Against this background, the network has become more and more important as a way to transport data, content and customer interactions and applications, and is a vital way to get those transactions closer to the end user.
Running a wholesale business is all about helping customers meet goals like these, and I believe this can be achieved in three ways.
First, helping customers to get better connected, whether that is to data centres, to cloud service providers, or to their customers and ecosystem partners.
A second priority is helping customers to become more agile and flexible, hence investments in making our service available on-demand combined with the flexibility we have built into our portfolio.
Finally, helping customers to be more innovative, which is why Colt is taking a lead in areas like SDN, SDN interoperability with other wholesale provider networks, and also in the use of blockchain which we are deploying to reduce the length of the transaction process and at the same time make us more responsive.
Looking at these three aims in more detail, on the connected side, we are looking to leverage our extensive metro and long distance network. We’ve been expanding this, for example in Asia, where we’ve built out in Hong Kong and Singapore to all of the major metro locations. We’ve been doing the same in north America, by extending our network to the 13 main digital hubs in the US and Canada.
We’ve built our network in Dublin too, making that a strong digital hub for us, and also in Berlin, given it is an important centre for tech, media and content. Towards the end of last year, we announced the extension of our network in central and eastern Europe. All this investment is about building our network to support customer demand and delivering on the need of those customers to be better connected.
To deliver better flexibility, we’re providing an on-demand portal, offering a way for customers to place orders online, and turn up services in a matter of minutes. By taking time out of the order process, we enable the customer to be more agile so that they can support their customer in a much more responsive fashion.
In today’s market for wholesale services, demand is a lot less predictable than it used to be. That is driving the wholesale market in the direction of on-demand, and also towards SD-WAN, where we’re seeing customers move away from MPLS as they look to take cost out of networking while creating more flexibility.
When it comes to innovation, we’re working with partners like AT&T and Verizon who are leading the way on interoperability trials between our networks. Ultimately this is about responsiveness to the end user customer. When you can buy on-demand across multiple carriers, that’s going to be a gamechanger. In a world where compute power can be changed up in minutes, people want the network to be the same, and we’re making that happen.
Another area of innovation is in blockchain which has the potential to be a massive force for change. At the moment we have a world where everybody has a view of their own transactions, but if more than one carrier is involved that is followed by a period where everybody takes time to settle with each other. Our blockchain Proof of Concept with PCCW Global showed how intercarrier voice settlement should work. Working with blockchain start-up Clear, we automated the process. We’ve since expanded the trial to more members of the GLF, including BT, Telefonica and Telstra. We think mobile roaming could be the next use case for blockchain, as well as security analytics.
We’re also seeing more interaction with our mobile network operator customers, as those customers see more data appearing on their 4G networks and start to get ready for 5G.
Therefore, wholesale cannot stand still. I’m working hard with my team to modify and adapt our approach to support our customers better, which means understanding the use cases that they are facing with their own customers. The more we understand the customer’s environment, the more we can provide solutions that help them. Wholesale will stay relevant, but wholesalers must evolve their approach and raise their game.
I feel optimistic about wholesale looking forward. Inevitably there will be a need for more connectivity, more content, and business processes that are more driven by social media. All this is driving demand for what we do best. We’re ready for the future and we intend to keep it that way.