Willem Offerhaus, iBasis: Investing in IPX

Robert Anderson speaks to Willem Offerhaus, CEO of KPN subsidiary iBasis, about the company’s IPX platform, voice proposition and plans for the future.


Willem Offerhaus, CEO at iBasis, is a man in the know about IP. “IP knowledge is something that is in the DNA of iBasis; we were in IP since the beginning so that’s what you will find throughout the company.”

Having taking the helm of the company in January 2011, Offerhaus is now approaching his second year in charge and has led some key innovations, particularly in the fields of IPX and voice.

Offerhaus recalls his first PTC meeting where he was engaged in talks about the viability of IPX as a platform. “We believed in IPX but the signs in the market were very bleak at that moment.”

This year that situation has changed remarkably to the point where he believes it is essential for iBasis’ MNO customers to build out IPX services and the company has been working diligently to make its platform a commercial success.

As a sign of this transition, iBasis announced an IPX interconnection agreement with Telecom Italia Sparkle in May and also launched its LTE signalling exchange (LSX), Sandbox.

The LSX operates on top of the iBasis IPX network and is designed to allow MNOs to connect to hundreds of other operators through a single interconnect while assuring interoperability across multiple vendors.

Through the Sandbox environment, operators including iBasis’ parent KPN and Colombia’s UNE, have been testing their technical operations to pave the way for the commercial launch of LTE roaming services.

Relatively few LTE roaming agreements have been reached worldwide, but Offerhaus anticipates that the market is coming and will be driven by increasing numbers of users becoming hooked on the LTE experience and demanding to take it with them when they travel.

Transition from TDM

Since taking his position, Offerhaus has noticed a shift in operator attitudes towards the transition from TDM to IP. LTE, he contends, is forcing operators to invest in IP architecture although he still believes TDM is not quite at its death bed.

“Clearly traditional voice will die, it will become an app, but it will take a very long time before it is completely gone,” he says.

To continue to accommodate growth in the market, iBasis has focussed its voice offering on the quality of service (QoS) layer, including quality routing technology, anti-fraud solutions and customer service. This comes from the belief that QoS, rather than tariffs, is now the key differentiator desired by operators.

Serving OTTs and MNOs

While many carriers consider OTT players to be a threat, Offerhaus believes there are opportunities for collaboration.

Under Offerhaus, iBasis has positioned itself to serve the different requirements of both MNOs and OTTs and marks Skype as one of its customers for voice, messaging and HD voice services.“OTT players have become part of our customer base, and we’re delivering things to help them in their business,” says Offerhaus.

iBasis has also spotted opportunities from an unexpected source. Earlier this year, KPN made headlines when it was subject to an aggressive stake acquisition by Carlos Slim’s América Móvil.

To Offerhaus, América Móvil’s new holding presents a promising opportunity, particularly given that the carrier is already one of its largest customers. “América Móvil has networks around all of South America, which for us is a key wholesale market,” says Offerhaus. “So in that sense it’s positive for us and we see that it delivers us opportunities to grow even more in that region.”

Breakthrough year ahead

2013 is set to be a landmark year for iBasis as it prepares to roll out IPX services and unlock new revenue streams.

Offerhaus is confident that the company will bear the fruit of its labours and anticipates demand from customers that have invested in their domestic networks and are now in need of a partner to help them provide services globally.

This includes LTE roaming, which he says will force many operators to seek IPX solutions to overcome the complexity of so many different LTE standards worldwide.

He also believes that iBasis has ideally positioned itself for the year ahead to aid the continued migration from TDM to IP: “It is a breakthrough year for new services, and we will see the first signs of what wholesale will look like in the future.”