, our majority owned subsidiary, Belarusian Telecom, and wholly owned subsidiaries lifecell and Kuzey Kibris Turkcell hold GSM licenses in Belarus, Ukraine and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, respectively, and all of them have obtained 3G licenses. If lifecell, Belarusian Telecom and Kuzey Kibris Turkcell fail to comply with the terms and conditions of their license agreements, they may incur significant penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our strategy for international expansion and our business and results of operations. In addition, our subsidiaries Global Tower, Turkcell Superonline, Inteltek, Turkcell Enerji, Paycell and Financell have licenses to perform their business. Failure to comply with the terms of such licenses may lead to significant penalties and adversely affect their, as well as our, results of operations.
Ukraine License Agreement
As of December 31, 2018 lifecell owns eleven activity licenses, for GSM 900, a technology neutral license, issued for 3G, one license for international and long-distance calls and eight PSTN licenses for eight regions in Ukraine. As of December 31, 2018, lifecell owned 29 frequency use licenses for IMT (LTE-2600, LTE-1800), IMT-2000 (UMTS), GSM-900, GSM-1800, CDMA-800 and microwave Radiorelay and Broadband Radio Access, which are regional and national. Licenses for IMT (LTE-2600, LTE-1800) and GSM-1800 were issued on 4G tenders, held in the first quarter of 2018. Additionally, lifecell holds a specific number range three NDC codes for mobile networks, twenty one permission on a number resource for short numbers, eleven permissions on a number resource for SS-7 codes (7 regional and 4 international), one permission on a number resource for Mobile Network Code, nine permissions on a number resource for local ranges for PSTN licenses, two permissions on a service codes for alternative routing selection for international and long-distance fixed telephony and one permission on a code for global telecommunication service 800.
According to the licenses, lifecell must adhere to state sanitary regulations to ensure that the equipment used does not injure the population by means of harmful electromagnetic emissions. Licenses require lifecell to inform authorities of the start/end of operations within four months and changes in the incorporation address within 30 days. Also, lifecell must present all the required documents for inspection by the NCCIR by their request. The NCCIR may suspend the operations of lifecell for a limited or an unlimited period if necessary due to the expiration of the licenses, upon mutual consent, or in the case of a violation of the terms regarding the use of radio frequencies. If such a violation is determined, the Ukrainian Telecommunications Authority will notify lifecell of the violations and will set a deadline for recovery. If the deadline is not met, the licenses may be terminated.
Belarus License Agreement
Belarusian Telecom owns a license, issued on August 28, 2008, for a period of 10 years, which was valid till August 28, 2018. However, in accordance with the Edict of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated November 26, 2015, numbered 475, the license is issued without limitation of the period of validity. Starting from March 1, 2016 the license is valid from the date of the licensing authoritys decision on its issue and for an unlimited period. Under the terms of its license, Belarusian Telecom had been provided with additional time by the license authority to fulfill all 2G signal coverage requirements regarding the settlements until the end of 2018. We are in close communication with the regulatory body regarding 2G license requirements and we have applied for certain license requirement adjustments. We expect that another period extension will be provided imminently to Belarusian Telecom. As of December 2018, the number of uncovered settlements is 646 out of a total of 22,552 settlements.
Turkcell Superonline Authorizations
Turkcell Superonline was authorized as a Fixed Telephony Service Provider as of November 19, 2004, Infrastructure Provider as of March 6, 2006, Internet Service Provider as of February 15, 2005, Satellite Communication Service Provider as of March 24, 2009, Cable Broadcast Service Provider as of November 23, 2009, Mobile Virtual Network Operator as of July 14, 2015.
The Authorization By-Law for Telecommunication Services and Infrastructure published in the Official Gazette on August 26, 2004 was abrogated with the By-Law on Authorization for Electronic Communications Sector dated May 28, 2009. According to this abrogation, Turkcell Superonlines Authorization on Infrastructure Operating Service, Internet Service Provision and Satellite Communication Service have been changed to Authority on Infrastructure Operating Service, Internet Service Provision, Satellite Communication Service and Cable Broadcast Service. Turkcell Superonlines License on Long Distance Telephony Services License has been changed to Authorizations relevant to the Fixed Telephony Services. Aforementioned Public Access Mobile Radio Service Provider Authorization of Turkcell Superonline was annulled as of December 31, 2015.
In accordance with the legislation issued by the ICTA in 2011, the term of the infrastructure operator authorization of Turkcell Superonline has become indefinite.
Turkcell Superonline was authorized as a Platform Operator and Infrastructure Operator, according to the Radio and Television Supreme Councils decision numbered 24, dated March 26, 2014. Such authorizations have been provided by the Radio and Television Supreme Council, according to the rules of the Media Law and also the Radio and Television Supreme Council By-Law on Broadcasting via Cable Networks. In accordance with the Media Law and its regulations, the Platform Operator Authorization and Infrastructure Operator Authorization are provided annually. Within the scope of the Platform Operator Authorization and Infrastructure Operator Authorization, Turkcell Superonline has the right to operate the platform and infrastructure of TV services.
t. Access and Interconnection Regulation
The Access and Interconnection Regulation (the Regulation) became effective when it was issued by the ICTA on September 8, 2009 and abolished the Access and Interconnection Regulation which was published on May 23, 2003. The Regulation sets forth the rights and obligations of the operators relating to access and interconnection and establishes rules and procedures pertaining to their performance of such obligations. The Regulation primarily sets forth applicable principles, details of access and interconnection obligations, financial provisions, and policies and procedures regarding negotiations and contracts for access and interconnection.
The Regulation is driven largely by the goal of improving the competitive environment and ensuring that users benefit from electronic communications services and infrastructure at a reasonable cost. Under the Electronic Communications Law, the ICTA may compel a telecommunications operator to accept another operators request for access to and use of its network. All telecommunications operators in Turkey may be required to provide access to other operators. The operators who are compelled to provide access to other operators may be obliged to provide service and information on the same terms and qualifications provided to their shareholders, subsidiaries, and affiliates by the ICTA.
In accordance with Article 7 of the aforementioned Electronic Communications Law, the ICTA may determine the operators that have significant market power in the relevant market as a result of market analysis. After determination of the operators who have significant market power, the ICTA may impose additional liabilities for such operators in order to protect the competitive environment. On December 15, 2005, the ICTA designated Turkcell, Vodafone, and Avea as operators holding significant market power in the GSM Mobile Call Termination Services Market and designated Turkcell individually as an operator holding significant market power in the Access to GSM Mobile Networks and Call Originating Markets. According to the new Regulation published in the Official Gazette dated September 1, 2009, numbered 27336, unless otherwise agreed, any decisions taken by the ICTA in the years 2005 and 2006 relating to market analysis were valid and effective until the end of calendar year 2009. Pursuant to its decision dated December 8, 2009, the ICTA designated Turkcell individually as an operator holding significant market power in the Access to Mobile Networks and Call Originating Markets and designated Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea as operators holding significant market power in the Mobile Call Termination Market. Based on the market analysis of the ICTA for the 2012-2015 term, all three operators were declared as operators holding significant market power in the Mobile Call Termination Market and Turkcell is once again recognized as the only operator holding significant power in Access to GSM Mobile Networks and Call Originating Markets. As explained above, renewal of market analysis for both markets was expected to be finalized in 2016. However, public consultation documents were released at the end of 2016; and mobile market analyses were finalized in April 2017.
As a result of the significant market power designation in the GSM Mobile Call Termination Services Market, our company, as well as Avea and Vodafone, is required to provide interconnection services on a cost basis.
Consequently, according to the Electronic Telecommunications Law, the ICTA may oblige such operators to provide access and to submit their reference offers for access and interconnection to the ICTA for review, and may require amendments to the offers. Operators are obliged to make the amendments requested by the ICTA in a prescribed manner and within a prescribed period. In addition, the operators are obliged to publish their reference offers for access and interconnection, which have been approved by the ICTA, and to provide access under the conditions specified in their reference offers and interconnection, which have been approved by the ICTA. Please refer to the Interconnection table under the caption Interconnection RatesTurkcell, Vodafone, Avea and Turk Telekom below for the approved interconnection rates as at March 7, 2019.
u. Regulation on Co-Location and Facility Sharing
The ICTA has required operators to share certain facilities with other operators under certain conditions specified in the Electronic Communications Law and to provide co-location on their premises for the equipment of other operators at a reasonable price.
Under the Regulation, operators holding significant market power are required to provide access and services to all operators on equal terms. Operators with significant market power are also required to perform unbundling of their services, which means that they have to provide separate service of, and access to, transmission, switching, and operation interfaces. Furthermore, the ICTA may establish rules applicable to the division of the costs of facilities among parties.
The ICTA published a Communiqué concerning Co-Location and Facility Sharing on December 2, 2010 (which abolished the Regulation published on December 31, 2003). According to the Communiqué, the ICTA should determine operators to be co-location incumbent if operators do not enable co-location or theres a dispute against competition or end-users. Similarly, the ICTA could set tariffs if the tariffs for co-layout are not determined on a cost basis.
The Communiqué defines the criteria for operators who are incumbents for facility sharing and also states the items which must be considered for determining the Facility Sharing prices.
Subsequently, the provisions that regulate the ICTA approval of the examination fee determined by the Co-Location and Facility Sharing incumbent have been removed, opening up the Co-Location and Facility Sharing process to negotiation. In addition, the Facility Sharing incumbents right to allocate a facility for its own network and investment plans has been reduced to 25% of the facility.
