Q&A Juan Carlos Bernal CEO, Wholesale Business Unit, Telefonica Business Solutions

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1. What have been Telefonica’s key highlights and developments in Latin America over the past year?

At a local level, we have focussed on expanding LTE and fibre to the home (FTTH) access coverage to improve content connectivity, as well as adding to our digital services portfolio (Cloud, Internet of Things, Security and Big Data) and services for enterprises. At an international level, a significant landmark was the creation of Telxius, the infrastructure company of the Telefonica Group, which manages and operates an extensive network of high capacity submarine fibre optic cables and a Tier-1 IP network.  We have also consolidated our Wholesale Business to not only support traditional trading like voice and roaming, but also offer our operator customers connectivity, platform services, digital solutions and professional services across the LATAM region.

2. What are the major trends in the Latin American market and how is Telefonica planning to capitalise on those?

The major trends in Latin America are consistent with what we are seeing in the rest of the world, although the evolution can be slower in LATAM compared to Europe, USA and some Southeast Asian countries.  There is certainly an overall trend towards greater demand… for bandwidth, services, content, information, flexibility and value.

We are seeing that ‘Roam like at home’ end user offers are having an impact on the evolution of international voice traffic and, most importantly, on data roaming traffic which has experienced explosive growth. In this regard, Telefonica is in a privileged position as we have an important presence in both retail and wholesale markets which allows us to fully exploit this opportunity.

Latin America is a diverse region in which in-market regulation and competition varies immensely. Over the last 24 months, new players have entered different markets and local regulators have continued to assess national competitive landscapes.  We continue to invest in the region, in order to ensure that we meet the demands of our customers in terms of services, connectivity and customer experience.

3. What are your strategic priorities for Latin America in 2017? 

Telefonica is not afraid of change and embraces the opportunities to evolve and grow with our customers.  Across the Telefonica group we have invested approx. 48 billion since 2012 in both the deployment of networks and infrastructure and the full integration of our IT systems to underpin the delivery of new digital products and services. This is a journey and not a destination, as we will continue to drive forward e2e digitalization, invest in the delivery of outstanding connectivity and never lose sight of our customers’ need to access world leading products and services, delivered via global platforms.  Our belief in this opportunity is epitomized by our Telco4Telco initiative, designed to empower our fellow telcos to leverage the opportunities of the digital world, with a specific focus on Security and IoT. In addition, Big Data will emerge beyond hype to deliver real commercial value and success, as acknowledged by our most recent announcement of AURA.

During 2015 - 2016 we witnessed the progression in SDN/NFV from a focus on creating global standards, PoCs, TestBeds and trials through to formal B2B customer deployments. We expect this trend to continue and its impact on the wholesale market to become even more evident, leading to the simplification and improvement of current services, introduction of new virtualized services and for relationship models with customers and providers being redefined. 

We are keeping a close eye on our retail customers’ needs in order to anticipate new products and services opportunities and to develop our customer proposition and business models to meet what our customers require. Our scale and presence in the Latin American region makes us very well positioned to identify new business opportunities.

4. What are the key challenges in the region and how is Telefonica preparing to tackle them?

No business takes place in a vacuum and the regional political landscape will continue to evolve which may impact policy and regulation for the Communication and IT sector in some of the key markets.  Recognising and preparing for this is critical.  It is important that we make a concerted effort to drive competition for the benefit of our customers, understand each geography, its specific trends and idiosyncrasies, and most importantly, leverage our global scale whilst acting locally, through our deep in country presence.

Furthermore, reflecting on the continued evolution of individual markets and the desire for Latin America to be at the forefront of digital services we are leveraging and implementing our “OnLife Telco,” strategy, capitalizing on “softwarization” to become what we define as a “platform company.”

5. What do you hope to achieve out of your attendance at the Capacity LatAm event?

Capacity LATAM is a key event for our International Wholesale Business and we see it as a great opportunity to reinforce our strong capabilities in the region. Every year our team arrive full of energy and excited to engage with our customers and partners. This is the first time I am attending the event in my new role as CEO of the Wholesale Business Unit. I am very much looking forward to meeting our key customers face to face, to understand how we can continue to improve and provide them with innovative solutions in the wholesale market, in order to remain their trusted partner in the region.