Verizon: Laying the foundation

Verizon: Laying the foundation

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Verizon’s Eric Cevis speaks to Capacity’s Natalie Bannerman about the sea of change currently effecting the industry and how Verizon is working to bring it all to fruition.

Capacity Europe saw the launch of the first ever Women in Telco and Tech Breakfast Briefing. With 70 men and woman engaging in roundtable discussions on the topic of diversity and inclusion ahead of one the biggest events on the wholesale carrier calendar, it was Eric Cevis, president of Verizon Partner Solutions taking to the stage to open the session that showed the significance these discussions we’re now starting to have.

In an impassioned speech, Cevis explained why Verizon and by extension, the ITW Global Leaders Forum (GLF), is doing its part for diveristy & inclusion (D&I) and why it is key to business evolution.

“Our belief is that our customers are changing, those that have buying power are changing and the people that are making the buying decisions are changing,” he explains. “If you want to leverage those changes you’ve got to address that in your go-to-market ecosystem. To me, making sure that you’re not cutting off any areas or groups allows you to increase your routes of distribution and opportunities so that you monetise, thus good for business not just the right thing to do.”

One aspect of that good for business discussion is how to retain agility in an industry that continues to grow and seems to only want to further scale. During Cevis’ keynote panel, the carrier innovation exchange, he shared that this is something he tries to maintain within his own team.

“The way that we retain it, is by investing in individuals with training and development so that you’re remaining constant on the evolution and making sure that our people skills are there to handle that transition,” he says.

“To me, this feeds back into our diversity and inclusion discussion, it makes people feel like they belong because they’re not left behind as automation plays forward. When you’re actually investing in them, you’re ensuring there’s still opportunities for them going forward as well.”

Business transformation has quickly become a key area of development among telcos, particularly around investing in the network for future demands of tomorrow. 

For Verizon this ultimately means delivering the best customer experience.

“Business transformation for the customer experience is the focus,” he says. “We look at business transformation thinking not what we should be doing a year from now, but ten years from now with the idea that the investment we make today is building for the future, tomorrow.”

Part of this journey in Cevis’ view is to take care of the customer experience as well as the ease of use and transformation, it’s part of the education customers need to embrace change altogether.

“My belief is that if you care for both the customer experience, transformational ease and at the same time set them up for the evolutional journey of the technology, it’s easier for them to embrace those changes. “

One of those changes also involves the evolution that many service providers are experiencing and that’s transitioning from a carrier to a technology company.

“People are accepting that they’ve got to be more flexible and they’ve got to be more agile. The things that got us to where we are, are not the things to take us to where we need to be,” he says. "That change is taking place; the evolution is taking place, the demands for bandwidth are continuing to increase, and so we have to make sure we are taking care of that moving forward.”

Traditional revenue streams have been in decline due to price compressions, driven in turn by the fact that the marketplace has more alternative suppliers, so prices are going down so that the market can compete. This is coming from cable companies, MNOs, fibre companies etc. The key differentiator now becomes the quality and reliability of your service.

“If I only care for the current state of business that we’re doing, we’ll only be able to grow our business so far – if anything, I’m going to decline my business, as well as continuing to understand the demands of the consumer. Thinking this way will bring us back to sustainable growth.”

As of one of the first in North America to go live with 5G, I was curious as to where Cevis sat in the discussion on the impact of this next-gen technology and whether or not further use cases needed to be defined. 

“Some uses have been defined already so it becomes a question of how you leverage those while at the same time remembering that it will continue to evolve, because we have no clue about the capacity that will now be available. We’re about to cross this Fourth Industrial Revolution wall. Between 2G, 3G and 4G it was a step by step, but now we’re talking about a leap-frog in capability.”

But Cevis isn’t worried because Verizon has an Ace up its sleeve in the form of innovation labs, that enable the company to tap into and invest in the most cutting-edge ideas in preparation for evolution.

“We don’t have all the ideas ourselves,” he explains. “So, we’re investing in entrepreneurs, millennials and people who are coming up with things I would never have even thought about. I like that we no longer have to organically do everything ourselves. We’ve gotten into this new in-organic space where you can partner now, and you don’t have to be the win all to everything that is happening.”

One area that Verizon is particular keen on partnering on is content. With the likes of AT&T spending a whopping $85 billion on its acquisition of Time Warner, Cevis says Verizon is taking a different approach.

“What we believe at Verizon is that we don’t have to own Time Warner, the content or make that $85 billion type investment, that we believe you’ll have to continually make, because content has to stay fresh. Our belief is to allow content players to build that out themselves and partner with them.”

Although simple in principle, how Verizon plans on effectively monetising its network is a debate that many in the space continue to have with the OTTs and content players, but Cevis says;

“Allow those partners on the network but you rev-share or do partnership agreements with them because you’re giving them a quality and reliability on your network to get the user experience to be one of the best. Therefore, people are willing to pay a little differently because of that experience.”

Never one to be left out of the conversation when it comes to the next big trend, I asked what was next for Verizon in its work about edge computing and what opportunities, if any, there were.

“We use the term intelligent edge network,” says Cevis. “At the moment we’re leveraging the dense fibre partnership we’ve done with Corning, taking those assets and including it on our software-defined network (SDN). In doing more virtualisation of the network it allows us to push cloud compute to the edge.”

In Cevis’ own words, simply put, the edge or intelligent edge network, allows you to put the compute power into the cloud itself, take latency out and support things like robotic surgery or autonomous cars.“We think those are real and future things that we will monetise in the business moving forward,” he adds.

As someone who is considered to be a thought-leader in the space, Cevis, and by extension Verizon, participates on a number of boards and standards bodies, one of them includes MEF.

Speaking to him about this work and Verizon’s participation, he says it’s all about the bigger picture.

”If you’re really going to scale in this environment you can’t do all these one-off siloed, proprietary strategies,” he says. “You’ve got to go to more of an open-sourced approach and really start embracing this kind of lifecycle orchestration standards body and the API standards. The more that we all do that in the carrier community, the more we’ll have an impact on a global basis for the society we support.”

Ultimately, Verizon, like all other carriers, wants to have its say in the direction this industry is moving in. “We’ve partnered with standards bodies like MEF and have people sitting on those boards because we want to have a voice in the conversation.”

Looking beyond this, he says that enterprises are actually wanting greater interoperability between carriers as it takes the work out of moving between providers.

“You see that enterprises are asking for that collaboration. No real provider gives all their business to one company so that you don’t have one source of failure. What we’re finding is that by at least having a standards approach we take some of that pain away.”

A great example of this cross-carrier collaboration is the Global Leaders Forun (GLF), an organisation just as pivotal to the conversation as MEF and its counterparts.

“I think about the GLF in the same way I think about MEF and the TM Forum, and in the same way I think about our work around diversity and inclusion. We do these things because it is our social responsibility to bring best practices together.”

As the GLF takes on D&I as an area of development in its work, Cevis and Verizon will be front and centre as the discussion wages on.

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