Vivek Jhamb is Senior Vice President, Connectivity at Vodafone Carrier Services. He is responsible for Vodafone’s connectivity business with Communication Service Providers (CSPs) globally, including submarine cable investment strategy, partnerships and all sales, commercial and service engagements for their extensive portfolio of connectivity products.
Based on the current trends impacting our industry, as shared by Vivek in this article, it is clear that enabling hyper-connectivity and the experiential and seamless customer expectations that come with it, will underpin the future success of our industry.
Having built multiple successful businesses throughout his career, Vivek is a master builder of sorts and one of the industry’s most experienced and successful executives in the connectivity world. As you will see from his outlook of our industry, the future is bright for the connectivity world and for those who have what it takes to enable the future Gigabit Society.
LIVING THE DOTCOM DREAM
What do you think are the key trends currently impacting our industry and the connectivity world more specifically?
With the evolution of the mobile space to 4G, and 5G in the future, we are seeing the intelligence and processing being pushed to the edge of the network as far as the customer device. At the same time, in order to give the best experience to the end-users, content is also being moved to the edge of the network as close to the customer as possible.
This is not only driven by the need for better customer experience, but also by regulation and data privacy laws, as most countries stipulate that customers’ personal data cannot be taken out of the country. This means that the content needs to reside in the national geographies.
Additionally, with the exponential growth in data and content demand, which increasingly resides on local clouds, this translates in the need for hyper-connected pipes nationally between the data centres and internationally to push the common content to the global audience.
Consequently, we are seeing a significant shift in that content providers are becoming more and more critical to the connectivity ecosystem than ever before. They have billions to invest in network capacity and infrastructure and operators such as Vodafone, are actively engaging to help meet their requirements and build the digital future of the industry.
It is clear that we are living the dotcom dream now, as we are building the hyper-connected world that Silicon Valley imagined two decades ago.
IOT - THE INTELLIGENCE OF THINGS
Everybody is talking about IoT these days. How do you think IoT will impact our business in terms of connectivity and business models?
I think of IoT, as the Intelligence of Things, because in my view, IoT is a systems integration solution trying to move the intelligence from the edge of our network to the core platform, where decisions are made in most use cases.
Obviously, a lot of decentralization will happen when it comes to decision making, so that the whole IoT ecosystem is as efficient as possible. But in many cases, the aggregate critical decision making will take place in the centre of the IoT core. The IoT network will therefore need to link everything back to the core securely, in our case over a full virtual private network.
Selling IoT solutions is definitely not as simple as selling traditional connectivity, as a different ecosystem needs to be built for almost each and every use case you want to address.
As a leader in delivering IoT solutions, Vodafone has developed its own service delivery platform called the Global IoT Platform. We still need to partner with different system integrators and device manufacturers to deliver an end-to-end IoT solution tailored to each application.
IoT is a very specialized area, which is sold more as a system integration solution than a transport solution. IoT deployments could have sales cycle of 2-3 years. Many decisions on IoT are taken during the product design stage, so the IoT specification definition is an integral part of a new product development.
Potentially, it is a very long sales cycle, however once you are in, you are in for lifespan of the product.
Finally, the business model is not about bits and bytes, but rather a service-based model, as you don’t only provide a SIM card or the network to transport the data, but the end-to-end solution. So IoT represents a complete evolution of how you address and serve your customers.
THE CHALLENGES OF HYPER-CONNECTIVITY
What are the key success factors and challenges around enabling hyper-connectivity?
If you look at what is happening in the consumer world, you see that voice and data services are increasingly part of bundles with unlimited voice, messaging and pre-defined amounts of data. This is creating a price pressure on the connectivity that supports it. However, the explosion of data usage means more revenue opportunities for the operators.
The key to supporting this evolution is to achieve the lowest cost of production possible. To accomplish this, you need to benefit from ownership economics and this is the main reason why content providers are partnering with telcos to build networks. As a result, there is a lot of upside potential in connectivity, as long as you are happy to put capital in the ground and build networks.
From there, you need to develop innovative pricing structures, which may mean moving from the per Mbit or per Gbit business model, to a managed service business model for example.
How do you ensure a high quality customer experience in a hyper-connectivity world?
Customers have three needs: to have a great customer experience, at an affordable price, and to have this at every second of their lives. Now the challenge for operators, and increasingly for content providers, is to make that experience as seamless as possible.
From a wholesale point of view, this means we need to provide the largest amount of capacity available, whether as Terabits or even dark fibre, we need to extend the ownership economics to our customer and we need to provide them, as they do for their own customers, with seamless connectivity backed by SLAs.
When it comes to local access providers who are dealing with enterprise customers, what is also important to them is for our connectivity services to be automated, ‘burstable’ and self-serve.
VODAFONE - THE END-TO-END GIGABIT PROVIDER
What makes Vodafone so unique and successful in the connectivity world?
What makes Vodafone unique is the fact that we put the customer at the heart of everything we do, and are driven by controlling the end-to-end experience. Starting from the consumer side, we have the world’s largest consumer base of 470 million+ users, which is connected to one of the largest fixed networks, nationally across multiple geographies, and internationally with investment in 80 cable systems across the world.
One of the less known facts is that we are also one of the world’s top 5 providers of internet, which means that our customers wanting to access content are just one hop away from the global internet, which translates into one of the best user experiences possible.
When it comes to B2B, we have one of the largest IP-VPN networks, which is in turn connected to some of the most pre-eminent cloud providers.
We have therefore succeeded in building a mobile and fixed network that is geared towards providing the highest quality and security to our customers, nationally and internationally. I don’t see many wholesalers having this kind of proposition and delivering one of the best customer experiences possible.
We can then leverage this network by selling excess capacity to our wholesale customers, may they be content providers or telcos.
With the demand now moving to the next frontier, which is Africa and India, we are making sure that content providers looking to address this growing market will partner with Vodafone for their connectivity requirements.
We are a natural partner to meet these needs, considering the substantial amount of undersea cables and fixed assets we own in these two geographies.
More importantly, we are continuing to invest in our network to move away from being a pure mobile operator to an end-to-end provider that enables the hyper-connected world of the Gigabit Society. It is a very exciting time at Vodafone as we are building the future!
About the Author:
Isabelle Paradis, President of HOT TELECOM is an international telecoms expert, with over 23 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 13 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: email@example.com or at +1 514 270 1636