Driving value through innovation: Feddo Hazewindus, CEO, iBasis
Big Interview

Driving value through innovation: Feddo Hazewindus, CEO, iBasis

Industry veteran Feddo Hazewindus took over as CEO of iBasis at the beginning of 2016. He tells Agnes Stubbs why introducing value-added services will be a strategic focus

At the start of the year, former KPN veteran Feddo Hazewindus took over the helm of wholesale carrier iBasis from then CEO Willem Offerhaus. 

Offerhaus had laid the tarmac for the road ahead during his five-year leadership by establishing a strong position for its LTE Roaming services and value-added services while maintaining its dominant position in the global voice market. 

Hazewindus’s arrival to iBasis follows a year of notable announcements at the carrier. Last February, the Massachusetts-based company launched a reporting and monitoring tool named InVision that provides operators with visibility into their LTE roaming service performance and usage on various network levels. Shortly after in May, it unveiled FraudAlert, a fraud management system that enables service providers to protect their revenue and customers from fraudulent calling activity. 

That strategy of creating added value for its clients by providing new services on top of existing services is what Hazewindus intends to stick to as the company seeks to expand in the wholesale voice market. 

“Bringing value-added services is going to be a big strategic priority. We are working very hard to make our services unique and to create extra value for our customers,” says Hazewindus. This year will no doubt see iBasis continue its efforts on LTE and VoLTE roaming where it has experienced the strongest growth. 

Over 350 LTE destinations 

It has momentum on its side: last July, the KPN company announced an additional 100 LTE destinations in the past six months, bringing its total count to over 290. To date, its footprint includes over 350 destinations in more than 135 countries. 

Research from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GMSA) in July 2015 showed about 25 operators in 16 countries supported VoLTE globally, with 103 players in 49 countries investing in the technology. 

Alluding to his strategy to bring innovative services to its traditional LTE and IPX services, Hazewindus says: “Here’s what we’re tackling – if you have the network, the signalling, the LTE roaming and the IPX – how do you move from that to a more value-added world where insight into customer behaviour can be used commercially?” 

One way it plans to do so is by bringing increased analytical capabilities into its product portfolio. “This is a dynamic industry. To differentiate ourselves this year, we are investing in the analytical side of things to help operators better understand patterns of roaming traffic,” he says. Such data could help service providers improve both roaming service quality and revenue. 

Software expertise 

iBasis’s ownership of proprietary routing platforms will drive the launch of these services, says Hazewindus, and the key enabler lies in its expertise in software. 

The wholesale industry is very much accustomed to buying switches and cables but increasingly, it is moving to a software approach, observes Hazewindus. “No longer will the added quality and value of your network be determined by boxes. It’s about the integrated software solutions that you offer,” he says. Hazewindus says iBasis’s roots – which lie very much in software – have served as an advantage for the company as new expertise and knowledge are needed to “develop new services in a new IP world,” he says. 

“We have always been an IP company, never a TDM company. If anyone knows about the intricacies of IP interoperability, it is us.” Hazewindus is intent on helping telcos tackle their challenges around interoperability – one common example being signalling system 7 (SS7) and IP networks. 

“Enabling interoperability remains one of the biggest challenges for our customers. As an industry, we are wrestling with the transformation from an asset-based industry to an IP-based industry. There is an opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves there,” he says. In the last year iBasis has worked with Indonesian telco Telin and Ireland’s Eircom to provide LTE roaming while enabling service interoperability on their networks. 

As revenues and margins face growing pressure, Hazewindus urges the industry to go beyond traditional services. Along with that, changes in mindsets are required. In its quest to innovate on top of its existing LTE services, iBasis has ventured into new vertical markets such as the internet of things and – more specifically – around connected cars. 

LTE roaming service 

At the start of the year, iBasis announced its collaboration with connectivity platform provider Cubic Telecom to implement an LTE roaming service. 

As part of the agreement, iBasis will enable Cubic’s multi-IMSI service for connected cars and other IoT and M2M applications through its global LTE footprint, hosted diameter signalling service and customer development.

According to both parties, Cubic sought a partner with global LTE roaming coverage that could deliver a service that supports their embedded connectivity platform in a short time. iBasis claims to have met that challenge with what it says is a cost-effective and operationally efficient service. Traditionally, iBasis’s core market is comprised of fixed operators, mobile network operators and MVNOs. 

“Now we are moving to companies that are providing connected car solutions, for example. That provides an insight into the evolution of our industry into an IP-based environment and ecosystem,” says Hazewindus. 

He adds: “Our work with Cubic demonstrates how we can meet the needs of innovative customers and how we plan to engage with them. We enable the interoperability and interconnection of systems, making it a seamless service. That’s our role.” The wholesale industry will need to develop an ecosystem with various partners to serve the needs of customers where their strengths lie. 

Key partners 

“We can’t be everything to everybody,” he says. “We need to understand where our expertise lies and pick our key partners wisely, as we have in this case, with Cubic.” IoT will be an opportunity for iBasis, he says. “Our business has gone from voice to data. Big data streams will drive IoT and we will need to find our role in it,” says Hazewindus. 

An industry veteran with over 18 years of experience, Hazewindus has seen the rapidly changing landscape of the telecoms industry. “It used to be that traffic and money would be running from the walls – faster than you can grab it. That has now changed with decreasing margins and much lower barriers to entry. 

The challenge is how do you prevent yourself from becoming just a simple connection provider?” he says. If there is anyone well placed to take on that challenge, it is Hazewindus. After all, he was responsible for leading the reorganisation of the operations division for KPN last year. 

It is that experience that will put Hazewindus in good stead as he seeks to drive growth across the KPN subsidiary. Hazewindus embarked on his career at KPN in the 1990s, starting as a corporate lawyer, then rising steadily through the ranks to become CEO at KPN International Network Services - a position he held for about seven years. 

“The access that I have to KPN, its executive team and the board will be key in my role as CEO of a subsidiary,” he says, pointing to the trust that has been established over the years. Hazewindus looks to his leadership team for support. “If I have learned one thing in previous challenges, it is that the world is competitive, and you cannot do it by yourself,” he adds. 

“You need a world-class team that works together in the best possible way to conquer the challenges,” he says. A balance of diversity “in points of view and experiences” and “the absolute will to drive results” will be crucial to iBasis’s efforts to drive growth. “We are not going to survive by doing the same things we’ve always done. A good team can produce a better solution from a discussion, than any individual could. The creative process is based on respect and diverse points of view,” he says. 

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