The ICTA published a regulation concerning Cellular System Antenna Facility Design, Set Up and Sharing on March 18, 2011 (which abolished the Regulation published on April 16, 2008). The regulation frames antenna facilities design, set up and sharing to enable base station facility usage by multiple operators. The emission points will not be determined by operators, therefore operators will have to work cellular planning together. Operators must share every base station facility regardless of tower or building-top distinction. Antenna facilities must be set up in certain capacity that at least one more operator can benefit. Some incentives, such as exemptions on some certification fees, will be given if sharing occurs on existing or new sites. Finally, when antenna facility set up and sharing requests are evaluated, if the owner of the facility refuses the request, the requesting operator will be informed of the reason for the refusal. This way, negotiation between parties is supported and ICTA involvement is kept at a minimum level. On December 6, 2016, the ICTA repealed the above regulation and replaced it with The Regulation on the Procedures and Principles of Sharing of Cellular System Antenna Installations and Radio Access Networks. According to this Regulation:
The number of sharing types has increased. The terms and conditions of sharing at highways, railways and within tunnels is now a separate section.
In regions where the population is lower than 10,000, if an operator is unable to use the antenna installations built by another operator before the IMT licensing, the operator must notify the ICTA about the situation and the ICTA may let the operator build a new antenna installation. This operator is obliged to make an installation facilitating the sharing by all types with at least two other operators. The operator cannot turn down any sharing requests involving installations set up after IMT licensing in motorways, high speed and very high speed railways, dual carriage highways, tunnels and conventional railways, except for indoor installations.
In regions where the population is higher than 10,000 at the time of application to the Authority to build a new installation, provided that operator(s) are present and offer the new comer at least three of the possible share types, no wireless usage fee will be charged for the following year. If the antenna installation concerns towers exclusively, type 2 sharings (e.g. tower and direct sharings) will suffice. This rule will apply until December 31, 2023.
In regions where the population is lower than 10,000, except indoor installations, new antenna installations which were established between the date of the IMT authorization and the issue date of this Regulation, all settlements and motorways, high speed and very high speed railways, dual carriage highways, tunnels and conventional railways must be brought in line with the conditions set by this Regulation.
In the 4.5G Authorization Document, in provinces with a population of less than ten thousand and at sites to cover highways, double roads and railroads, any new 3G or 4.5G site to be built must be shared actively by all operators within this region. In the 4.5G Authorization Document, usage of locally-produced equipment in network was obliged, with rates up to 45%. Yet if the lack of such equipment or absence in the demand for production of such equipment is proved by mobile operators, and appealed before the end of reporting period, the ICTA may ease the conditions of the obligation or completely remove the obligation specifically for the related period. We informed the ICTA that we support any local R&D and P&D, as long as it complies with international technical and financial standards and can be sustainable. However, the 4.5G Authorization Document does not provide details on the compliance with international standards. The ICTA may oblige operators to buy and use the locally produced products, independent of the quality standards, if a local vendor produces sufficient equipment to support the mobile operators demands. This may cause technical problems in our network. Should such technical problems occur, it could negatively affect our quality of service, leading to increased costs for the 4.5G infrastructure roll-out and could negatively affect our customer experience.
v. Regulation on Consumer Rights in the Electronic Communications Sector
The ICTA published a Regulation on Consumer Rights in the Electronic Communications Sector on July 28, 2010 (which abolished the Regulation published on December 22, 2004) and made some changes to such regulation on June 20, 2013. This regulation introduced some radical changes to the electronic communications sector. With this regulation, the ICTA determined new procedures/changes regarding: the process and timing of churn steps, the obligation of operators to keep subscribers informed of services, including, but not limited to, informing customers about amendments of the campaigns and tariffs, the consumer complaints solution mechanism, billing processes and safe internet. The Regulation on Consumer Rights in the Electronic Communications Sector, which came into force in April 2018, repealed and replaced the previous regulation. Although the new version mainly preserves the provisions of the former regulation, one of the main differences is that the first service on/off operation in a calendar year may no longer be charged in case the services were suspended/disconnected due to non-payment within due date.
In addition, the ICTA may restrict the conditions under which certain mobile internet and services are provided by third parties. Moreover, the ICTA published a board decision regarding Safe Internet on August 22, 2011, and the service is now offered to subscribers free of charge. Operators must provide Safe Internet Service to subscribers, who request this service, as two separate profiles, the child profile and the family profile, each of which can restrict subscribers from accessing certain internet addresses and content. The subscribers can easily change their profiles or opt-out from the Safe Internet Service.
The ICTA set forth the reimbursement process arising from its decisions by publishing the procedures and principles to be applied to the reimbursement of the subscribers which came into force in 2018. In addition, the Procedures and Principles Regarding the Services with Limited Amount of Use and the Applications of Upper Limits of Receipts that was published on August 19, 2016 has been in force since December 1, 2017. The notifications regarding the services with limited amount of use and the applications of upper limits of receipts used to be regulated by separate documents. But with the aforementioned Procedures and Principals, the means, the timing and the content of the notifications regarding the services with limited amount of use and the upper limits of receipts has been consolidated under a regulation. The ICTAs regulation of these activities could have an adverse effect on our mobile telecommunications business and we may be fined if we do not comply. Furthermore, our compliance with the ICTAs regulations may increase the costs of doing business and could negatively impact our financial results.
An ICTA decision dated June 21, 2018 favoring subscribers with special needs, veterans, and widows/widowers and orphans of martyrs was published and came to effect on January 1, 2019. The decision requires operators that have more than 200 thousand subscribers to offer their services to these groups that are in need of social support with a 25% discount. The discount is to be offered upon proof of identity and the subscribers special need.
w. Regulation on Data Privacy in Electronic Communications Sector
Under Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law, the ICTA is authorized to determine the principles and procedures related to the process of personal data and protection of privacy. In this manner, ICTA had published Regulations on the Protection of Privacy and Processing of Personal Data. With its decision rendered on April 9, 2014 and published in the Official Gazette on July 26, 2014, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided that Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law is a violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which stipulates data protection as a constitutional measure and that the measures should be regulated by the laws and therefore annulled the aforementioned provision (Article 51). The Article 51 of the Electronic Communications Law, which was repealed by Turkish Constitutional Court, was amended and came into force on April 15, 2015. In the amended Article 51, the main principles of recording and sharing subscribers personal data are defined in general. In addition to that, ICTA is also authorized
again to determine the procedures and principles related to the process of personal data and protection of privacy. A public consultation regarding the draft regulation has been collected by the ICTA, however the new regulation has not been adopted so far.
Compliance with this regulation will involve operational expenses and may require further due diligence to process the customer data and provide segmented offers to our customers. Furthermore, non-compliance with this Regulation may result in the imposition of monetary fines, which could have a negative impact on our financial condition and reputation.
x. Law on the Protection of Personal Data
Turkey, as a part of its legislative reforms to align with the EU legislations, has adopted an extensive data protection regime. The Law on the Protection of Personal Data (the Law), which came into force on April 7, 2016, regulates personal data of real persons and its protection, process and transfers.
The Law introduced several obligations for processing and transferring the personal data including fair and lawful processing, protection of personal data, consent requirement, providing notice of processing, registration with the Data Protection Authority (the DPA) and notification of DPA in case of data breach. According to the Law, the DPA is authorized to impose sanctions and precautions as well as administrative fines which are determined in the Law.
The Law also determines the rights of the person whose data is processed, such as the right to apply to the Data Controller to learn whether the personal data has been processed, to learn if it is being used properly according to the purpose of the processing, to know the third parties to which the personal data is transferred in the country or abroad, to request the personal data to be erased or destroyed and the third parties to be notified of that.
As per Article 16 of the Law, the Regulation on the Registry of Data Controllers specifying procedures and principles regarding the Registry of Data was published on December 30, 2017 and came into force on January 1, 2018. Pursuant to this regulation, data controllers are obliged to register with the registry prior to processing personal data and the exemptions from the registration requirement is to be determined by the Board of Protection of Personal Data. The Company is subject to the obligation regarding the register with the registry until September 30, 2019; the data controllers that are not established in Turkey have the responsibility to register with the registry via their representative that they will assign and data controllers are obliged to prepare a personal data processing inventory that includes the purposes for processing personal data, data categories, subject groups of the data, the maximum retention period of the data and measures taken regarding the data security.
In addition to the aforementioned regulation, on October 28, 2017 the Regulation Regarding the Deletion, Destruction and the Anonymization was published and came into force on January 1, 2018. The objective of the Regulation is to set forth procedures and principles regarding the deletion, destruction or anonymization of personal data processed wholly or partly by automatic means and otherwise by automatic means which form part of a data recording system. The Regulation applies only to data controllers. Furthermore, the Communiqué on the Obligation to Provide Information and the Communiqué on Principles and Procedures for Application to Data Controller was published and came into force on March 10, 2018 regulating principles and procedures in relation to information obligation and rules and processes for data subjects to exercise their rights regarding personal data. With respect to international data transfers, the DPA has not published the list of countries, which have adequate level of protection as of the date hereof.
Failure to comply with the Law on the Protection of Personal Data may result in imposition of certain civil, criminal and administrative sanctions. As of the date of this annual report, the Company is carrying out a compliance program with regard to compliance matters arising from the Law on the Protection of Personal Data and secondary legislation.
y. Regulation on Electronic Commerce
Law No. 6563 on the Regulation of Electronic Commerce published in the Official Gazette on November 5, 2014, amended Article 50 of the Electronic Communications Law, providing that without the prior consent of the subscribers, unsolicited electronic communications for the purposes of direct marketing or messages with adult content is prohibited. An opt-in mechanism has been adopted for electronic messages; however, this provision does not apply retroactively to the databases which were established by taking the data subjects consent before the Law No. 6563 on Regulation of Electronic Commerce entered into force on May 1, 2015.
