2020 predictions: Carl Grivner, Colt Technology Services

2020 predictions: Carl Grivner, CEO of Colt Technology Services

07 January 2020 | Jason McGee-Abe

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With a new year upon us, Capacity heard from Carl Grivner, CEO of Colt Technology Services, about his expectations for the telco sector in 2020 with new technologies and big industry shifts.

Q: What are Colt's key focuses for 2020?

The main focus for us won’t change too much from 2019, but how we go about them will change quite a bit. We still want to continue to grow high bandwidth products and services for our customers - the difference will be how we do that. This comes down to a couple of things. I think the major cloud providers are going to be integral to our success next year – companies like SAP, Oracle and IBM. Closer relationships with players like that will be important as more customers move to the cloud. Additionally, I think systems integrators will have a big influence on how our customers make their move to the cloud, so they will also be a focus for us next year. Thirdly, the global content providers with their huge consumption of bandwidth will be an emphasis for us. I also see voice being important next year, particularly where it is packaged and sold as part of a unified communications solution. 

Q: Colt has been doing a lot of work in the market this year around APIs and network integration. How do you see this evolving?

I expect our leadership here to play out further next year. There’s about 200 APIs I’d like to have. That may be too aggressive a target to achieve in 12 months. Every customer I speak to wants to put together a relationship that is based on APIs – which is to their benefit, and to ours as well. There’s been recognition of the work we’ve done here with AT&T and others. It’s important that we continue to build relationships around software in the future, as opposed to the traditional order management processes of the past.

Q: 5G remains a key topic for the industry. Do you see 'full 5G' being recognised in 2020, and what are the current barriers holding up faster 5G rollout in your opinion?

I think 5G has moved slowly. Will so-called ‘full 5G’ be recognised next year? I think in certain markets you’ll see that. Generally though, I’d say we’re probably two or even three years away from the full rollout of 5G. There’s a lot of complexity that goes with it. The wireless carriers are now starting to look at shared network infrastructure as a more economical way to progress, and then compete on marketing as a differentiator. At Colt we want to see 5G accelerate because we think it is an opportunity for us to provide backhaul. This will be important to make 5G work because you’ll need fibre to connect to all the small cells. If we don’t see full 5G, we should at least see more pilots and trials of it around the world in 2020. 5G is a costly investment for wireless carriers and it will take time to get there.

Q: 2020 brings with it a new decade. We’ve seen some big shifts the industry over the past 10 years. What do you think is coming in the next 10?

A: I think the next 10 years will see traditional telecoms companies like ourselves invest a lot more in software and software development, as well as incorporate artificial intelligence more and more, as part of the solutions they provide. We’ll see more platforms based on blockchain, and the use of blockchain as a security vehicle for transactions. We’ve seen an inkling of this with SD-WAN and with SDN. But I think that’s just the start of it all. As more customers move to the cloud, SDN will be a critical component that enables them to move fast. Software will define this industry more than it has ever done in the past. Especially at the customer-facing end of the industry, you’ll see more software development from companies like us. We at Colt want to consumerise the experience for our customers, and make it extremely easy for them to use any of our services. I’d like them to be able to go on their mobile phone and within seconds order and provision a 10G circuit between two cities. This industry has been a complicated one over the past 100 years, and I think the challenge is to simplify it over the next 10.

Q: Has blockchain hit the slow lane in the past year? What will happen next with it?

A: I would like to have seen it move faster. As an industry we’re starting to make progress with it, and I think we’ll have made more progress by the end of 2020 in the area of collaboration. Ultimately I see blockchain as a platform that our customers can use to exchange data amongst themselves. We’re not there yet.

Q: What do you think SD-WAN delivers for you and your customers?

A: I think it really starts to demonstrate customer involvement in networking solutions. It puts responsibility on the customer for things that Colt and others would traditionally have done for them – so they have the option now to manage certain aspects for themselves. SD WAN is just one of the software-defined capabilities that our customers will gain from. 

Q: What do you hope the industry will be saying about Colt at the end of 2020?

A: We’re going to continue to expand our metro and network capabilities. We’re going to continue to expand into new markets. That’s not going to stop. We’ve pretty much done this organically, and I think it will continue like that. As we build our stake in markets like Eastern Europe or the US, we find the benefit of that is, for our customers, we can deliver the quality of service they expect from us. There’s value too for our shareholders in having greater network density. People can see that we’re doing a really great job in terms of innovation. I think Colt will be recognised for this for years to come – in technology innovation and in taking that technology and making it useful for our customers. Our culture is focused on customer service, but also, as we move forwards it’s focused more and more on inclusion and diversity. Our customers are diverse, and we have to reflect that more than we have in the past. We’d love that to be something we’re noted for in 10 years’ time.