Finland-based mobile operator Elisa may be small, but it has always punched well above its weight. In June 2018, for example, it claimed to have launched the world's very first "commercial" 5G service, beating heavyweight rivals in the US and Asia.
It has also been ahead of the game in 4G, and has thrived in the Finnish market despite tough competition from Telia, one of Europe's biggest operator groups. Its investments in automation, and efforts to sell its automation tools and expertise to other telcos have also set it apart.
Elisa has of course suffered from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the past year, although it describes the impact on its business as "limited" and still managed to report a small increase in revenue and profit for 2020.
The operator has just produced its results for the second quarter (Q2) and first half of 2021, and remains on a steady upward trajectory. It is maintaining its guidance of slightly higher revenue for 2021, similar or slightly higher EBITDA and capex at a maximum 12% of revenue.
In Q2 2021, it increased revenue by 5% to €484 million (US$571 million), which the operator attributed to the acquisition of CamLine to boost its industrial software business, the launch of the Elisa Viihde Viaplay streaming service and a 4.2% increase in mobile revenue. Comparable EBITDA rose by 2% to €172 million ($203 million) and the operator again posted a net profit of €79 million ($93 million).
In the first half of the year, revenue increased by 4% to €966 million ($1.14 billion) while comparable EBITDA was up by 2.3% at €342 million ($403 million) and net profit was €160.8 million ($190 million).
Elisa is continuing to place a strong focus on automation of operations. For example, it intends to "increase automation and data analytics in different processes, such as customer interactions, network operations and delivery."
It is also continuing to sell its expertise to other operators. In 2020, for example, Elisa Automate's network automation solution was selected by Deutsche Telekom Group companies T-Mobile Czech Republic and Slovak Telekom. Then, in 2021, Elisa said Telefónica was testing the solution in its global transport SDN network laboratory. Elisa Automate is a business unit of Finland-based analytics, assurance and monitoring solutions outfit Polystar, which in turn is part of Elisa.
Elisa is banking on the fact that future growth will come from the mobile data market, as well as digital online and ICT services.
The operator is of course continuing to build out its 5G network. It said it now offers 5G in over 110 towns and cities, with nationwide population coverage of over 50%.
In the first half of the year, it noted that it achieved an increase of more than €3 in monthly billing for new 5G customers. The majority of mobile phones sold are now 5G devices, Elisa said.
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- Nokia, Elisa and Qualcomm make 5G go to 8Gbit/s
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading