04 January 2018
PCCW Global has bought Console Connect. CEO Marc Halbfinger talks to James Pearce about the acquisition
It’s not a big secret
that the wholesale industry is facing major changes. The
growing demand for data services and higher bandwidths, coupled
with an increased need for agility, means the industry needs to
develop more intelligent ways of transferring capacity.
For PCCW Global, the international operating division of
Hong Kong telco HKT, its latest acquisition will give it an
opportunity to increase the depth of its capability around
software development and agile development.
That, according to PCCW Global CEO Marc Halbfinger, was part
of the thinking behind its acquisition in November of Console
Connect, which Halbfinger officially unveiled days later at the
MEF17 event in Florida.
The transaction involved two parts, with PCCW Global and HKT
acquiring Console Connect’s platform, its assets,
its intellectual property, as well as its technology team, led
by CTO Paul Gampe.
The rest of Console Connect, including its network assets
and customer contracts, were bought by Stephen Wilcox, the
former founder and owner of IX Reach, which was acquired by
Console Connect in 2015.
After making the official announcement, Halbfinger sat down
with Capacity to explain PCCW Global’s plans for
its part of Console Connect.
"The brand we feel is valuable. We acquired most the people
and they have associated themselves with the brand. The
development skillsets we acquired are quite deep, so
we’re quite pleased," he explains.
"Every network-based service provider needs to now increase
the depth of its capability around software development, agile
development to ensure services can be delivered to end users at
the retail level and wholesale level as efficiently as
So what was Console Connect? The "Cloud Connection Company"
was an enterprise software and interconnection company founded
in 2011 by Al Burgio.
The company’s sophisticated, highly-automated
connectivity platform provided enterprises direct access to an
ecosystem of business-critical cloud infrastructure providers
and other enterprises with the click of a button.
One key asset that is now owned by PCCW Global and HKT is
the Console Connect platform, which "provides a platform of
value from network to cloud", according to Halbfinger. For PCCW
Global, that could possibly be expanded further, Halbfinger
"We believe that can be expanded to go from network to
network, and perhaps cloud to network, depending on the retail
Another key consideration behind the deal was the technology
team at Console Connect, who joined PCCW Global as part of the
The team, still led by Gampe, was instrumental in developing
the Console Connect platform, and it was their experience and
perspective on "development and carrier
'softwarisation’" that will "help lead PCCW Global
to the next of evolution in the network", he adds.
"Until now in this industry we’ve had network
engineers and software developers doing applications," he adds.
"Now what we’re seeing at the core infrastructure
is the requirement for there to be software network engineers
– people who understand both the IT development side
as well as the physical layer. This Console Connect social
media is going to be quite valuable for this community
– it already is. All of this, we’ve
Halbfinger adds that Gampe’s team is well
versed in network orchestration and the software elements that
are becoming increasingly important for modern wholesale and
"This is quite relevant as we announce it here at MEF, and
MEF is about assuring standards-based orchestration of services
from the software layer and the physical layer and for retail
distribution services as well as inter-carrier framework, which
has always been something that PCCW Global has excelled at the
wholesale carrier interconnect," he says.
"The acquisition positions our depth in agile development
for the delivery of services for today and for the next
generation. They [Gampe’s team] understand the
network and understand the software development elements that
now critical for any next-generation service provider that
wants to be delivering services network to cloud in an
on-demand basis. They excel in that space and
that’s the reason we made this acquisition."
With big bandwidth videos becoming more critical, PCCW
Global trialled a live 360-degree 4K live virtual stream at the
Hong Kong Sevens in April 2017. "We didn’t just
look to deliver the live stream but to store it. At the
17-minute marker, my team phoned me to update me that we were
up to 15Tb of storage and they asked me how much did I want it
to continue to?
"This is an indication that, although there are applications
that are evolving, the requirements to get to the behavioural
insight will require infinitely more bandwidth and infinitely
more storage capability and so on that even our early elements
today of machine learning and AI capability are still not able
to do," Halbfinger said. "Let’s not get scared
that some of the larger players are evolving the model, still
bandwidth connectivity, storage capability and getting as close
to the edge to deliver applications will be critical, including
The deal, which was brokered by the Bank Street Group, was
marketed as a joint acquisition between PCCW Global and its
parent company HKT. I ask Halbfinger about HKT’s
involvement. "Console provides capabilities relevant to both
the domestic network and to the international network, but the
effort will be managed by PCCW Global," he says. "HKT was
involved because there was also an interest to see how the
development team would be able to provide application of value
to also the domestic infrastructure."
As mentioned, the deal will also see Console Connect split
up, with PCCW Global choosing not to acquire its network
assets, which are set to become part of a separate business
that will be operated as an independent global network platform
under the name IX Reach.
So why did PCCW Global opt not to buy the whole thing?
Halbfinger says the reason is simple – PCCW Global
"does not need the physical network" because it has its own
advanced global network, with infrastructure across the
Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, according
to its website.
Halbfinger elaborates: "We already had a physical network
that was arguably more robust than the one we would have
acquired. We felt it was unnecessary to acquire a network we
felt we already had."
That meant customers also moving to the new IX Reach.
"Because we didn’t want to take the network, we
didn’t take the customers. They are leveraging the
platform but sitting on the physical network, so we understood
there would be a process. We’ll certainly try to
find ways to collaborate."
I ask Halbfinger to sum up why this deal is important to
PCCW Global. He replies: "We’ve been providing
services to enterprise for many years. Our mission statement is
to provide global connectivity capability of voice, data, video
and applications to service providers, multinational
enterprises and to cloud. Here we are getting a network to
cloud capability that has currently been mostly delivered to
enterprises but it certainly also has wholesale
Bringing together a community
One of the key aspects of the acquisition is its senior
development team becoming part of PCCW Global, meaning the
wholesaler not only gets the code, but the people behind
That team is led by former Console Connect CTO Paul Gampe,
who joined the company (then IIX) in 2014.
Gampe believes one of the key reasons PCCW Global bought the
assets from Console Connect was to "get the code base and the
application that we’ve built but they also get a
development community that can help to take them further on the
Explaining the platform, Gampe says: "The internet is a
great vehicle at getting packets from source to destination but
it is fraught with challenges. If you’re trying to
do real-time streaming or voice applications then you really
need the ability to create a dedicated circuit from one point
"What you encounter as you dig deeper into how the internet
is constructed is that it is this wholesale network of
To complete an end-to-end circuit often needs wholesale
operators to agree how to achieve it, but "we’re
entering an era where the 30/60 day lead time to provision that
service doesn’t meet the needs of industry", Gampe