Interview with David Chan: Strategies for emerging mobile operators

The recent Carriers World Asia conference in Hong Kong included a panel session “Providing international services for emerging mobile operators through carrier partnerships”, moderated by Elaine Chow – Senior Consultant, Ovum, Hong Kong. David Chan, head GTM Asia Pacific, joined the discussion with representatives of several regional carriers. Afterwards, Global Telecom News talked to David about some of the topics from the session.

What particular challenges do emerging mobile operators face?

As markets mature, globalisation is driving subscriber growth. Emerging operators must expand quickly into international segments while continuing to grow in home markets. In mature markets it may be difficult to compete with established operators, while in emerging markets many operators race to gain a foothold. Mobile operators must invest in the right technology, conduct research and development, and build an enterprise portfolio. These activities require insight and expertise, and may put a strain on resources. Sustainable growth is key: a smart CAPEX focus with a consolidated cost base is required. Disruptive business models – over-the-top (OTT) calling schemes – threaten to reduce mobile operators’ revenues. However, OTT operators will want access to mobile networks; for mobile operators this creates partnership opportunities.

What new and evolving opportunities exist for mobile operators? 

End customers want access to internet services from multiple devices (including smartphones and tablet PCs) and often across different networks, both fixed and mobile. By supporting interoperability, mobile operators can offer seamless connectivity, as well as providing a roaming proposition in their home market for customers from abroad. When mobile operators’ networks support interoperability, operators can also give users access to cloud-based services. Cloud-based services enable mobile network operators to enter new service areas quickly. With 3G and 4G, operators can support the growing requirement for data bandwidth and create a base of high-value subscribers. Demand for fixed–mobile convergence gives mobile operators the opportunity to gain customer relationships from fixed network operators.

Tell me more about IP interoperability… 

By allowing end users to connect to other operators’ IP-based networks and services, IP interoperability gives operators the chance to offer more value-added services and enter new markets. Interoperability helps emerging mobile network operators transform to IP and integrate voice and data offerings; it also helps bridge the technology gaps introduced by multiple standards, existing legacy and emerging services. Within an expandable framework agreed by the industry (driven by GSMA and i3 recommendations), operators can add innovative new elements to their portfolios. Commercially-viable interconnectivity between IP networks ensures that operators receive payment for services – i.e., it gives them a return on investment. Operators can consolidate costs, and OPEX-based scalability minimises investment risks. Finally, IP interoperability enables operators to enter new partnerships and thus extend their footprint while also addressing new technology requirements. Partnerships can help operators build sustainable long-term business models and leverage risk.

How does BT see IP interoperability?

IPX creates the seamless experience customers want so BT is concentrating on IP interoperability to help mobile network operators succeed. BT’s global IPX services enable communication providers to connect to each other, to connect their end users to other operators’ end users, and to pay and get paid for doing it.

Earlier, you mentioned the benefits of partnerships. How can a mobile operator select a carrier partner?

An ideal partner has global reach. However, owning networks is becoming less important than having access to the right kinds of networks. Interoperability frameworks maximise cross-market opportunities. A suitable carrier partner also has experience, the ability to innovate, a wide wholesale portfolio, and a roadmap for the future.

What ensures a successful partnership between an operator and a carrier partner?

A successful partnership optimises revenue growth and creates a long-term win-win situation for both players. Equal partnerships are becoming more common: both parties must gain. And interoperability, for example, benefits both parties. Within the partnership, each party should contribute what it does best. Similarly, both partners must be free to compete in the market to ensure that their businesses succeed. Regardless of the partnership approach – which can range from outsourcing, to managed services, to consolidated procurement, to exchange of resources or simple services engagements, or a mix – the partnership, backed by a long-term contract, should follow standard best practice. Both parties should seek long-term benefits on top of immediate results, to create a sustainable partnership.

What can BT offer emerging mobile operators?

BT has a comprehensive wholesale portfolio to support emerging mobile operators. Elements range from capacity to capabilities to managed services (including offers for complex and challenging customer requirements). We can help customers consolidate their legacy and also look to the future. Our wholesale portfolio has one key aim: ensuring the continuing success of our customers in a competitive environment. BT can address requirements quickly and cost efficiently at scale, without creating big overheads.

For more information about IP interoperability from BT, see our whitepapers on IP Migration and the “Let’s talk Voice” feature in this issue of Global Telecom News.

About David Chan

As head of BT Global Telecom Markets Asia Pacific, David Chan’s main responsibility is to manage and develop business in traditional wholesale and next-generation value-added services with BT’s telco and xSP customers in the Asia Pacific region. He brings to the role over 20 years of experience in the telecom, IT and network communications industry. Before joining BT, Mr. Chan held various senior positions in sales, marketing, project management, and engineering with a number of multinational companies such as Motorola, Philips, IBM, and Lucent. Mr. Chan has extensive experience working with telecom customers in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. He holds a Systems and Computer Engineering degree from Carleton University in Canada. Based in Hong Kong, Mr. Chan is married with two children.

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