Marc Halbfinger, PCCW Global Company Strategy: Certified to grow

11 June 2014

As carriers continue to target international growth, Marc Halbfinger, CEO at PCCW Global talks to Capacity about the company’s expansion strategy.

PCCW Global has already had a busy 2014 and the company is showing no signs that it is ready to abate its growth strategy in emerging markets.

Following a successful 2013 of solidifying its position in Africa and the Middle East, largely through its acquisition of Gateway Communications in 2012, the company is beginning to see the benefits of investing in a range of new services early.

Marc Halbfinger, CEO at PCCW Global, says it is now refocusing its attentions "primarily on the Asia-Africa trade corridor", with plans to deliver services ubiquitously from its home market of Asia, into Africa and on to the Middle East.

"Following the Gateway acquisition, we are now looking at investing in PoPs and more people on the ground to deepen our coverage," he says. "We have also been enhancing the relationships we have with service providers across Africa to accommodate the rising growth for data."
 
Hong Kong to Europe
In January 2014, PCCW Global announced the formation of a 17-member consortium to build the AAE-1 cable, landing across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The cable, which is scheduled to be ready for service in 2016, will span 15,000km and also provide a landing point from Hong Kong to Europe.

Halbfinger said that there is still significant demand for such a large-scale cable in the market, with the infrastructure becoming "critical for the evolution of global data".

One of the main reasons behind PCCW Global’s investment in AAE-1 is the fact that there has not been a cable landing between Hong Kong and Europe for over 20 years.

"The last cable to land between Hong Kong and Europe was SEA-ME-WE-3 and we believe it’s time to have that again," he says. "There is still demand in the market for one system with high bandwidth and a flexible commercial structure built at an aggressive pace."

If AAE-1 remains on course to launch in two years, it will coincide with the launch of SEA-ME-WE-5, which was also announced this year.

Carriers continue to invest in cable systems, but Halbfinger does not believe that this investment is made specifically to ensure profits for their consortiums.

"Cables are predominately built to improve cost infrastructure for services and applications are delivered over the system," he says. "In our view, our business case is justified in investing in this cable because it improves our cost along the route."

MEF certified
PCCW Global reached a major milestone in March this year, and claims it is now the only global network provider to achieve MEF CE 2.0 certification for all eight carrier types of Ethernet services.

The certification, awarded by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) recognises companies that identify Carrier Ethernet expertise within their organisation.

The initiative is the industry’s first vendor-neutral certification programme, and Halbfinger says it is a testament to the work PCCW has put into its internal team to achieve the network standard.

"It’s not just the network that is vital," he says. "We have significantly invested in a large cross-section of our personnel and our engineers – in operations and presales, with many passing individual MEF certifications."

The certification, according to PCCW Global, represents the company’s success in building a network that accommodates auditing design, relevant equipment services, people with the right skill sets, and gives customers confidence in partnering with the company.

"Being the first global network to be MEF certified is a sign to the market that we are willing to invest in our network."

Networks are becoming smarter and faster 
A major part of PCCW Global’s strategy going forward will be its continued investment in SDN and NFV services.

The company was one of the first global operators to begin investing in smarter networks, which was "driven by the desire to become more efficient over time". Halbfinger says he is striving to improve processes and lead the way in the next stage of provisioning its network.

"We are taking the steady view to think differently about managing our infrastructure and reorganise the way we build and sell the applications we deliver," says Halbfinger.

The company began investing in SDN services in 2011, with its overall goal being to tap into the next stage of infrastructure delivery.

It is already planning for augmenting SDN with its transmission hardware and IP services, and the company is aiming to accommodate a range of IT solutions within its offering.

PCCW Global’s traditional business is built on core wholesale infrastructure, predominately based on hardware solutions, and now Halbfinger is targeting ways to restructure the way the company’s network evolves.

He urges the industry to follow PCCW Global’s lead in evolving in the same way that software companies have changed their business models.

"We are now looking at how we deliver services and make ourselves more dynamic in delivering those services," says Halbfinger. "As an industry, we need to reorganise our thought processes internally and externally to accommodate faster and smarter networks."

Topics: Marc Halbfinger, PCCW Global, expansion, growth, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Gateway Communications