The Electronic Commerce Law and Commercial Communications And Commercial Electronic Messages Regulation published in accordance with this law exclude the messages that are sent to subscribers and users of the operators about their own products and services and these messages are regulated in The Principles And The Procedures Regarding The Communication With The Purposes Of Advertising And Marketing which was published by the ICTA on July 9, 2015. According to this legislation, these messages are also subject to the prior consent of the subscribers and users. Violation of this legislation may result in an administrative fine.
z. Registered Email Service Regulation
Registered Electronic Mail Service was started in July 2012. Mobile operators cannot provide registered electronic mail service; however, the service may create a new mobile business area with new bundled mobile products, which are able to service our subscribers.
aa. Turk Telekom, Vodafone and Avea Interconnection Agreements
We have interconnection agreements with Turk Telekom, Vodafone, Avea and Fixed Telephony Service Operators whereby they allow us to connect our networks with theirs to enable the transmission of calls to and from our mobile communications system.
The interconnection agreements establish understandings between the parties relating to various key operational areas, including call traffic management, and the agreements contemplate that we and the other parties will agree on the contents of various manuals setting forth additional specifications concerning matters that are not specifically covered in the interconnection agreement, such as quality and performance standards and other technical, operational and procedural aspects of interconnection.
The interconnection agreements specify that the parties shall comply with relevant international standards, including standards adopted by the GSM Memorandum of Understanding, the Telecommunications Standards Bureau of the International Telecommunications Union, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. In the absence of applicable international standards, the interconnection agreements provide that the parties will establish written standards to govern their relationship.
The interconnection agreements outline the applicable interconnection principles and provide the technical basis and rationale for technical specifications and manuals to be agreed to by the parties.
In addition, the parties agree to provide the other party with information that is necessary to enable the performance of their interconnection obligations, the provision of services, or the utilization of equipment and/or buildings as contemplated in the interconnection agreement.
(ii) Interconnection RatesTurkcell, Vodafone, Avea and Turk Telekom
In accordance with the relevant articles of the Electronic Communications Law and subsequent Access and Interconnection Ordinance, the ICTA regulates both fixed and mobile interconnection rates. In previous years, the interconnection rates have substantially decreased with the interventions of the ICTA.
Mobile interconnection rates are based on the ICTAs decision on the Interconnection Tariffs issued in June 2013. Last decision about interconnection rates was published in October 2014 and remain in force with no change in the existing rates. The MMS interconnection rates were also introduced in 2014. The evolution of interconnection rates for voice calls between Turkcell, Vodafone, Avea, Turk Telekom and Alternative Fixed Line Operators is summarized in the table below.
|VOICE (TRY Kurus)|
|TURK TELEKOM||Alternative |
Effective from July 2013, Turkcell is paid TRY 0.0043 per SMS for SMS termination in its network. Respective rates for Vodafone are TRY 0.0043 per SMS and for Avea TRY 0.0047.
|SMS (TRY Kurus)|
Effective from October 2014, Turkcell is paid TRY 0.0086 per MMS for MMS termination on its network. Respective rates for Vodafone are TRY 0.0086 per SMS and for Avea TRY 0.0094.
|MMS (TRY Kurus)|
bb. Agreements Concluded with the Fixed Telecommunication Services Operators
(i) Interconnection/Call Termination Agreements
Turkcell, as an operator holding significant market power, entered into interconnection/call termination agreements with fixed telecommunication service operators that applied to Turkcell for an agreement. Interconnection rates are regulated by the ICTA. Turkcell pays fixed-line operators TRY 0.0320 per minute and fixed-line operators pay Turkcell TRY 0.0250 per minute for national voice call traffic.
(ii) International Transit Traffic Services Agreements
Turkcell entered into International Traffic Carrying Services Agreements with operators who applied to Turkcell for an agreement. Under these Agreements, we may carry calls to these operators switches for onward transmission to their destinations and these operators should provide the termination of these calls on the relevant network. These operators charge us at various prices identified within the scope of the agreement for the calls directed to numerous networks around the globe. The operators may modify their rates upon a fifteen day advanced written notice and such rates will become applicable upon our approval.
(iii) SMS Termination Agreements
During 2011, Turkcell entered into SMS Termination Agreements with alternative operators who applied to Turkcell for an agreement. In accordance with the ICTA regulations on SMS Termination Rates in Turkcells network, Fixed Telephony Service Operators pay Turkcell TRY 0.0043 per SMS.
cc. MVNO Services
The ICTA designated Turkcell as the operator having significant market power in the mobile access and call origination markets, which had implications such as mandatory MVNO access and cost-oriented call origination and termination rates.
ICTAs decision dated April 12, 2017, stating that an ex-ante regulation was no longer needed for Mobile Access Call Origination Market and that Turkcells SMP designation was to be lifted after a period of one year, has been cancelled following ICTAs new decision dated April 4, 2018.
Highly competitive market conditions and heavy tax burdens have discouraged potential MVNOs from entering the market for years. Nevertheless, commercial negotiations with certain MVNO candidates are in progress and the ICTA gave signals of its intention to promote the development of MVNOs in the Turkish market by extending Turkcells SMP designation on call origination and access market for one additional year.
dd. Agreements Concluded with Directory Service Providers
Turkcell entered into agreements relating to the provision of directory services with 11 Directory Service Providers, which are licensed to provide directory services by the ICTA. These agreements determine the principles and procedures related to the access of companies to the Turkcell database, the provision of directory services to the
subscribers and the clearing procedure of the parties. Such agreements are valid and binding for a term of one year. However, if neither party notifies the other party one month before the expiration of the agreement of its request to terminate, the agreement will automatically be renewed for another one-year term.
ee. Agreements Concluded with Operators Licensed to Provide Satellite Services
We have executed agreements with Globalstar Avrasya Uydu Ses ve Data Iletisim A.S. and Teknomobil Uydu Haberlesme A.S., operators licensed to provide satellite services. The scope of such agreements is the interconnection between the networks of the parties and the determination of the principles and procedures of the methods of network operation and clearance.
ff. Recent Amendments to the Turkish Insolvency and Restructuring Regime
The Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law No. 2004 prevents a contractual arrangement by which a contractual event of default clause is stipulated to be triggered in case of any application is made by a Turkish company for debt restructuring upon settlement within the scope of Turkish Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law No. 2004. In addition to this, on March 15, 2018, changes were introduced to the Turkish Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law No. 2004. Among other changes, one of them states that the contractual termination, default and acceleration clauses of an agreement cannot be triggered in case the debtor makes a concordat application and such application not to constitute a breach of such agreement.
The following chart lists each of our key subsidiaries (including our ownership interest in Fintur) and our proportionate direct and indirect ownership interest as of March 7, 2019:
On February 16, 2018, the incorporation of Turkcell Ozel Finansman A.S. under the laws of Republic of Turkey was announced in Trade Registry Gazette of Turkey.
On April, 9, 2018, the legal title of Global Bilgi Pazarlama Danisma ve Cagri Servisi Hizmetleri A.S. was changed to Global Bilgi Pazarlama Danismanlik ve Cagri Servisi Hizmetleri A.S.
On June 25, 2018, the incorporation of Turkcell Sigorta Aracilik Hizmetleri A.S. under the laws of Republic of Turkey was announced in Trade Registry Gazette of Turkey.
On June 28, 2018, the incorporation of Turkiyenin Otomobili Girisim Grubu Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. under the laws of Republic of Turkey was announced in Trade Registry Gazette of Turkey.
On July 30, 2018, the incorporation of Sofra Kurumsal ve Odullendirme Hizmetleri A.S. under the laws of Republic of Turkey was announced in Trade Registry Gazette of Turkey.
On August 14, 2018, the liquidation of Financell B.V was completed.
On January 9, 2019 the legal title of the company Turkcell Satis ve Dagitim Hizmetleri A.S. was changed to Turkcell Satis ve Dijital Is Servisleri A.S.
On January 11, 2019 sale of Azerinteltek QSC shares was completed.
Fintur was classified as asset held for sale and reported as discontinued operations as of October 2016. As disclosed under the Fintur section, Fintur transferred its 100% share in Geocell to Silknet and 51.3% total shareholding in Azertel to Azintelecom in the first quarter of 2018. On December 21, 2018, Finturs 51% of the shares in Kcell JSC was transferred to Kazakhtelecom JSC.
For information on the country of incorporation of our key subsidiaries, see Item 4.B. Business Overview.
As of December 31, 2018, we operated 77 facilities including network data centers, of which 55 were located in Turkey, the rest in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Belarus and Ukraine.
We have our own and leased buildings in Istanbul, including our headquarters, mobile switching centers, network data centers, customer service offices and warehouses. Our buildings in Turkey and outside of Turkey are used for the purposes of administration, sales and other service centers as well marketing and operation of mobile switching centers and network data centers.
As of December 31, 2018 we also had 156 owned and 1,361 leased vehicles, used for operational purposes and provided as benefits to some of our employees.
a. Core Network Infrastructure
Our core network consists of three site Geographically Redundant Next Generation Home Location Register Home Subscriber Server (NG HLR/HSS), a combined Number Portability Switch Relay Function (SRF) and Number Portability Database and Signal Transfer Point (STP), Diameter Routing Agent (DRA). The Core Network is common for 2G, 3G, 4.5G radio networks and carries voice over IP, with combined Mobile Switch Centers/Visitor Location Registers (MSC/VLR), Media Gateways (MGW), Charging Control Node (CCN) and Virtual Private Network (VPN).
We have an IMS based VoLTE (Voice over LTE) network. We are planning to converge Core Voice and IMS Networks. With convergence of the networks, the telco based fixed and mobile services and (OTT based) application services will be given easier and faster.
Our core packet switching network combined of SGSNs/MMEs (Serving GPRS Support Node, Mobility Management Entity) and GGSNs/SGW/PGWs (Gateway GPRS Support Node, Serving and PDN Gateway) providing GPRS/EDGE, and HSPA/HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access) capability for mobile packet traffic and also Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) for subscriber policies. In addition, we already deployed Data Optimization equipment for customer experience.
We have switches in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Malatya, Mersin, Mugla, Samsun, Trabzon, and Van.
In addition, we own switch buildings in different cities in Turkey, such as Istanbul (Mahmutbey, Kartal, Maltepe), Mugla, Izmit, Diyarbakir, and Erzurum. Switch buildings are where the network switching equipment, such as MSC, MGW, BSC and RNC, is located.
b. Access Network Infrastructure
Our Access Network consists of Base Station Controllers (BSC) and Radio Network Controllers (RNC) at Network Data Centers (NDC) and BTS, Node-Bs and eNode-Bs located on rooftops or towers. Since 2014, we have been calling our OMCs (Operation Maintenance Centers) as NDCs (Network Data Centers). BTSs are the fixed transmitter and receiver equipment in a cell, or coverage area of a cluster of antennas, for a 2G mobile network that communicates by radio signal with mobile devices. Similarly, Node-Bs are the corresponding equipment for 3G, connected to and controlled by RNC in order to realize 3G and HSPA+ coverage for 3G /HSPA-equipped mobile phones and eNode-Bs are the equipment that carry out equivalent functionalities for 4.5G with the important difference that they are directly connected to 4.5G Core Network. In addition to macro sites that serve large areas, there are sites using small base stations called small cells that serve some specific and limited areas. We have been adding small cells to densify our network and meet certain performance objectives (enhanced user experience, higher speeds, higher capacity, improved coverage etc.). Depending on the suitability and cost-effectiveness of the candidate solution, we are using small cell systems, repeaters or relay systems to augment our service quality.
In 2009, the ICTA resolved that operators may transfer the right of use of their towers to third parties. In accordance with this resolution, we transferred the rights of some towers to Global Tower.
c. Transmission Network Infrastructure
Turkcells mobile backhaul utilizes various transport technologies to provide for an efficient, resilient and cost effective transmission network. Connectivity between sites is provided using Microwave Radio Links and leased lines carried over Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and Ethernet over DWDM where appropriate. Cell sites with site connectivity are mostly served by point-to-point microwave radio links owned and managed by Turkcell, make up more than 90% of our network. Interconnections with other Public Land Mobile Networks (PLMN), Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN), Long Distance Telephony Services (LDTS) and small operator companies are realized through leased line connections. More than 90% of our leased line network connectivity is currently provided by our subsidiary, Turkcell Superonline. The rest of the leased lines are provided by the incumbent, Turk Telekom. As a result the overall infrastructure capacity usage is fully optimized and a high grade of availability is achieved through topology resiliency and packet base IP mobile backhaul network infrastructure.
|ITEM 4A.|| |
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
|ITEM 5.|| |
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
The following discussion and analysis of our management with regard to our financial condition and the results of our operations should be read together with the Consolidated Financial Statements included in this annual report. In addition to historical information, the following discussion contains forward-looking statements based on current expectations that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results and the timing of certain events may differ significantly from those projected in such forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including those set forth in Item 3.D. Risk Factors and elsewhere in this annual report.
I. Overview of the Turkish and International Economy
We witnessed a diversification in global economic growth in 2018. The US economy grew by 2.2% in the first quarter, 4.1% in the second quarter and 3.4% in the third quarter and 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2018 as a result of fiscal stimulus, tax reforms and strong consumer consumption. Global trade has been threatened by bilateral import tariffs between US and China following previously imposed US tariffs on steel and aluminum as well as tight global financial conditions. Consequently, investors risk appetite have decreased and the most recent indicators indicate Eurozone, China and other emerging markets either slowing significantly from previously high levels or remaining sluggish in 2018. Following long standing quantitative easing programs, central banks around the world have been reversing their monetary policy, ending or curtailing these programs. Due to rising inflation, strengthening economic activity and historically low level of unemployment rate, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) raised interest rates four times in 2018 and reduced its balance sheet. Furthermore, at the end of 2018, the European Central Bank (ECB) ended its purchases of government and private debt. The Bank of England increased its policy rate from 0.50% to 0.75% despite weak growth. The potential for an additional interest rate increase by the Fed, the strengthening of the US dollar, the tightening global liquidity conditions and trade war tensions became catalysts that drew attention in particular to current account deficit countries, resulting in a sell-off period emerging markets beginning at the end of April 2018.
Turkeys GDP growth remained solid at 7.2% in the first quarter of 2018 and 5.3% in the second quarter of 2018 on the back of robust domestic consumption and investment expenditure. In June 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan became an Executive President for the next five years following the first dual parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey. The Governments Party coalition (AKP andMHP) obtained the majority in the Turkish Assembly. Following the election, the Turkish Government terminated the state of emergency in July 2018 which had been declared as a result of the failed coup attempt in 2016. Turkeys credit rating was downgraded by Moodys, S&P and Fitch in March, May and June, respectively. Turkey currently stands two notches below investment grade with regard to Fitch, three notches below with regard to Moodys, and four notches below with regard to S&P. Along with the emerging markets equity and currency sell-off, Turkey-U.S political tensions related to the American pastor Andrew Brunson impacted Turkeys financial markets and the Turkish Lira significantly depreciated against the USD as of August. Headline inflation increased to 25.24% in October 2018 due to higher energy prices, exceptional food inflation and TRY depreciation. Even though the year-end inflation was 20.3%, up until the first half of 2019, inflation is expected to be higher due to basis effect. High public spending to avoid a slowdown in the economy, pre-election transfers and extra defense spending have contributed to a deterioration of the fiscal balance to 2% of GDP.
The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) and the Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA) eancted a series of measures and rules to ensure financial stability and support the Turkish Lira amid the high volatility. In 2018, the CBRT hiked its policy rate by 625 bps and provided TRY and FX liquidity to the banking
system. Additionally, in 2018, the average cost of funding increased by 1,125 bps. To prevent a sudden halt in economic activity, tax cuts were announced in several sectors. The Turkish economy started to rebalance in the second half of the year on the back of strong CBRT action and the currency shock. Loan growth entered into negative territory, with strength in exports coupled with a sharp decrease in import demand 12-month rolling current account deficit rapidly improved and reached USD 27.6 billion at the end of the year from USD 58 million in May. GDP growth slowed to 1.6% in the third quarter of 2018 and contracted 3.0% in the fourth quarter of 2018, following the decline in investor and consumer confidence, the surge in financial market volatility and increase in bank loan rates.
Ongoing military operations in Syria, anticipated Turkish military operations where militant organizations such as the PKK, YPG or PYD dominate in North Syria and the upcoming local elections in March 2019 are key sources of uncertainty and could increase the volatility in FX and interest rate markets. Furthermore, the announced departure of U.S. troops from Syria may cause uncertainty for the regions future and this situation may result in higher risks related to budget deficit if the Syria operation lasts longer than anticipated.
II. Taxation Issues in the Telecommunications Sector
Under current Turkish tax laws, there are several taxes imposed on the services provided by telecommunications operators in Turkey. These taxes are charged to subscribers by mobile operators and remitted to the relevant tax authorities. They may be charged upon subscription, on an annual basis or on an ad valorem basis on the service fees charged to subscribers.
The following are the most significant taxes imposed on our telecommunications services:
a. Special Communications Tax
The Turkish government imposed a special 25% communications tax on mobile telephone services as part of a series of new taxes levied to finance public works required to respond to the earthquakes that struck Turkeys Marmara region in 1999. As of August 2004 other telecom services (i.e., fixed lines and TV/radio transmission) are also included within the scope of the special communication tax (SCT).
As of March 1, 2009, SCT rate for wireless and mobile internet service providers was set to 5% (previously such tax was 25% on mobile, 15% on fixed lines). Other than mobile internet services, all mobile telecommunication services were subject to 25% and other telecommunication services (i.e., fixed lines and TV/radio transmission) were subject to a 15% SCT since December 31, 2017. As of January 1, 2018, the SCT rate for all services within the scope of the tax has been set to 7.5%.
The tax collected from subscribers in one calendar month is remitted to the tax authorities within the first 15 days of the following month.
The SCT on new mobile subscriptions was TRY 53, TRY 47 and TRY 46 in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. As of January 1, 2019, the SCT on new subscriptions levied is TRY 65. The tax has had a correlative negative impact on mobile usage. As of January 1, 2018, only the mark-up amount on subscribers invoices for roaming services is subject to SCT.
Under Law No. 6322, effective July 1, 2012, new mobile subscriptions for Machine to Machine (M2M) simcards are not subject to the SCT levied upon new subscriptions.
