GLF drives industry agenda on fraud, security and blockchain
Big Interview

GLF drives industry agenda on fraud, security and blockchain

The Global Leaders’ Forum is working with other groups on issues that are key to all in the industry. Marc Halbfinger, chair of the GLF, tells Alan Burkitt-Gray about the progress so far and the work ahead

Marc Halbfinger has a busy week ahead – starting yesterday with the latest meeting of the Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF), the grouping of top executives from the international carrier community.

They meet at International Telecoms Week (ITW) and other big Capacity events around the world. This week they will be talking about the latest work the GLF has been doing – which is due to be announced at 10:00 this morning. Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, will share the stage in the Lucerne ballroom on the Gold Level of the Swiss Tower with Colt CEO Carl Grivner and Daniel Kurgan, CEO of BICS. 

During the hour-long presentation they will talk about “how the GLF is driving the industry agenda to ensure interoperability and ubiquitous connectivity”, says Halbfinger. They will update the industry on programmes that have already been announced and talk about their future plans. 

“Our work shows that the GLF is a decision-maker that can work with different industry forums, in order to unify issues in the industry as a whole,” says Halbfinger.

We’re sitting on Saturday afternoon in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency as prep for ITW carries on around us. He has just checked in after getting off his plane from Hong Kong. “There were a lot of people from the industry on that plane. I could have had a lot of my ITW meetings in the cabin,” he smiles. 

The very existence of the GLF is due to “the good work of Ros Irving and Alexandre Pébereau”, he says. Irving is CEO of Capacity Media, the company behind Capacity events, including ITW, and Capacity magazine. Pébereau chaired the GLF until a year-and-a-half ago, while he was CEO of Orange International Carriers.  

Halbfinger took over from Pébereau as chair of the GLF. “Before my tenure, and in the last year-and-a-half, we have worked to ensure the GLF can become a platform for the industry to identify areas of collaborative development,” he says. 

It’s not new for the international communications industry, he adds. “The hallmark of the industry has been to facilitate ubiquitous interconnectivity to allow people to communicate.” The existence of ITW and the GLF are examples of how the industry works together, he notes.  

“The GLF was established as a body that is able to serve as a platform for the industry – and what we’ve tried to do in the last 18 months is to have certain activities that would be meaningful to the industry and go beyond dialogue and generate activity.”

It’s not exclusive. “We’re not designed for divisiveness.” Instead, “the GLF can serve as a senior executive body and would endorse the work of other industry bodies”. 

So what projects will the GLF be talking about at 10:00 this morning? “The first example is work on combatting fraud,” he says. This, led by Kurgan, is built on the foundations of work that has been done by i3forum. The GLF released its code of conduct earlier this year, detailing how the industry is taking a stand and working together to reduce fraud in the international wholesale sector.

An area of work that has received great attention is the use of blockchain to transform inter-carrier settlement. This began, says Halbfinger, with “a GLF subcommittee on blockchain in which an initial proof of concept, put together by Colt and PCCW Global, has been joined by other carriers”. He and his industry partners will be naming the other carriers this morning.

Away from today’s presentation, the GLF has several programmes. “Michael Wheeler of NTT has been leading a subcommittee to create a real-time online platform to combat various security issues,” he says. 

“And there is work that’s been done in a GLF subcommittee on new commercial models,” he adds. “That’s being led by George Sloan of AT&T and follows work with MEF on commercial attributes.” Each subcommittee includes members from across the industry, he is quick to point out.  

“These are all ongoing areas of work that are showing demonstrable progress, and we believe this is valuable to the industry.” He quotes from a foreword from a forthcoming GLF publication: “The GLF’s mission is to ensure that the evolving and future digital ecosystem remains open to everyone, everywhere, and that the key industry property of global instant interoperability can be assured ubiquitously.”

Pierre-Louis de Guillebon of Orange has led work to set out governance and membership criteria. “The GLF is open to all carriers. We have principles but are more focused on substantive action than procedural matters. Our rules are clear, simple and transparent.” 

And the GLF is expanding its reach to other bodies in the wider telecoms industry – not just the i3forum and MEF, which Halbfinger has already mentioned but, he says, the mobile industry’s GSMA and the International Telecommunication Union. “Our aspiration is to complement other industries’ efforts and to highlight the work. This isn’t a body that’s designed to compete with others.”

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