Aiming for IPX purity
Interview with Simon Dodsworth, Vice President Voice and Mobile - TeliaSonera Int’l carrier
TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) is one of the wholesale carriers for which network quality, availability and reach is of utmost importance. I had a chance to spend some time with Simon Dodsworth, Vice President Voice and Mobile, discussing where he thinks IPX is going, what will make it successful and how the International wholesale industry will evolve, both in terms of structure and innovation. Here are key highlights of what he had to say and how TSIC sees its role in this evolution.
How does TSIC differentiate itself from other IPX providers?
We see ourselves as the Carrier of the Future, always guided by the needs of end users. That may sound strange coming from a wholesaler, but ultimately, the end user dictates our customers’ needs and at the moment they demand seamless service experience.
People now want the same services wherever they go and once customers have tasted 4G in their local market, they will expect it to be available wherever they happen to be. In this case, ‘’Global/Local’, as we call it, is ensuring the experience is retained wherever someone travels - IPX is a good enabler for that.
4G technology increasingly exists in the retail markets now and as wholesalers the question is how we can enable customers to use these services wherever they go. We are the facilitator for the TeliaSonera group of companies on this basis, and are able to extend this to any other operator wanting a connection to our IPX platform. We are well positioned to support these requirements, not only with our direct access to the 18 TeliaSonera mobile operators, but also with our managed LTE roaming platform, DRX (Diameter Roaming Exchange). This new service enables mobile operators to connect to the TeliaSonera IPX and enjoy managed LTE diameter traffic transport to the world.
What are the key success factors in IPX?
To be successful in enabling seamless local to global experience, networks must be built as a combination of reach and performance. We find that most people who talk about IPX networks focus on performance alone, without making clear what they do on diversity or even what their network is and where it reaches.
There has been too little focus so far on the actual (network) infrastructure and if this is not addressed, the success of IPX itself could be jeopardised. In addition, industry “politics” is also critical - without a strategic push to ‘true IPX’ for the good of the operator community then short-termism and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality will endanger our collective success.
At TSIC, we firmly believe in the purity of IPX, following the strict GSMA and i3Forum guidelines, and feel that this is crucial for the success of IPX going forward. When ‘Pure IPX’ takes off, it will be the catalyst for a power shift within the wholesale community, driving significant changes in its wake.
Do you think there is still space for pure wholesalers in the industry or do you think there is a new world order with mobile operator groups playing a growing role in the international interconnect environment?
In my opinion, there is a lesson to be learned from the rise of the wholesale market 15 or so years ago, and the complacency of the incumbent operators (who tended to also be the leading mobile operators). At that time, there was a lazy assumption that the old ways would still prevail and the big boys would still deal with the big boys. Consequently, a whole host of middle men entered the equation, causing all manner of disruption for the incumbents, Telia being a very good example of this. The big players missed a real trick by allowing the market to become saturated with competition and lost a large part of their dominance, which, with careful and competitive thinking, could have been enjoyed for some time to come.
TSIC has come a long way since then, freeing itself from such dinosaur mentality to operate in the wholesale environment as a swift, dynamic carrier. A similar scenario is occurring now, but in reverse, due to the nature of IPX as a managed quality network with direct connections. The large operators and groups who directly serve the end users will be fueling the growth of IPX services, and if they choose to work with each other they can dominate that landscape.
Therefore, the opportunity for the big groups to play the central role in the growth of the international interconnection business has never been greater than today. I certainly see that those players able to leverage the power of a large mobile group will have a bigger part to play as the game changes. The role of pure wholesale providers will diminish, that is clear. TSIC is well positioned to be a key player in this wholesale power shift, but we do not lose sight of the fact that our principal objective is to support the TeliaSonera group in enabling its end-users to have a better experience, both domestically and while roaming.
If we push this concept further, I also think that IPX will be the catalyst for broader consolidation. As mobile operators start using IPX for HD Voice delivery and more advanced IP services, there is no reason why they would not also transport their traditional voice traffic via the same IPX providers, on a one-stopshop basis which, outside of large outsourcing deals, does not really occur today. This will consequently trigger a decline in the need for voice middlemen and in the same way a consolidation of the wholesale market.
SERVICE FOCUS VS PRODUCT FOCUS
What is your view of the future of the telecom industry in general and in the wholesale services more particularly?
The telecoms industry has a long history of innovation in technology. Now however, endusers are fully immersed in their connectivity and simply being connected is no longer enough, and operators will be obliged to focus on innovative service delivery. This should introduce new mobile contextual services based on big data for example, and operators will therefore need to restructure the way they deliver their services in order to maintain a sharper focus on customer experience and flexibility.
On the wholesale side, we will see carriers launch a whole spectrum of bandwidth-ondemand, network-on-demand and managed outsourcing services and shift their focus from products to flexible services, our managed DRX service being one such example of this shift.
We can also expect an evolution in service delivery from months/weeks to days/hours and for carriers to target their new service launches based on time to customer rather than time to market.
WHAT LIGHTS MY FIRE
What do you think is most challenging or rewarding at the moment in your role as an industry leader?
In conclusion, I think we are on the cusp of huge developments in our industry, with potentially high upsides but also a significant amount of risk. The way we do business could materially change, and this inevitable disruption, for better or worse, I find both energising and challenging. After all, wise old owls once told me voice was dead. We seem to be doing just fine 15 years later, and the next stage in our evolution is upon us. If you don’t find that exciting, you’re probably in the wrong game.