As of January 1, 2018, the SCT is calculated for TRY and bundle package sales and also calling cards sales by including the margin of the distributor or/and retailer and these amounts. Mobile electronic telecommunication operators and authorized fixed telecommunication operators are responsible for the calculation and self-reporting to the tax authorities of the SCT amount on these pre-paid sales.
b. Value Added Tax (VAT)
Like all services in Turkey, services provided by GSM operators are subject to VAT. The general VAT rate for telecom services is 18% and 1% for digital services (digital publishing rate was set at 18% for 2019 and subsequent years). We declare VAT to the Ministry of Treasury and Finance within 24 days and remit VAT paid by our subscribers within the first 26 days of the month following when the tax was incurred, after the offset of input VAT incurred by us.
VAT for roaming services was, until November 3, 2009, calculated solely on the mark-up amount on subscribers invoices for roaming services. Following the Ministry of Treasury and Finances declaration of a change in its position regarding roaming charges, we began imposing VAT and the special communications tax on the entire amount of roaming charges, starting from November 3, 2009, to comply with this change in position. As of January 1, 2018, the VAT mechanism on roaming charges prior to November 3, 2009 was restored and since then only the mark-up amount on subscribers invoices for roaming services has been subjected to VAT.
As of January 1, 2018 reverse charge VAT exemption will be applied on the invoices, which are related to roaming services issued by foreign GSM operators.
Also new VAT requirements have been published in Official Gazette on January 31, 2018. Due to new legislation, as of January 1, 2018, if a nonresident e-service provider performs e-services from abroad to real persons who are located in Turkey, service providers must be VAT tax payer in Turkey. E-service providers have to declare VAT over sales amount of e-services, with VAT Return (Serial No.3) within 24 days and paid within the first 26 days of the month following. Also service providers can consider as deductible VAT which they have paid as VAT amount to the Turkish entities related to these e-services.
As of January 1, 2018 VAT is calculated for TL and bundle package sales and also calling cards sales by including the margin of the distributor or/and retailer and these amounts. Mobile electronic telecommunication operators and authorized fixed telecommunication operators are responsible for the calculation and self-reporting to the tax authorities of the VAT amount on these pre-paid sales.
c. License and Annual Utilization Fees
According to Article number 46 of the Electronic Communications Law, subscribers registered in the system are subject to both license and annual utilization fees. As of January 1, 2018, subscriptions for machine to machine (M2M) simcards are no longer subject to license and annual utilization fees.
GSM operators are charged with the duty of collecting these fees.
The license fee is paid once on the subscription per subscriber. The license fee was TRY 22.52, TRY 19.68 and TRY 18.95 in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. As of January 1, 2019, the license fee is TRY 27.86.
The payment of the annual utilization fee to the government depends on whether a subscriber is postpaid or prepaid. For postpaid subscribers, the monthly utilization fee was TRY 1.88, TRY 1.64 and TRY 1.58 in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, and is charged to subscribers monthly. For prepaid subscribers, the annual utilization fee is calculated by multiplying the number of registered prepaid subscribers at the previous year end by the annual utilization fee and the calculated bulk annual utilization fee is paid by mobile operators the following year on the last business day in February. As of January 1, 2019, the monthly utilization fee is TRY 2.32. We decided to collect utilization fees from most of our prepaid subscribers starting from June 2011 and we are collecting since then.
Other than subscribers license and annual utilization fees, operators must pay license and annual utilization fees for the wireless equipment to ICTA. Before January 1, 2018, the fee amount to be paid was calculated with respect to the amount per unit of wireless equipment (TRx); however, following a legislation shift, as of January 1, 2018 the fee is being calculated as 5% of monthly net sales amount and will be paid within the last working day of the following month.
d. Special Consumption Tax
The Special Consumption Tax is a tax on prescribed goods, which includes mobile phones. The Special Consumption Tax is charged on mobile phones either when they are imported or when they are sold by Turkish manufacturers. The Special Consumption Tax rate on mobile phones (mobile phones are legally defined as transmitter/receiver cellular phones) was set at 20% prior to October 13, 2011, and the Special Consumption Tax calculated in accordance with the 20% rate must not fall below TRY 40 per cellular phone device (Temporary Article 6 of Special Consumption Tax Code).
The Special Consumption Tax rates were raised on some motor vehicles, mobile phones, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products by a decision of the Board of Ministers, which was published in the Official Gazette on October 13, 2011. The Special Consumption Tax rate over cellular phones was increased from 20% to 25% and the minimum Special Consumption Tax amount to be calculated was increased to TRY 100 (previously the minimum Special Consumption Tax amount was TRY 40) effective from October 13, 2011.
The Special Consumption Tax rates on some motor vehicles, mobile phones and alcoholic beverages were raised by a decision of the Board of Ministers, which was published in the Official Gazette on January 1, 2014. The minimum Special Consumption Tax amount to be calculated over cellular phones was increased to TRY 120 effective from January 1, 2014. By a decision of the Board of Ministers, which was published in the Official Gazette on January 1, 2016, the minimum Special Consumption Tax amount to be calculated over cellular phones was increased to TRY 160 effective from January 1, 2016. The said decision of the Board of Ministers has been cancelled in 2016 by the Supreme Court. Finally, a new article has been added to the Special Communication Tax Law (Temporary Article 6) on September 9, 2016 and the minimum Special Consumption Tax amount to be calculated over cellular phones was set at TRY 160 effective from September 9, 2016. There is a possibility that such tax may increase in the near future.
e. Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) Association Banderol Fee
According to Article number 4 of Law on TRT Revenues, mobile phones are subject to TRT banderol fee over (i) VAT base (excluded special consumption tax) related to sales amount for produced products (ii) VAT base (excluded special consumption tax) of Customs Declaration amount for import products. Before June 2016, mobile phones which can receive radio or television broadcasts via integrated tuner, were subjected to TRT banderol fee at the rate of 6%. As of June 2016, the following rates were applied: (i) 7% for mobile phones which can receive radio or television broadcasts via integrated tuner, and (ii) 6% for mobile phones which can receive radio or television broadcasts via internet connection. As of July 2017, all mobile phones which have 8517.12.00.00.11 customs tariff statistics position, subject to TRT banderol fee at the rate of 10%.
f. Treasury Share, Universal Service Fund Contribution
Due to our licenses (2G and 3G) and Authorization Certificate (4.5G), we are required to pay a treasury share equal to 15% of our gross revenue including some exemptions. 10% of the treasury share is paid as a universal service fund contribution. In addition, we must pay annual contributions in an amount equal to 0.35% of our net revenue to the ICTAs expenses.
Since 2005, we are required to pay 90% of the treasury share to the Turkish Treasury and 10% to the Turkish Ministry as a universal service fund contribution. As of January 1, 2018, all of our treasury share will be paid to the ICTA, which will then transfer it to the Turkish Treasury and the Turkish Ministry as detailed above. The calculation method for the Treasury Share has also been revised and the following will consequently not be considered in calculation of the Treasury Share: overdue interests which are accrued to the subscribers for any unpaid balance, accrual amounts for the purpose of reporting, reflecting the installation and maintenance costs of the mobile radio stations to other mobile operators and finally, amounts for the purpose of correction accounting records which occur in the same year due to errors (such as customer information, type of business, amount, price).
Also, we are required to pay a Universal Service Fund Contribution equal to 1% of net sales revenue for Superonline, Global Tower and Rehberlik. These amounts are paid annually, within June of each following year.
In addition, we must pay annual contributions in an amount equal to 0.35% of our net revenue to the ICTAs expenses for all companies.
g. Tax disputes
Changes in the Ministry of Treasury and Finances interpretation of the taxation codes, especially changes regarding consumption taxes (Value Added Tax and Special Communication Tax), may adversely affect consumer prices. In addition to the prospective financial impact of such changes, unanticipated tax liabilities and fines may also be levied against our financial results in prior years since a Turkish companys operations in the previous five years may be subject to financial investigation. Regulations that became effective from July 1, 2010, however, have strengthened our rights with regards to this risk, particularly with regards to the following:
Tax inspectors shall not issue tax audit reports that contradict Decrees, Public Acts, Statutory Rules, General Communiqués and Circulars promulgated;
In the event that the tax authority differentiates previous interpretations of taxation codes via promulgated General Communiqués and Circulars, the new interpretation shall not be applied to previous transactions; and
Transactions that are compliant with rulings taken from the Tax Office shall be relieved from both tax penalty and overdue interest. Such shelter is valid only for a taxpayer that has applied for the ruling.
For a description of various tax related disputes to which we are party, see Item 8.A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial InformationLegal Proceedings.
III. Critical Accounting Policies
Our discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations are based upon our Consolidated Financial Statements, which have been prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB. The preparation of these financial statements requires us to make estimates, judgments and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the
financial statements and for the period then ended. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate the estimates used. We base our estimates on historical experience, actuarial estimates, current conditions and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. These estimates form the basis for making judgments about the carrying values of assets and liabilities and are not readily apparent from other sources. Actual results may differ from these estimates. Our critical accounting policies are disclosed in Note 2 (Basis of preparation and summary of significant accounting policies) to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this annual report on Form 20-F.
IV. Reportable Segments and Reporting Currency
Our operations are aggregated under two main reportable segments, Turkcell Turkey and Turkcell International:
The Turkcell Turkey segment comprises mainly our telecommunication and technology services activities in Turkey and includes the operations of Turkcell, Turkcell Superonline, Turkcell Satis, group call center operations of Turkcell Global Bilgi, Turktell, Turkcell Teknoloji, Global Tower, Rehberlik, Turkcell Odeme and Turkcell Gayrimenkul.
The Turkcell International segment comprises mainly our telecommunication and technology services activities outside of Turkey and includes the operations of lifecell, Belarusian Telecom, Kibris Telekom, Eastasia, Lifecell Ventures, Beltel, UkrTower, Global LLC, Turkcell Europe, Lifetech LLC, Beltower, Lifecell Digital Limited and Fintur.
