08 May 2018
Vodafone Carrier Services CEO Brian Fitzpatrick talks to James Pearce about the UK-based operator’s wholesale business, five years after it first launched at ITW
One of Brian
Fitzpatrick’s first ever responsibilities after he
joined Vodafone Carrier Services was to hop on a plane to
Chicago for ITW. The year was 2013 and Fitzpatrick, now CEO at
VCS, was an industry veteran, having previously spent six years
overseeing BT’s wholesale unit. He’d
also held senior management roles with Teleglobe, later bought
by Tata Communications, and Frontier Communications, bought by
"It helps us tremendously [in the voice market] because not
only can we originate calls in our handsets around the world
but also some of the key corridors for termination like in
India we happen to operate the operating company in those
countries. So we’re well positioned from an
origination perspective but also quite uniquely positioned from
a termination perspective."
In the messaging market, Vodafone Carrier Services has also
established a centralised platform it calls VMH –
Vodafone Messaging Hub. This, along with investments in Rich
Communi-cations Services (RCS), will give Vodafone a strong
position to lead and sustain growth in the sector.
"The RCS capability enhances messaging. It makes it sexier,"
Fitzpatrick explains. "I can only see the upside. IoT is going
to enable thousands of things we’re not aware of
today and messaging will be one of them, as will RCS."
Vodafone has ownership in some 83 subsea cable systems
around the world and has continued to invest in several systems
since VCS was founded, including the Bay of Bengal Gateway
cable that links India to the Middle East and Singapore and the
Tasman Global Access (TGA) cable which connects New Zealand to
"While others are turning back on investing in subsea
cables, we’ve been heavily involved in seven new
systems around the world over the last five years," Fitzpatrick
A lot of recent cables have been announced: why does he
think that is? "There is definitely a new dynamic happening. As
you begin to look at new builds, you look at how they
interconnects with your existing infrastructure. Any new build
will enhance what we already have."
He expects the company to "actively be involved in cable
systems in the area around Africa", adding that it is also
looking at three or four other areas.
This comes back to OTTs: "It is the perfect marriage of
organisations – traditional telcos and OTTs coming
together, as opposed to acting as enemies. The OTTs can act as
an anchor tenant on these cable systems while the telcos take
much more of a lead on the management, regulatory and technical
Some of the existing Vodafone capacity is on fairly aged
systems that will, ultimately, be switched off in the coming
years. What does a company like Vodafone do to prepare for
this? He answers enthusiastically: "We actively have a
migration and grooming strategy. We’re looking at
our existing facilities and whether existing alternatives that
are timed to come up with retiring that facility. Or whether it
makes sense for us to partner and build a new cable along those
corridors." So with new investments in infrastructure on the
horizon, and a bright future for RCS, what does Fitzpatrick
expect for the next five years for VCS?
He answers: "We think in those three legs of the stool
– voice, messaging and infrastructure. From a voice
perspective I think you’ll see Vodafone continuing
to invest and focus on our intelligent routing platform and
optimise its capabilities. What we have also done is outsourced
26 operating companies onto a single platform and optimised and
created greater value for all of them."
This, he adds, opens up opportunities for working with
others to get them on board with the voice platform in order to
create an even wider alliance. This reminds me of other
interoperability trials being carried out in the industry, such
as SDN trials being carried out by several firms.
"It is probably a bit premature to look at interoperability
tie ups like SDN, but on the voice side it presents us an
opportunity to open it up more," says Fitzpatrick. "We know the
complexities we had to go through ourselves on a global level.
It is something we’re kicking around now to see if
we should proactively engage."
Vodafone Carrier Services,