Guiding the leaders of the wholesale industry in a rapidly evolving world

Guiding the leaders of the wholesale industry in a rapidly evolving world

Capacity interviews Marc Halbfinger, CEO, PCCW Global and the new chairman of the ITW Founders’ Council and Global Leaders’ Forum.

We caught up with Marc in his Hong Kong office just before the Capacity Asia conference, which this year is being held in Hong Kong after a hiatus of several years.

Marc, what do you see as the main opportunities carriers should be focusing on over the next period?

“Topics that all carriers will have to prioritise are largely being driven by customer demand and evolving market conditions within both the wholesale and retail environments. The most pronounced impact is the trend amongst users to shift attention from core voice and data connectivity towards software-based real-time capabilities and applications. Service providers, therefore, must be vigilant in identifying new trends, and determining the most efficient pathways to monetising interoperability in this newly evolving commercial environment. HKT, our parent entity in Hong Kong, has been part of some of the industry’s largest advances in bandwidth usage on a per-user basis, and we have seen how this can dramatically impact an applications-hungry and highly competitive local environment. I believe this will prove to be equally true in the rapidly evolving global marketplace.”

Halbfinger offered that the Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF) can play a guiding role in these interoperability efforts. He said: “There are a wide array of issues facing the industry, comprising various elements of challenge, risk, and opportunity. It is, therefore, important that the industry collectively finds ways to identify the best ways to cooperate in safeguarding the user experience, while still focusing on developing new software-based market models. The GLF’s industry leadership position can help to facilitate the evolution of collaborative roadmaps which do not in any way undermine the gains experienced by end-users as a result of robust industry competition.

“Twenty to twenty-five years ago the mobile industry worked through both technical and commercial standards that ultimately defined roaming arrangements which in turn created frameworks for technical and commercial monetisation of what was then a new model of communications – the cellular telecoms environment.  Our subset of the telecoms industry can learn from this period, and identify problems solved, and methodologies used, in helping to shape new approaches to resolving the conundrums we are all faced with today.”

You have just been elected chairman of the ITW Founders’ Council and GLF, what do you see as the main opportunities for the GLF now?

“It is extremely flattering to be chosen by your peer group to lead a forum which I have always felt should be viewed as invaluable by the industry. It is also a great honour to follow in Alexandre Pebereau’s footsteps; Alexandre worked with Ros Irving in creating the initial shape of the GLF, and gave it real meaning.”

I believe the various colleagues in the GLF are in relative alignment to ensure that the industry continues to seek consensus views on many areas of critical relevance, to identify how quality and monetisation can be further delivered into the business as the models for various elements of data services begin to outpace the earlier voice and signalling drivers.  Moreover, I think that what is most important is that we continue to work in a confidently collective fashion, and as fast-paced as possible, because today’s industry, and our world in general, is moving extremely rapidly and we are being challenged to stay relevant within the evolving global digital arena.  Effectively, the challenge is in fact the opportunity.”

What are the key issues the industry faces and how is it going to solve them?

“As I alluded to earlier, I think we must collectively focus on securing both technical and commercial approaches to interoperability that, among others, accommodate Application Programme Interfaces (APIs), dynamic traffic management across networks, variant applications, and asymmetric requirements between and amongst carriers.  Software defined networks, cloud-based applications, and element virtualization are all driving the rapid development of new service providers that serve both the wholesale and retail environments.”

“The GLF can certainly be a key influencing platform to help the wholesale environment drive interoperability in a streamlined fashion, which can in turn facilitate a more efficient retail experience.  But, ultimately, ‘solving’ the problems will require that each member company continues to aggressively innovate in order to satisfy our customers’ continuing demand for new service models and applications.”

Capacity was involved in creating research which helped steer some of the members of the GLF around the importance of creating new interoperability environments for every form of traffic, not just voice and standard data but also applications and video. Halbfinger said this research was extremely valuable to the GLF and that priorities around these standards might also include creating common approaches around APIs which can help interface with different networks.  Halbfinger said: “The research helped carriers identify and quantify some of the key industry challenges. The GLF can certainly serve as a form of steering committee for the industry to help work through methodologies for dealing with those challenges.”

“The GLF and the ITW Founders’ Council were formed out of a commercial need to ensure that the industry was meeting as regularly as possible, in the most efficient a way as possible, around the core commercial challenges facing this industry. It is important therefore that the GLF is ready to accept thought leaders who may challenge and yet co-exist in influencing the industry. That includes a lot of work to ensure that we attract and include company leadership from all regions of the world, and all elements of the ICT industry.

“It is important that we listen to the opinions of all the members of the service provider and user communities who are driving trends which are continuing to shape our industry today.”

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