One Belt. One Road. One Network. The Way from Europe to Asia.
Q&A with Tony O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at RETN
1. For those who don’t know, how long has RETN been operating in Europe and what are its plans to expand into Eurasian market?
RETN was established in 2002 as the B end to a network providing IP Transit services to the Russian market. It quickly became clear that customers in countries along the entire network have an appetite for the services we provide and the way we provide them, leading to real expansion into markets all over Europe. 7 years ago we made the first move towards Central Asia, establishing the beginnings of our TRANSKZ project in Kazakhstan. Recent expansions in adjacent markets showed the project has been more successful than we ever planned. We will continue investing in these regions, our approach of regional partnerships to support the growth in local economies with global connectivity has proven very popular. Our model is simple: identify what you do well, what your real benefits are to customers, and replicate them, providing a uniform customer experience across all markets.
2. What assets do RETN have in the Asia-Pacific region and what is the significance of this to its customers?
It was only with the completion of the first iteration of TRANSKZ in late 2016 that we started building out seriously in the Asia-Pacific region. We were waiting for the right time until we could provide a real RETN product locally. Since then we have established teams in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Taiwan with an extensive subsea and terrestrial network connecting them all, as well as Tokyo and Seoul. The network has allowed customers in Asia-Pacific, access to the RETN European network and TRANSKZ, but I would argue, more importantly, exposed them to a different way of working. It’s very heartening to have very satisfied and complimentary customers because we turned up their services in a matter of days, rather than months. For RETN this is normal, but for Asia-Pacific this is game changing.
3. TRANSKZ recently won the award for Project of the Year – Terrestrial at the 2019 Global Carrier Awards. Can you tell us a bit about the project?
TRANSKZ has been a centrepiece of the RETN strategy for years. It was apparent back in 2012 that there would be a requirement for vastly increased bandwidth between Asia and Europe. Other operators recognised this and increased investment in new subsea systems, while we, as a terrestrial fiber company, had different thoughts. We aimed to connect Hong Kong to Europe terrestrially via China and Kazakhstan to establish a network ready for high bandwidth, high availability and low latency services. In 2016 we completed phase 1 to start providing protected 10G L1 capacities and L2 services on TRANSKZ. Phase 2 was completed in mid-2019, allowing 100G and 10G L1 services as well as L2. The services are not only protected by default, we have also established 3 paths across Kazakhstan back into Europe for multiple layers of redundancy and choice.
4. How is TRANSKZ contributing to global wholesale traffic and particularly the One Belt One Road initiative?
About 6 months after we started digging fiber to the Kazakhstan border the Chinese government announced their plans for “One Belt One Road”. This of course provided a massive boost in terms of publicity, it was very reassuring that our strategy was correct. TRANSKZ is the backbone that can serve connectivity for the Northern part of “One Belt One Road”, already it is being used by the economies of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for access to the global digital economy and in planning for future digital transformations. Aside from the effects of providing access to global wholesale services for these economies, TRANSKZ has vastly democratised access to terrestrial bandwidth as a competitive alternative to subsea for those who care about service quality.
5. As we move into 2020, what are RETN strategic priorities for the year ahead?
2020 will see further network developments around our core assets in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new products to support further expansion into the enterprise sector and, most importantly from the customer’s perspective, continued investments in our internal operations to ensure that our products and services continue to be delivered seamlessly to all customers as we grow. Watch this space…