ITW round-up: New kids on the block

01 June 2011 | Kavit Majithia


With over 5,000 delegates and a range of topics to discuss and analyse at International Telecoms Week 2011, Kavit Majithia reports on the latest events at one of wholesale telecoms’ largest events.

The fourth annual International Telecoms Week (ITW) brought together the largest and smallest players in the carrier-to-carrier market to talk telecoms and to strike new and reaffirm old partnerships.

This year’s event was attended by 5,371 delegates representing over 1,600 companies spanning 167 countries, and throughout the week a great emphasis was placed on the transforming business models and the challenges facing today’s carriers.

“Whether you are a global or local carrier, a mobile operator, an ISP, a VoIP provider, a reseller, or even an equipment partner, you know that ITW has become one of the leading telecoms industry conferences,” commented Michel Guyot, president of global voice solutions at Tata Communications. “The size of this turnout makes it hard to believe that this only began a few years ago. Our industry is undergoing tremendous changes, changes that show no signs of reversing.”



Industry innovators

The rising importance of the new innovative players offering over-the-top services in telecoms was addressed during the plenary session of the conference. Represented by Akamai Technologies, Comcast, Google Voice and Limelight Networks, the session was centred on the impact these players could have in the future, and how new business models could transform the way carriers operate up until 2020.

The panel was divided between the four relatively new entrants to the market, and executives representing established telecoms operators, including BICS, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, PCCW Global and Sprint, which encouraged a lively debate on the challenges of integration and the potential for partnership in the future.

“It is important to create a new ecosystem and gain the respective knowledge in innovation,” said Heribert Krautkremer, EVP international carrier sales & solutions at Deutsche Telekom. “On the wholesale side, we have seen a trend towards CDNs for a few years and partnerships have been formed to ensure Deutsche Telekom is not just an IP provider, but has access to a larger slice of the cake. If we cannot develop the offering fast enough ourselves, partnerships are essential to respond to the rapid development of the CDN market.”

Both carriers and CDN providers appeared focussed on the need for the telecoms industry to evolve with the needs of end users. The increasing dominance of Google in the content space has led to many industry experts questioning the role of Google Voice in the telecoms market and whether the company is developing an IP service offering.

Vincent Paquet, senior product manager at Google Voice, believes the company has simply opened up a bigger scope for communication to organise devices better and manage the infrastructure behind the data surge. “Our role is not to replace any of the existing communication,” he said. “We are very complementary to the telecoms market because we wouldn’t be anywhere without the old infrastructure that has been built. Clearly there is still a transition and the internet is still in an early stage. We are migrating from a content delivery world, to an environment of one-to-one communication.”

Another big opportunity, and a theme expressed throughout the three days at ITW, was the continued potential for investment in cloud computing. “There has been a substantial amount of hype around the cloud and the extension of software and infrastructure presents a tremendous opportunity for our industry,” believes Guyot. “In fact, by 2012–13 we expect customers to spend over $42 billion in cloud computing.”



Emerging markets

Three separate conference sessions were dedicated to India, Africa and Latin America respectively and were identified in the plenary session as the three regions that hold the most significant growth potential for the industry. The three regions will constitute 80% of all mobile subscribers and up to 40% of all global telecoms revenue in 2011. For India to achieve its true potential when comparing the country with neighbouring China, operators must overcome regulatory issues and secure partnerships. “Given the amount of regulatory challenges the companies and wholesale players face, it is important for the main players to support the US and European carriers to deliver last mile connectivity,” said Damian McCabe, general manager US at Bharti airtel.

The well publicised 2G scandal in India could have a positive effect on the industry as a whole, believes Christopher Almeida, SVP at Tata. “The regulator has got some more teeth now and after the 2G scandal the government has committed to better solutions to the consumer.”

The growth potential for Latin America is clearer. John Krzywicki, partner at Analysys Mason, believes the continued development of video enablement, the connections up and down the Americas, the numerous new projects in fibre deployment and the increasing development of the Brazilian economy means “Latin America has a particularly unique future and is keeping pace with a rapidly expanding marketplace”.

One of the main messages coming out of ITW 2011 is for telcos to embrace the progressive era the industry is entering.