A firm rock for bandwidth from Europe to the Far East

A firm rock for bandwidth from Europe to the Far East

Gibraltar Telecom Claire Johns new.jpg
Claire Johns

Claire Johns tells Capacity about the role of Gibraltar’s main telecoms operator on the global stage.

While Gibraltar, colloquially known as the Rock, may only measure 7 square kilometres, that size belies its true status. Strategically located at the entrance to the Mediterranean, it sees up to 12 million visitors per year and is a hub for gaming, crypto and financial services, with one of the world’s highest GDPs per capita.

The territory’s main telecoms provider, Gibtelecom, also plays a bigger role on the world stage than might be imagined. Claire Johns, who joined as global business manager a year ago, tells Capacity a bit about that.

What brought you to Gibtelecom last November?

While working in the aerospace industry, I was headhunted for a senior role reporting to the Gibtelecom executive committee. The chance to join Gibraltar’s leading telecoms operator in a management role excited me, and I missed the fast-paced nature of the industry after having earlier worked for Epsilon for eight years.

The role expands on my past experiences within the carrier-wholesale sector across sales and procurement. I know the struggles and strengths on both sides of things, and already had many contacts within the global carrier business – meaning I’ve fitted in well.

What is Gibtelecom’s role in the global wholesale market and how does it differentiate itself?

Gibtelecom is a fairly unique operator in the wholesale market – like the country, punching above its weight on a global scale. We were a founding member of the Europe India Gateway submarine cable system, being trusted to chair the management committee and overseeing three upgrades. It provides our core network in Europe, connecting our points of presence [PoPs] in Gibraltar, Marseille, Lisbon and London. Our European network is complemented by terrestrial connectivity linking London, Madrid and Marseille on a fully meshed optical transport network.

Meanwhile, our size enables us to be hands-on from initial engagement with the customer right through to sales and delivery. We also have flexibility to provide bespoke services and make decisions quickly without having to go through millions of layers of red tape for approval.

In addition, we are trusted to provide critical infrastructure and solutions for an array of customers that include tier-one carriers and FTSE-100 enterprises, as well as the British and Gibraltar governments.

What are your and the company’s current focuses, and how is the organisation currently positioned in the market?

One of my early projects was arranging the set-up of a second London PoP, which launched this June. I’m now also working on establishing a second PoP in Madrid, with the aim of launch by the end of 2023. These additional locations help to ensure diversity for our services, and backup in the event of issues like cable cuts.

We have strategically based PoPs in Europe and in Singapore for fast Ethernet connectivity, complemented by data centres in Malta and Malaysia, and our own data centres in Gibraltar. We are also a mobile network operator and MVNO in Spain.

Separately, the wholesale roaming team is currently busy preparing for the Wholesale Agreements and Solutions Group conference in Croatia in October.

What other competitive advantages does Gibtelecom offer for customers?

We’re good at striking that balance between competitive pricing and high-quality services. Our flexibility also helps us find solutions when the industry faces challenging situations.

For example, there was recent damage to subsea cables in the Congo Canyon off western Africa, affecting multiple countries and organisations that rely heavily on them. In collaboration with some key partners, we played a fairly pivotal role in restoring connectivity, using our subsea cable capacity to ensure there were minimal disruptions to communications services.

How do you see the future outlook for the company?

It’s basically about making sure we stay abreast of the ever-changing telecoms landscape. Network investment is important, with our aim here being to build and maintain robust, scalable infrastructure, and continuously invest to keep up with the latest technology advances.

We’re in the process now of looking ahead to 2024 and planning our budget. But in the main, we seek to transition along with the rapid industry changes, while expanding our global wholesale reach and ensuring network resiliency. From a wholesale perspective, around 85% of our customers are from outside Gibraltar, so the global part is a big part of our future business.

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