Our Other reportable segment is comprised mainly of information and entertainment services in Turkey and Azerbaijan, non-group call center operations of Turkcell Global Bilgi, consumer financing service operations of Financell, Paycell LLC and TOFAS (interest free), electricity energy trade operations of Turkcell Enerji, insurance agency activities of Turkcell Sigorta as well as the development and production of electric passenger cars and the carrying out of trading activities of Turkiyenin Otomobili and Sofra Kurumsal. The accounting policies of our reportable segments are the same as those described in the summary of significant accounting policies.
The Group has transferred its total shareholding in Azerinteltek, controlled by Inteltek, to another shareholder of Azerinteltek, Baltech Investment LLC (Baltech). The share purchase agreement was signed on November 15, 2018 and the transfer of proceeds to Inteltek was completed on December 27, 2018. Group has lost the control over the subsidiary unconditionally on December 27, 2018 following the transfer of money. The transfer of shares to Baltech was completed subsequently on January 11, 2019. See Note 39 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F for additional details.
Starting from October 1, 2016, Fintur was classified as held for sale and discontinued operations, the Group has signed the definitive agreement on December 12, 2018 to transfer its total shareholding in Fintur to another shareholder of Fintur, Sonera Holding B.V. (Sonera Holding). The transfer to Sonera Holding will be completed subsequently to the obtainment of regulatory approvals, and the value of the transaction will be finalized on the closing date of the transaction, which is expected to take place in 2019. See Note 16 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F.
Our financial statements are presented in TRY only, the currency in which we recognize the majority of our revenues and expenses.
Our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as at December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017 and for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2018 included in this annual report have been prepared in accordance with IFRS as issued by the IASB.
I. Overview of Business
Turkcell, a joint stock company organized and existing under the laws of the Republic of Turkey, was formed in 1993 and commenced operations in 1994. We operate under a 25-year GSM license (the 2G License) and a 20-year GSM license (the 3G License). We were granted the 2G License in April 1998 upon payment of an upfront license fee of $500 million. On April 30, 2009, we signed a license agreement with the ICTA, which provides authorization for providing IMT 2000/UMTS services and infrastructure. We acquired the A-type license providing the widest frequency band for a consideration of EUR 358 million (excluding VAT). The 3G License is effective for 20 years starting from April 30, 2009. Pursuant to the agreement, we started to provide IMT 2000/UMTS services as of July 30, 2009.
In accordance with our 3G license agreement, we are required to cover the population within the borders of all metropolitan municipalities and within the borders of all cities and municipalities in three and six years, respectively. Moreover, we are required to cover the population in all settlement areas with a population higher than 5,000 and 1,000 in eight and ten years, respectively, following the date of the agreement.
In 2013, we won an auction held by the Turkish Ministry related to universal service, which requires installing sufficient infrastructure to uncovered areas with a population of less than 500, as well as the operation of the service for three years. Since its signature in 2013, its scope was increased in 2017 to encompass mobile broadband services on top of existing 2G services under the Universal Service Law, and recently it was granted an extension until December 31, 2019 to operate both networks as per the same conditions defined under the contract.
In the 4.5G auction held on August 26, 2015, we agreed to purchase the use of 172.4 MHz, the largest amount of spectrum of any operator, for EUR 1,623.5 million (excluding VAT and interest payable on the installments). The license fee is being paid in four equal semi-annual installments. We agreed to purchase the use of widest frequency bands on 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz. We believe that these will allow us to offer high quality 4.5G services. We commenced offering 4.5G services from April 1, 2016. The 4.5G License is effective for 13 years until April 30, 2029.
Other than our 2G, 3G and 4.5G licenses, we also operate under interconnection agreements with other operators that allow us to connect our networks with those operators to enable the transmission of calls to and from our mobile communications system and fixed line networks through existing digital fixed telephone switches. For example, we have an interconnection agreement with Turk Telekom that provides for the interconnection of our network with Turk Telekoms fixed-line network. Under our agreement with Turk Telekom, as amended, we pay Turk Telekom an interconnection fee per call based on the type and length of the call for calls originating on our network and terminating on Turk Telekoms fixed-line network, as well as fees for other services. We also collect an interconnection fee from Turk Telekom for calls originating on their fixed-line network and terminating on ours. We also have interconnection agreements with Vodafone and Avea pursuant to which we have agreed, among other things, to pay interconnection fees to them for calls originating on our network and terminating on theirs, and they have agreed to pay interconnection fees for calls originating on their networks and terminating on our networks.
In 2015, Turkcell positioned itself as a converged player in the total telecommunication market by leveraging its brand, extensive customer base, technological capabilities and strong distribution channel. We shifted our organizational structure with the aim of increasing efficiency and simplification in our business processes.
Our services portfolio includes high-quality mobile and fixed voice, data, TV and digital services over our network. We continue to focus on our customer-oriented approach and our ability to provide quick and differentiated solutions to meet customers needs through lifestyle segments and usage habits.
In 2016, we invested in the broadest 4.5G spectrum in Turkey and established what we believe to be the most advanced mobile and fiber network in Turkey. Post 4.5G launch, we realigned our strategy to focus on providing innovative and pioneering digital services, aiming to become more present and relevant in our customers daily lives. Turkcell develops and manages digital services and solutions to address the diverse needs of both consumers and corporate customers, thereby enriching their lives. Thus, Turkcell defines itself as a digital operator.
Due to our digital services strategy, one of our main targets is to increase digital services penetration, therefore increasing mobile and fixed multi-play customers, which in our experience generates higher ARPU and greater customer loyalty. For instance, in 2018, a mobile triple play customer generated 3 times the ARPU of a single play customer and had 30% less churn on average.
Our subscriber base has grown substantially since we began operations in 1994. At year-end 1994, we had 63,500 subscribers, and by year-end 2018, that number for the Group had grown to 48.9 million including subscribers of subsidiaries.
In the mobile segment, we increased our postpaid subscriber base from 54% in 2017 to 56% in 2018 due to our focus on value. As of December 31, 2018, we had approximately 14.9 million prepaid subscribers and 18.8 million postpaid subscribers, compared to approximately 15.6 million prepaid subscribers and 18.5 million postpaid subscribers as of December 31, 2017.
Our average minutes of usage (MoU) in Turkey increased 4% to 359.5 minutes in 2018 from 347.1 minutes in 2017, as a result of high bundle packages utilization. Our mobile ARPU in Turkey increased to TRY 33.9 in 2018 compared to TRY 29.8 in 2017 mainly driven by our upsell strategy, favorable change in customer mix, focus on high value customer groups, and data and digital service growth.
Our revenues are generated in large part from interconnection fees and retail tariffs. Regulatory decisions have had and may continue to have the effect of decreasing interconnection rates and imposing minimum and maximum prices on our retail tariffs. For a more detailed discussion of these factors, please see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry and Item 5.D. Trend Information.
Churn rate is the percentage calculated by dividing the total number of subscriber disconnections during a period by the average number of subscribers for the same period. For these purposes, we define average number of subscribers as the number of subscribers at the beginning of the period plus one half of the total number of gross subscribers acquired during the period. Churn refers to subscribers that are both voluntarily and involuntarily disconnected from our network.
In the fixed segment, we increased our subscriber base from 2.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2017, to 2.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. 60% of the subscriber base are fiber customers (1.4 million subscribers).
We provided an impairment provision for contract assets, other assets and receivables from financial services in our Consolidated Financial Statements amounted to TRY 938.5 million and TRY 778.4 million as of December 31, 2018 and 2017 respectively, which we believe is adequate. The main reason for the change in impairment losses is collections made in 2018 amounting to TRY 262.9 million and a write-off of overdue receivables amounting to TRY 118.6 million which was netted of with an impairment loss recognized amounting to TRY 609.3 million. Moreover, the Company signed a transfer of claim agreement with a debt management company to transfer some of its doubtful receivables amounting to TRY 73.0 million stemming from the years between 1998 and 2016, excluding the amount from financial services which amounted to TRY 19.9 million stemming from the year 2017. Transferred doubtful receivables comprise of balances that the Company started legal proceedings.
II. International and Other Domestic Operations
In addition to our businesses in Turkey, we have telecommunications operations in Ukraine, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Belarus and Germany. For a description of, and additional information regarding, our international and other domestic operations, see Item 4.B. Business Overview.
Revenues include telecommunication services which is comprised of voice, data, messaging, services and solutions, interconnect, roaming, wholesale and other revenues. Other revenues mainly consist of revenues from our retail business, call center business, information and entertainment services, tower business and financial services.
