Brian Fitzpatrick, Vodafone Carrier Services: A year to remember
ITW 2014 marked Vodafone Carrier Services' first full year of operation. The company’s CEO Brian Fitzpatrick shares his thoughts on the last 12 months with Capacity.
Vodafone waited until last May at ITW 2013 to officially launch its wholesale unit, Vodafone Carrier Services. The carrier market had known for some time that the company were plotting a move into the segment, following its $1 billion acquisition of CWW in 2012, but there was a great deal of intrigue and mystery about what one of the largest and most powerful mobile operators on the planet was up to in wholesale.
Fast-forward a year and Vodafone Carrier Services is finding its feet in the wholesale market. The company’s CEO, Brian Fitzpatrick, in fact considers it to be a “very successful” first year of operation.
He says that besides exceeding all its financial commitments to the Vodafone Group, which is “obviously a great accomplishment”, the integration process has gone much smoother than he anticipated overall.
“Prior to forming Vodafone Carrier Services, we were really operating as 27 independent companies, each buying and selling; similar to what we do now, but on their own,” he reflects. “I expected bringing those companies together to be a challenge, and in some cases we found some issues that we were not expecting, but the teams have come together very fluidly, with everyone very quickly realising the benefits of coming together and operating as one.”
Communicating externally to other carriers that Vodafone’s wholesale operations now act under just one company has also been a major priority over the last 12 months. Fitzpatrick implemented what he coins as a “global account management approach”.
“A large global carrier, for example, may have historically had 27 different interactions with Vodafone because it would be interacting with each entity independently,” he says. “We’ve been successful over the course of 12 months in fully implementing that global account strategy, and the feedback that we’re getting from our customer base is positive, because we’re much easier to work with.”
On the infrastructure side, Vodafone Carrier Services has spent the last 12 months reviewing its capabilities. Described as “almost as an inventory check of our own assets”, it included analysing everything from the company’s subsea cable capacity through to its long-haul or local loop access in particular countries.
As well as providing a clear overview of its global infrastructure, the review has also allowed Fitzpatrick to put in place some new initiatives that are now “fully funded and endorsed” by the Vodafone board.
He exclusively revealed to Capacity that over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, the company will migrate all of its voice minutes to a fully IP-intelligent routing platform. This is a major move: Vodafone handles upwards of 60 billion minutes of traffic per year. As well as bringing far greater control and efficiency to its network traffic, Fitzpatrick also hopes it will lead to the highest quality of service at the lowest cost.
“Historically, each one of our companies had control of the routing of the traffic, so we’re bringing this all together and creating one interconnected IP infrastructure that will have one software control worldwide,” says Fitzpatrick.
Work on the intelligent routing programme will commence in the coming months, starting first with Vodafone’s largest operating companies, which naturally carry the largest volumes of international traffic.
There are two components of the network migration to consider: the interconnection of Vodafone’s operating companies to the new network, and the interconnection of its suppliers.
“It really allows us to create a Vodafone ‘on-net footprint’ that includes all of our operating companies throughout the world. Once this is implemented, we can get creative with how we market our footprint to our carrier customers,” says Fitzpatrick.
“We will hopefully provide them with some very attractive economics. Currently we might not be as attractive in a certain location, but this will allow us to aggregate more volumes of traffic especially into locations where we own the networks ourselves,” he adds.
Local access on a global scale
And with Vodafone Group continuing its aggressive M&A strategy worldwide, the “on-net footprint” of Vodafone Carrier Services is only set to grow.
Moves such as the acquisition of Kabel Deutschland last October or the more recent deal for Spanish cable operator Ono in March are significantly enhancing Vodafone’s local access capabilities.
Fitzpatrick estimates that in 13 countries worldwide, Vodafone are ranked second or third in terms of access reach. It is rapidly enabling the company, he says, to become an alternative provider for local loop access to carriers throughout the world.
“I think probably one of our most attractive products, which is receiving a great deal of interest, is our local access capability,” he says. “We have already started proactively marketing these services to larger carriers that market enterprise services and it has been received glowingly. The carriers want an alternative to the incumbent. They historically did not think Vodafone would have control of these assets, but we are in the process of making sure everyone understands our capability in each country.”
The company has also been extremely proactive in marketing its IPX offering. Fitzpatrick says the service has been received very positively so far, which given the size and scale of Vodafone’s mobile operations is not a surprise.
“Mobile operators want to interconnect with Vodafone and we want to interconnect with them from an LTE roaming perspective. If you are going to go through an interconnection it makes most sense to go through a direct IPX interconnection,” says Fitzpatrick. “Some, due to their business requirements, would rather build through an alternative or third-party provider, because they already have an interconnection established. So we are trying to modify our offerings based on what the market is asking us for.”
As a result of its IPX offering, Vodafone Carrier Services has also been working more closely with Vodafone Roaming Services in order to fast-track the roll-out of LTE roaming services worldwide.
“We are working completely transparently with our roaming team in order to leverage expertise on the IPX side. LTE is an absolute priority at a global level. We have quite aggressive roll-out plans for the next year or so,” says Fitzpatrick. “Every major mobile operator wants to establish roaming capability.”
Fitzpatrick concedes that the Vodafone brand will first and foremost be associated with mobile. But he believes “word is getting out” in the carrier market, and that the company has already been “quite successful in striking up contracts with some of the larger carriers”.
Assembling a team that understands wholesale
An industry veteran with a career spanning over 25 years, including senior executive roles at BT Wholesale, TeleGlobe (acquired by Tata Communications in 2005) and Frontier Communications (acquired by Global Crossing in 1999), Fitzpatrick recognises that the wholesale market revolves around building relationships.
“We have spent a lot of time hand-picking a team. Some bring 20-plus years of very specific carrier experience to the team in different regions and different markets. All come from a very competitive background,” he says.
With the right team in place and several major initiatives in the pipeline, Fitzpatrick is confident for Vodafone Carrier Services’ prospects in its second year of operation: “We have built a good foundation to move forward. I would expect to see steady growth throughout the next year and we will continue to bring on top talent as our business grows,” he says.
“If we can execute on our intelligent routing platform as well as our IPX initiatives then we will be in very good shape.”