A Passion for Innovation

By Isabelle Paradis
President, HOT TELECOM
January 2018
Interviews - Magazine format        Interviews - PDF format           

Luis Benavente, CTO of BTS, is one of the most passionate technology advocates in the industry. He strongly believes that disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, will revolutionize how wholesalers conduct their business and will significantly benefit their customers. His techno-trailblazer vision is successfully leading BTS into the new wholesale era.

In this article, you will get an insight into his views of the future of the wholesale business and the role of new technologies in its transformation.




What are the most interesting shifts you have seen happening in our industry in the last year?

Firstly, we are starting to see some traction towards a simpler, more accessible wholesale offering to both retail operators and other carriers. Secondly, consolidation in the industry is finally taking shape with a number of carriers looking for an exit strategy.

This now brings us to the third shift, which is a growing appetite from operators towards using specialists to run their voice business. This last shift was a definite driver behind some of our recent deals.

Based on these shifts what do you think the wholesale world will look like in 5 year’s time?

I think there will definitely be fewer players in the industry, which in some way will make it simpler and more efficient.

The wholesalers who remain will be those who have been successful in managing their evolving business as efficiently as possible, while capitalizing on their specific capabilities by optimizing their assets to innovate and extend into adjacent services and solutions.

But I think many do not realize that there is additional value in wholesale space that we are not capitalizing upon. For example, all the commercial, financial and technical relationships we have with operators around the world have tremendous value.

We should use this unique specific sales channel capability and extend it to other services. This would enable our transformation into global network operators who transport not only communications, but more importantly who connect the digital world, whether it is voice, internet traffic or transactions from blockchain operations.

We have the platform, we have the reach and we have the channels to sell services. This will be key to conclude strategic partnerships with companies who can help us address new markets in a more innovative way and teach us how to speak the start-up language.


What will be the main challenges impacting the international telecom world in the next two years?

It is not a secret that revenue per transaction will keep going down and that the top line will be under pressure while maintaining the volume of traffic will be a challenge. There is very little that carriers can do about that.

One of the only things we can do in this area is therefore to be more efficient in the way we run our business and the introduction of new technologies will be one of the key weapons in our armory.

To achieve this, there is no question that software needs to replace dedicated hardware whenever and wherever possible to make our operation as flexible and cost effective as possible.

Once everything is digital in our organization, we can leap to the next level and use technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to increase productivity and remove as many internal manual processes as possible, from the border of our network into the core of our business.
Furthermore, for process automation to be extended outside of our organization and to enable a more efficient interaction with other carriers, some sort of industry standardization needs to take place.

This is something that will be difficult to achieve and has never really taken place in our industry to date even when it comes to activities as simple as exchanging rates or invoices.

Within BTS, we have started to look at how we can use AI to better manage our business. As an example, we are now working on a solution to help us optimize our pricing offering by analyzing multiple criteria such as traffic patterns, financials and various pricing offerings we receive from our partners to then give recommendations to our trading desk.

Fortunately, we fully control our technology stack from switching to BSS, so we can more easily embed this new technology within our systems and processes, something that I think many carriers will struggle with.

One of the main challenges to truly implement AI beyond the playground is to find the right talents that are be able to implement these new technologies. Luckily, through our partnership with Softbank, we have access to some of the world’s influencers in the domain.


How should carriers react to continue to thrive in the new digital world?

I believe the traditional wholesale business will somehow have to mimic what is happening on the retail side. At the moment, in retail everything is going towards flat rates and all you can eat types of unlimited plans.
But wholesalers, who are interconnecting these different retail operators, are using a completely different charging business model.

I don’t think it makes sense, so sooner or later that will need to change towards a more direct model. This will also help to minimize fraud, as 99% of fraud gets eliminated when using direct connections.

Beyond the traditional business, we are exploring the use of new technologies to streamline our service offerings. In the case of blockchain, we see an opportunity to deploy private-blockchains to help operators in two specific areas: the B2B and B2C markets.

In the B2B arena, blockchain can be used to optimize the business from the information exchange all the way to settlement processes. When it comes to B2C, it can help create new services related to mobile money, for example. In the case of the latter, BTS is currently working with industry and close partners to develop two proof of concepts associated with mobile money.

To help us speed-up the deployment of this technology within our organization, we recently joined Hyperledger, which is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration hosted by The Linux Foundation and includes leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing and technology sectors.


What do you find the most exciting in our industry at the moment?

Having specialized in Physics, I am very passionate about technology. So, from a personal angle, I find the rapid technology evolution very exciting at the moment. We have talked about blockchain and AI in this article and these will be two technologies which will change our lives as we know it. That’s exciting!

In addition, through our recent partnership with Softbank, BTS has access to the top talents in these fields to make a real difference.
I find myself very privileged to have the chance to be part of this wholesale industry in such exhilarating times and have the means to make a difference.

I truly have the best of both worlds.

About the Author:

Isabelle Paradis

Isabelle Paradis, President of HOT TELECOM is an international telecoms expert, with over 20 years working experience in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

HOT TELECOM has been serving global operators, governments, equipment vendors and telecom investors for over 10 years, providing leading edge market research and consulting services to industry leaders around the globe.

For more information on our HOT INTERVIEWS program, please contact Isabelle Paradis at: paradis@hottelecom.com or at +1 514 270 1636