IV. Operating Costs
a. Cost of Revenues
Cost of revenues includes treasury shares, universal service fund, transmission fees, radio expenses, billing costs, cost of goods sold, depreciation and amortization charges, funding costs for financial services, roaming charges paid to foreign mobile communications operators for calls made by our subscribers while outside Turkey, interconnection fees mainly paid to Turk Telekom and Vodafone and wages and salaries and expenses for technical personnel.
b. Administrative Expenses
Administrative expenses consist of fixed costs, including company cars, office maintenance, travel, consulting, collection charges, wages, salaries and personnel expenses for non-technical, non-marketing, and non-sales employees, and other overhead charges.
c. Selling and Marketing
Selling and marketing expenses consist of dealer and distributor commissions, advertising, wages, salaries and personnel expenses of sales and marketing related employees, and other expenses, including travel expenses, office expenses, insurance, company car expenses, and training and communication expenses.
d. Net impairment losses on financial and contract assets
Net impairment losses on financial and contract assets consist of impairment losses incurred through assessment of the Group at the end of each reporting period to consider whether there is objective evidence that a financial asset or group of financial assets was impaired. A financial asset or a group of financial assets was impaired and impairment losses were incurred only if there was objective evidence of impairment as a result of one or more events that occurred after the initial recognition of the asset (a loss event) and that loss event had an impact on the estimated future cash flows of the financial asset or group of financial assets that could be reliably estimated. In the case of equity investments classified as available-for-sale, a significant or prolonged decline in the fair value of the security below its cost was considered an indicator that the assets were impaired.
e. Results of Operations
The following table shows information concerning our consolidated statements of operations for the years indicated:
|For the years ended December 31,|
|(in TRY millions)|
Revenue from financial services
Cost of revenue
Cost of revenue from financial services
Total cost of revenue
Selling and marketing expenses
Net impairment loses on financial and contract assets
Other income/(expense), net
Net finance (costs)/income
Share of loss of equity accounted investees
Profit before income taxes
Income tax expense
Profit from continuing operations
Profit/ (loss) from discontinued operations
Profit for the year
Equity holders of the Company
Profit for the year
The following table shows certain items in our consolidated statement of operations as a percentage of revenue:
|For the years ended December 31,|
Results of Operations (% of revenue)
Cost of revenues
Selling and marketing expenses
Net impairment loses on financial and contract assets
Other operating income/(expense), net
V. Segment Overview
Our operations are aggregated under two main reportable segments, Turkcell Turkey and Turkcell International:
The Turkcell Turkey segment comprises mainly our telecommunication and technology services activities in Turkey and includes the operations of Turkcell, Turkcell Superonline, Turkcell Satis, group call center operations of Turkcell Global Bilgi, Turktell, Turkcell Teknoloji, Global Tower, Rehberlik, Turkcell Odeme and Turkcell Gayrimenkul.
The Turkcell International segment comprises mainly our telecommunication and technology services activities outside of Turkey and includes the operations of lifecell, Belarusian Telecom, Kibris Telekom, Eastasia, Lifecell Ventures, Beltel, UkrTower, Global LLC, Turkcell Europe, Lifetech LLC, Beltower, Lifecell Digital Limited and Fintur.
Our Other reportable segment is comprised mainly information and entertainment services in Turkey and Azerbaijan, non-group call center operations of Turkcell Global Bilgi, consumer financing service operations of Financell, Paycell LLC, TOFAS (interest free), electricity energy trade operations of Turkcell Enerji, insurance agency activities of Turkcell Sigorta, as well as the development and production of electric passenger cars and to the carrying out of trading activities of Turkiyenin Otomobili and Sofra Kurumsal. The accounting policies of our reportable segments are the same as those described in the summary of significant accounting policies.
The Group has transferred its total shareholding in Azerinteltek, controlled by Inteltek, to another shareholder of Azerinteltek, Baltech Investment LLC (Baltech). The share purchase agreement was signed on November 15, 2018 and the transfer of proceeds to Inteltek was completed on December 27, 2018. The Group has lost the control over the subsidiary unconditionally on December 27, 2018 with transfer of money. The transfer of shares to Baltech was completed subsequently on January 11, 2019. See Note 39 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F for additional information.
Starting from 1 October 2016, Fintur was classified as held for sale and discontinued operations. The Group has signed the definitive agreement on December 12, 2018 to transfer its total shareholding in Fintur to the other shareholder of Fintur, Sonera Holding B.V. (Sonera Holding). The transfer to Sonera Holding will be completed subsequently to the obtainment of regulatory approvals and the value of transaction will be finalized on closing date of the transaction, which is expected to take place in 2019. See Note 16 to our audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 18. Financial Statements of this annual report on Form 20-F.
|Turkcell Turkey||Turkcell |
|(in TRY millions)|
Total segment revenue
Revenues from external customers
Bad debt expense
|Turkcell Turkey||Turkcell |
|(in TRY millions)|
Total segment revenue
Revenues from external customers
Bad debt expense
For a definition of adjusted EBITDA, please see footnote 9 of the table in Item 3.A. Selected Financial Data.
a. 2018 compared to 2017
Total revenues generated by Turkcell Turkey increased 18.2% to TRY 18,265.8 million in 2018 from TRY 15,450.1 million in 2017, mainly due to a 16.4% growth in data and digital services revenues driven by the increase in mobile data and fixed data revenues impacted by higher number of data users, increased data consumption per user and higher penetration of digital services, a larger postpaid subscriber base as well as our ability to upsell to higher tariffs in mobile business coupled with a larger subscriber base in fixed business and higher ratio of multiplay subscribers with TV. In 2018, postpaid ARPU excluding M2M subscribers was TRY 54.9 whereas prepaid average revenue per user was TRY 16.9, approximately 3.2 times higher. Additionally, voice and SMS revenues grew by 10.4%. For a more detailed discussion of the factors affecting our revenues, please see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry and Item 5.D. Trend Information.
Turkcell Turkeys Adjusted EBITDA increased 34.7% to TRY 7,534.3 million in 2018 from TRY 5,593.8 million in 2017, mainly due to an increase in revenues and selling and marketing expenses which was partially offset by an increase in cost of revenues, administrative expenses and net impairment losses. The increase in the cost of revenues mainly resulted from an increase in treasury share expenses, interconnection cost, radio cost, wages, salaries and personnel, cost of goods sold, transmission cost and network related expenses. Decrease in selling and marketing expenses is mainly due to IFRS standards effect, which includes the capitalization of subscriber acquisition costs according to IFRS15, the capitalization of lease expenses according to IFRS16 and reclassification of frequency usage fees related to prepaid subscribers under net impairment losses on financial and contract assets according to IFRS 9 standard.
b. 2017 compared to 2016
Total revenues generated by Turkcell Turkey increased 20.8% to TRY 15,450.1 million in 2017 from TRY 12,787.6 million in 2016, mainly due to a 51.2% growth in data and digital services revenues driven by the increase in mobile data and fixed data revenues impacted by increased smartphone penetration, higher subscriber numbers, a rise in data consumption, price adjustments and higher digital services subscribers. This was partially offset by a 36.5% decrease in voice and SMS revenues. For a more detailed discussion of the factors affecting our revenues, please see Item 4.B. Business OverviewRegulation of the Turkish Telecommunications Industry and Item 5.D. Trend Information.
Turkcell Turkeys Adjusted EBITDA increased 34.4% to TRY 5,593.8 million in 2017 from TRY 4,160.9 million in 2016, mainly due to an increase in revenues and decrease in administrative expenses which was partially offset by an increase in cost of revenues. The increase in the cost of revenues mainly resulted from an increase in treasury share expenses, interconnection cost, wages, salaries and personnel, cost of goods sold and network related expenses. The decrease in administrative expenses mainly resulted from a decrease in bad debt expenses as opposed to increase in consultancy expenses and wages, salaries and personnel expenses.
a. 2018 compared to 2017
Total revenues generated by Turkcell International increased by 36.5%, to TRY 1,457.0 million in 2018 from TRY 1,067.1 million in 2017 mainly due to currency appreciation in Ukraine and Belarus against the Turkish Lira in 2018. The annual growth rates, in terms of local currency, of our major subsidiaries, lifecell and Belarusian Telecom were 8.1% and 11.7% respectively. The revenue growth in lifecell, which operates in Ukraine, was mainly driven by 20.1% higher blended ARPU (three-month active) due to higher mobile broadband usage which was partially offset by the increase in the three-month active subscriber base to 8.0 million from 7.3 million. The revenue growth in Belarusian Telecom in Belarus was mainly due higher data revenues on the back of a rise in 4G users coupled with a higher data consumption . The penetration of its digital services in Belarusian Telecom continued to increase in accordance with Turkcells digital services strategy.
Turkcell Internationals Adjusted EBITDA increased by 132.1% to TRY 612.7 million in 2018 from TRY 264.0 million in 2017 mainly due to the positive impact of new IFRS standards which included capitalization of lease expenses under IFRS16 and capitalization of subscriber acquisition costs according to IFRS15 as well as the currency appreciation in Ukraine and Belarus against the Turkish Lira. The increase in Turkcell Internationals Adjusted EBITDA was mainly due to increase in lifecells Adjusted EBITDA by 170.9% in terms of Turkish Lira. lifecells Adjusted EBITDA increased by 108.2% in terms of local currency mainly due to the effective cost control measures as well as the positive impact of the capitalization of its radio frequency usage costs starting in the fourth quarter of 2018 in accordance with IFRS16.
b. 2017 compared to 2016
Total revenues generated by Turkcell International increased by 22.0%, to TRY 1,067.1 million in 2017 from TRY 874.7 million in 2016 mainly due to currency appreciation in Ukraine and Belarus against the Turkish Lira in 2017. The annual growth rates, in terms of local currency, of our major subsidiaries, lifecell and Belarusian Telecom were 0.8% and 13.4%, respectively. The revenue growth in lifecell, which operates in Ukraine, was mainly driven by 17% higher blended ARPU (three-month active) due to higher mobile broadband usage which was partially offset by the decrease in the three-month active subscriber base to 8.0 million from 9.2 million. The revenue growth in Belarusian Telecom, which operates in Belarus, was mainly due to increased number of 4G users, and higher data consumption led to increased data revenues. Meanwhile, BeST continued to increase the penetration of its digital services within its customer base in accordance with Turkcells digital services strategy.
