08 September 2017
Randy Nicklas, vice president of engineering, is one of Carl Grivner’s new team at Colt. Alan Burkitt-Gray asks how he plans to ensure Colt continues doing ‘great things’
Whether you’re in London or Berlin, Singapore
or Tokyo or Hong Kong, Colt’s intention is that
wholesale and enterprise customers should have the same look
and feel across all of them.
The company, which is celebrating its 25th birthday, now
uses the IQ Network brand for its operations, says Randy
Nicklas, new vice president of engineering.
"IQ Net is all about delivering higher bandwidth services to
enterprise and wholesale customers," he says.
"It’s not just Europe, it’s Singapore
and Hong Kong and Japan. IQ Net in Asia and Europe is
configured the same way and has the same set of systems."
Colt describes IQ Network as "a 100Gbps optimised network
distributed to 800+ data centres and carrier hotels around the
world", optimised for software-defined networks (SDNs), network
functions virtualisation (NFV) and cloud services.
Nicklas has just joined Colt at its London head office,
having previously spent three years as CTO of Windstream in the
US and, before that, 14 years as CTO of XO Communications.
He’s settled in already, he says. "I joined Colt
at the end of July. I’ve rented a flat and put
down some roots," he says. "But I’ve known of Colt
for years. XO is very analogous to Colt in Europe."
Colt’s network extends to the US, but Nicklas
didn’t list North America among the IQ Net
locations. "IQ Net is not yet in the US," he says. Does that
mean it will? "I hope so," he says … followed by a long
pause. "Let me just stop there." Then another pause. "There are
some opportunities in North America and the US in particular.
Stay tuned." With that, he will say no more on the
Nicklas started in software development and systems
engineering with NASA and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC),
and moved to telecoms with Intelsat and MCI before XO, mainly
around the Washington area until the move to Windstream in
So why the move across the Atlantic after a career of more
than three decades in the US? He clearly knows the US market
well. As an aside, Verizon bought XO’s fibre
network earlier this year for €1.8 billion;
it’s off the market.
"The opportunity came up and I’ve never worked
overseas before," he says. And the presence of Grivner, who
came to Colt two years ago as executive vice president of
network services before being promoted to CEO in January last
year, probably has something to do with it. "I worked for Carl
at XO," he says. Nicklas was CTO at XO for the whole of
Grivner’s eight-year spell as CEO.
Fibre pioneer in London
He admires his new company. "Colt has done some very
interesting things. There are some new leaders here, doing
interesting things," he says.
"I enjoy building a network, using new technology. Colt has
always been an early adopter of telecoms technology.
That’s the reason I’m here." Colt is
"further down the line" in network transformation. The company
has long been a leader, Nicklas recalls, since the days in 1992
when it pioneered fibre around the City of London. He has
clearly been briefed well on how Colt originally stood for
"City of London Telecommunications", before spreading out
across Europe to build long-distance and metro
Backed by the Fidelity pensions group since the start, Colt
took over Fidelity’s Japanese telecoms business
KVH in 2014 for $100 million. The former KVH, now operating
under the Colt name, has networks in four Asian markets: Japan,
Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Following the deal, Colt launched its IP access service in
Singapore a year ago, adding to a range of other offers the
company has in the country.
Colt said at the time that its coverage extends to
approximately 90% of commercial buildings in Singapore.
At the start of this year the carrier said it will enhance
the Colt IQ Network using both optical and Ethernet
architecture to offer high-bandwidth services to major
buildings and data centres across Asia.
In Singapore, the investment will include a large-scale
expansion of its existing coverage, while it will also begin
digging projects to prepare for its IQ Network fibre
Colt said in January that the expansion will make it the
only provider to have a fully-owned fibre metro network in key
Asian cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Singapore, as well as
Colt also pledged to augment Asian investments by adding key
submarine cable routes to its backbone to boost the reliability
of its network.
Close observers of Colt will also notice a huge turnaround
in the company’s spirit, particularly since
Grivner become CEO. In 2015 Fidelity bought the one-third of
Colt it did not already own for £569 million, and said,
intriguingly, "Fidelity has committed to holding its investment
in Colt and not to sell or take any other steps to dispose of
its Colt shares to any third party prior to 31 December
That hinted that on or after 1 January 2017 it retained the
right to sell its 25-year investment. But in mid-January this
year, in response to a question from Capacity, Grivner told me:
"Colt continues to have strong support from its ownership and I
can confirm with you that there are no plans to sell Colt." And
a couple of months earlier, with Fidelity’s
backing, the company moved into a new HQ near
London’s so-called Silicon Roundabout.
Now the focus is on Ethernet services on fibre. "Here at
Colt it’s all fibre. We never had that legacy
[technology]," says Nicklas. "We put fibre into London. The
fibre has evolved over 25 years and so has the
The bandwidth that can be delivered over
today’s fibre and today’s
opto-electronics has crept up to 100Gbps and 200 or 400Gbps are
on the way. "And there’s more to come. All of this
high bandwidth has to be delivered in Ethernet. Others stop at
40Gbps," he says.
Not all customers want the high speeds that
today’s technology permits, he notes. "The sweet
spot is the higher-speed handoffs," but CFOs of customers will
be wary of signing up to more bandwidth than they need. Even
though "we have a full portfolio of enterprise
telecommunications services, fully VoIP", it’s
important to be able to handle earlier generations. "Can we
handle TDM? Yes. But we can put in an interface and it becomes
VoIP internally to us."
What the future looks like
"We want our customers to understand what the future looks
like – and not just the future, but today. Voice is
still important to everybody. Do we still have older equipment?
Yes, we do, but some we’ve stopped. We want to
fully leverage our investment. We have the ability to deliver
outstanding quantities of bandwidth," he says.
"We are strong believers in Ethernet services.
We’re right at the leading edge of Carrier
Ethernet." Colt supports the work of MEF – formerly
known as the Metro Ethernet Forum. "All our Ethernet platforms
are Carrier Ethernet 2.0," he adds. "The overall picture is
that telecommuni-cations services are going to involve
Ethernet, and that’s where our focus is. "And now
people are talking about Ethernet functionality with very high
bandwidth, in the optical transport layer," says Nicklas.
Fast speeds are vital for data centres that are used for
cloud services, he notes. "Back in 2015 Colt launched dedicated
cloud access to the principal data centres. We’re
taking it to a new level with IQ Net. Colt helps cloud
providers build their backbones. We are in the engine room to
help provide these very large cloud networks."
So, after a few weeks, how’s he settling into
London? "I grew up in New York," he says. "London is in the
same category." And he is unfazed by the technology.
"There’s no regionalisation of technologies. I
haven’t seen anything that’s
different here. Our partners operate on a global basis and I
haven’t seen anything that I haven’t
Over its 25-year history, "Colt has done great things", he
says. Nicklas wants to make sure Colt continues that