Big Interview

PTC: Connecting worlds and advancing ICT

As the Pacific Telecommunications Council reaches its fortieth anniversary, Jason McGee-Abe spoke to Tony Rossabi, CRO of TierPoint and president of PTC, about how the global membership organisation has transformed

The Pacific Telecommuni-cations Council (PTC) started off, as many events in our industry have done, as an event to exchange wholesale voice minutes in a location – Hawaii – that brought together people from mainland US and Asia. However, today the PTC is well known as a conference with a diverse set of attendees – it claims there will be 7,000 of them in 2018 – and speakers, representing a variety of disciplines and specialities to connect the worlds of technology, business and regulatory policy; of network-centric enablers with emerging business models, ecosystems, and competitive strategies.

“At its core the altruistic values of the organisation have been founded upon giving back to the community and there’s also a great focus on academia,” says Tony Rossabi, who is serving as president of the PTC through to January 2018.

However, many participants are still not aware that the PTC is a non-profit organisation, founded to raise funds for various activities throughout the year and initiatives to give back to the community, sponsoring projects for technological developments. 

These were primarily in the Pacific Rim, but the PTC is increasingly looking at other regions as it attracts more attendees from all over the world, most notably from Europe, South America and the Middle East. Rossabi admits that “PTC is no International Telecoms Week (ITW), which is in itself a fantastic event”, but it has “morphed itself into a bigger production, and more and more people want to share thought leadership via panels or submitted papers”, he says.

“When I first started attending PTC in the late 1990s, it was about a quarter of the size it is today. I would estimate that there were probably around 2,300 people attending at that time,” says Rossabi. 

Conference transformation

Changing technology though has totally transformed this conference. “PTC has done a great job of keeping up. It originally started as a place to exchange wholesale voice minutes and today we have the leading providers of cloud services, TierPoint being one of those. The banking and finance community is there, and a number of enterprises are also coming,” he adds. 

PTC has now evolved to thought leadership on subsea cables, bandwidth, mobility and now cloud services, IoT, SDN and virtual networking.

Rossabi joined the board just over three years ago as a member and took over as chairman and president two years ago. 

“I’ve been re-elected so I have another three years on the board. I think we’ve educated more and more participants of what the mission of PTC is at this time,” he says. “On my first day on the board, I went round and spoke to 40-50 participants and none of them knew what the mission was and that it was a non-profit organisation and that it was all about altruistic value and giving back to the community,” he tells Capacity. 

“We’ve done a really good job correcting this and we need to figure out how to get more corporate sponsors involved to help deliver the message globally. We’d love to expand to different regions but it’s all about how we get the funds to make that happen.” Rossabi doesn’t see much growth within the conference per se, but there are initiatives that have been rolled out, such as the Spectrum Futures mobile and wireless event held in Singapore. 

“We’re looking at launching more educational programmes for the commun-ity and we’ll look for input from Africa, Middle East, South America and other regions, as we want to make sure that we’re in the emerging markets as well.”

At the board level

Rossabi’s been an active supporter of the PTC for 19 years and since he was elected to his first term on the board of governors back in 2014 that involvement has only been strengthened. 

So what’s the board’s focus for 2018? “It’s to redevelop our three to five-year strategic plan to try and stay ahead of where things are moving. We want to continue the mission of the PTC to ensure that we provide support to the academic community and to young scholars, whilst continuing to focus on community developments,” he explains. “PTC has changed a lot and many new technology companies are supporting its efforts and have become sponsors. We will continue to operate as a not-for-profit and we want to continue to fulfil the objective we have to our members, secretariat and board.” 

So why did he join the board? Rossabi explains his reaons: “The impetus for me to get involved was rally around the community development efforts and how I could help those and help to continue to run a fantastic organisation and raise funds for the continued development in the tech space for the region.”

PTC board meetings are held every month and there is a three-day forum prior to the PTC event where the board discusses overarching global challenges. 

“Many of these are centred on how to overcome or address challenges, such as a shortage of bandwidth or even civil unrest,” says Rossabi. The driving factors in all of this are how to make things more efficient and how to create greater connectivity as content evolves and as we move towards a more IoT-functional society with autonomous vehicles and smart cities.

PTC initiatives

I dig deeper to find out more about the initiatives Rossabi referred to at a time of much technogical change in the industry. He enthusiastically responds: “The most recent one was PTC Academy, which took place this past fall in Thailand. Up-and-coming managers are taught general management skills over one week by industry leaders and veterans. The executives donate their time on a pro bono basis to help mentor.”

PTC Scholar, which is for students who want to get into the ICT world, is another initiative. “There are scholarships and sponsorships to various universities globally and there’s a contest where people write and submit their papers,” he explains. Research paper prize awards are given to recognise excellence in research. 

“There’s also the Broadband Reports initiative, which looks at micro markets to see how we can further develop broadband growth,” says Rossabi. “The conference will become more global in scope and more based on various aspects of the tech space. It will continue to morph itself, and it needs to, to ensure that we keep up with the changing dynamics of technology. We need to constantly improve to stay at the forefront of that,” Rossabi tells me.

Closer to the edge

As a participant and also as a board member, Rossabi’s interests lie with how technology is changing and where his company, TierPoint, which he joined in May 2017 as EVP and chief revenue officer, fits in the space. 

Ultimately it’s about how the industry gets closer to the edge. “This is a new endeavour for TierPoint, as we’ve been primarily focused on mid-markets, and we realised that as more people want to be closer to the edge it places us right in the middle to be the conduit, ensuring that people are getting signal, connectivity and security, cloud, or managed network services.”

How has Rossabi’s latest role helped him stay at the forefront of technology? “We are seeing incredibly dynamic companies that approach us for their business needs on a daily basis, specifically hybrid IT needs,” he responds. “We see a myriad of different requests as critical data passes through our data centres, private cloud or security offerings.” 

Rossabi adds that they are becoming more predictive and bespoke with their offering to be ahead of what their customers may want TierPoint to provide. “Not always easy – but we have an incredible group of technical experts, product, marketing and operations people, and we try and be laser-focused on the way technology is adapting to new challenges within this space.”

The former Telx EVP and Digital Realty managing director adds: “As we become a more data-driven society and the digital economy continues to grow, one of the areas that TierPoint talks about a lot – and there’s a fairly high emphasis on it – is about the importance of security services, as we believe those are incredibly important to where things are moving.” 

We’re speaking a week before Christmas and the PTC event is just around the corner. He’s really looking forward to reviewing the submitted paper applications for funding, sharing thought leadership, taking part in the the board discussions and seeing everyone in Hawaii. 

It’ll be the first time I attend PTC and I’m looking forward to the three-day conference and networking. For those who are also going, do get in touch to meet while there. See you in Honolulu. 

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