Turkcell Internationals Adjusted EBITDA increased by 12.2% to TRY 264.0 million in 2017 from TRY 235.3 million in 2016 due to the positive impact of currency appreciation in Ukraine and Belarus against the Turkish Lira. The increase in Turkcell Internationals Adjusted EBITDA was mainly due to increase in lifecells Adjusted EBITDA by 13.0% in terms of TRY, which was decreased by 2.2% in terms of local currency mainly due to higher network related costs resulting from the 3G+ roll-out.
VI. Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2017
We had 33.7 million mobile subscribers in Turkey, including 14.9 million mobile prepaid subscribers, as of December 31, 2018, compared to 34.1 million mobile subscribers in Turkey, with 15.6 million mobile prepaid subscribers, as of December 31, 2017. During 2018, we recorded a decrease of 0.4 million Turkish mobile subscribers.
In the fixed segment, we increased our subscriber base from 2.1 million, of which 1.2 million were fiber customers, for the year ended December 31, 2017, to 2.3 million, of which 1.4 million were fiber customers, for the year ended December 31, 2018.
In Ukraine, we had 9.9 million and 11.1 million registered subscribers as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively. During 2018, we lost approximately 1.2 million Ukrainian registered subscribers, similarly 3 months active subscribers decreased from 8.0 million to 7.3 million. This was primarily due to decreasing multiple SIM card usage.
Total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2018 increased 20.8% to TRY 21,292.5 million in 2018 from TRY 17,632.1 million in 2017.
Total revenues generated by Turkcell Turkey increased 18.2%, to TRY 18,265.8 million in 2018 from TRY 15,450.1 million in 2017, mainly due to a 16.4% growth in data and digital services revenues and 10.4% growth in voice & SMS revenues driven by higher number of data users, increased data consumption per user and higher penetration of digital services as well as our ability to upsell in mobile business coupled with a larger subscriber base in fixed business and higher ratio of multiplay subscribers with TV.
Postpaid subscriber usage is generally higher than prepaid subscriber. In Turkey, during 2018, we maintained our focus on the postpaid segment, with newly launched campaigns, offers and promotions to switch customers from the prepaid to the postpaid segment. We focus on postpaid subscribers because there is, in general, higher average revenue per postpaid subscriber and a lower churn rate. In 2018, postpaid ARPU excluding M2M subscribers was TRY 54.9 whereas prepaid average revenue per user was TRY 16.9. These figures indicate that postpaid average revenue per user is approximately 3.2 times the prepaid average revenue per user. Therefore, the increase in the number of postpaid subscribers has a positive effect on blended average revenue per user.
Total revenues generated by Turkcell International increased by 36.5%, to TRY 1,457.0 million in 2018 from TRY 1,067.1 million in 2017 mainly due to growth in Ukraine and Belarus business in addition to the appreciation of UAH and BYN against TRY during the period. The annual growth rates of lifecell and Belarusian Telecom, in terms of local currency were 8.1% and 11.7%, respectively.
Other subsidiaries revenues, mainly comprised of our revenues from information and entertainment services, call center services and financial services, grew by 62.8% to TRY 1,933.8 million in 2018 from TRY 1,187.5 million in 2017. The increase in revenue is mainly attributable to Financell, our consumer finance business despite the negative impact of the introduction of a regulatory limitation on the number of installments for consumer loans for smartphones in August 2018.
b. Cost of revenues
Cost of revenues, including depreciation and amortization, increased by 24.6% to TRY 14,146.0 million in 2018 from TRY 11,350.2 million in 2017, due to an increase in depreciation and amortization charges, treasury shares and universal funds paid, network related expenses, wages, salaries and personnel expenses, funding costs for financial services and other items and the impact of new IFRS standards which includes amortization charge of subscriber acquisition cost according to IFRS15 and capitalization of lease expenses, depreciation and amortization charges of right of use assets according to IFRS16. TRY depreciation and rising inflation resulted in an increase in the overall cost of revenues.
Depreciation and amortization charges (including impairment charges) increased by 65.1%, to TRY 4,288.0 million in 2018 from TRY 2,597.0 million in 2017. The effect of current year addition of IFRS standards is TRY 1,173.4. The amortization expense for our GSM license and other telecommunication operating licenses was TRY 533.3 million in 2018 mainly attributable to our 4.5G license and TRY 537.2 million in 2017.
Treasury shares and universal service funds on our mobile revenues paid to the Turkish Ministry increased 13.2%, to TRY 2,141.0 million in 2018 from TRY 1,891.2 million in 2017 which was mainly due to the increase in mobile revenues.
Interconnection and termination costs increased 9.7% to TRY 1,763.4 million in 2018 from TRY 1,607.1 million in 2017 mainly due to the increase in off-net interconnection traffic.
Wages, salaries and personnel expenses for technical personnel increased 14.9% to TRY 1,202.5 million in 2018 from TRY 1,046.5 million in 2017, mainly due to the periodic increase in wages and salaries and the increase in number of personnel which was partially offset by the decreasing impact of new IFRS standards which were capitalization of subscriber acquisition costs according to IFRS15 and capitalization of lease expenses according to IFRS16.
Radio cost decreased by 39.8% to TRY 508.9 million in 2018 from TRY 844.9 million in 2017 mainly due to impact of new IFRS16 standard.
Frequency expense increased by 123.3% to 622.4 million in 2018 from TRY 278.7 million 2017 due to a change in calculation method. Before January 1, 2018, the fee amount to be paid was calculated with respect to the amount per unit of wireless equipment (TRX); however, following a legislation shift, as of January 1, 2018 the fee is being calculated as 5% of monthly net sales amount.
Transmission costs increased by 49.4% to TRY 326.1 million in 2018 from TRY 218.2 million in 2017 mainly due to increases in roll out, capacity and effect of depreciation in TL.
Roaming expenses increased 28.0%, to TRY 226.8 million in 2018 from TRY 177.3 million in 2017, mainly due to depreciation of the TRY against the EUR and overall mobile network traffic increase.
Billing and archiving costs decreased 7.7% to TRY 50.9 million in 2018 from TRY 55.2 million in 2017, mainly due to the increase in the usage of the electronic and SMS invoices for billing.
Cost of revenue from financial services increased 28.9% to TRY 348.5 million in 2018 from TRY 270.4 million in 2017, due to the increased activities of Turkcell Finansman, which received official authorization in January 2016. Other costs in cost of revenues increased 12.9% to TRY 2,667.5 million in 2018 from TRY 2,363.6 million in 2017 due to increased contribution of our subsidiaries to our revenues, particularly in the fixed broadband and retail businesses, and universal service project.
As a percentage of revenues, cost of revenues increased 2.0 percentage points to 66.4% in 2018 from 64.4% in 2017, mainly as a result of increases in depreciation and amortization expenses of 5.4 percentage points, frequency expense of 1.3 percentage points and transmission cost of 0.3 percentage points as opposed to decreases in interconnection costs of 0.8 percentage points, treasury share and universal fund 0.6 percentage points and radio cost 2.4 percentage points.
Gross profit margin decreased 2.0 percentage points from 35.6% in 2017 to 33.6% in 2018.
c. Administrative expenses
Administrative expenses increased 4.4%, to TRY 673.4 million in 2018 from TRY 645.2 million in 2017, mainly due to a decrease in consultancy expenses, the impact of new IFRS standards and showing impairment losses incurred in 2018 under net impairment losses on financial and contract asset partially offset by an increase in wages, salaries and personnel expenses, collection expense and travel and entertainment expenses. As a percentage of revenues, general and administrative expenses decreased to 3.2% for the year ended December 31, 2018, from 3.7% for the year ended December 31, 2017.
Wages, salaries and personnel expenses for non-technical and non-marketing employees increased 23.0%, to TRY 425.7 million in 2018 from TRY 346.2 million in 2017, primarily due to periodic increases in wages and salaries and the increase in number of personnel and the impact of new IFRS standards.
Other administrative expenses, including collection and consulting expenses, decreased 5.7% to TRY 247.7 million in 2018 from TRY 262.8 million in 2017 with the impact of the capitalization of lease expenses according to IFRS 16.
Starting from the fourth quarter of 2018, bad debt expenses for the full year were reclassified as impairment losses under the new item called net impairment losses on financial and contract assets according to IFRS 9.
d. Selling and marketing expenses
Selling and marketing expenses decreased 18.9%, to TRY 1,626.7 million in 2018 from TRY 2,005.4 million in 2017, mainly due to the decrease in selling expenses and the effect of showing prepaid subscribers uncharged frequency
usage fees under net impairment losses on financial and contract asset, which was partially offset by the increase in wages, salaries, personnel and marketing expenses. As a percentage of revenues, selling and marketing expenses decreased from 11.4% for the year ended December 31, 2017 to 7.6% for the year ended December 31, 2018.
Selling expenses, which consist of distributor and dealer commissions and other selling expenses decreased 38.2%, to TRY 555.2 million in 2018 from TRY 898.9 million in 2017, mainly due to the TRY 664.7 million impact of the new IFRS standards which included capitalization of subscriber acquisition costs according to IFRS15 and the effect of reclassifying prepaid subscribers uncharged frequency usage fees under net impairment losses on financial and contract assets according to IFRS 9.
Marketing expenses, which consist of advertising, market research and sponsorships expenses, increased 3.4%, to TRY 551.1 million in 2018 from TRY 533.0 million in 2017 mainly due higher advertising expenses partially offset by the capitalization of lease expenses according to IFRS16.
Wages, salaries and personnel expenses for selling and marketing employees increased 11.8%, to TRY 441.0 million in 2018 from TRY 394.4 million in 2017, primarily due to periodic increase in wages and salaries.