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Carol Wan, Vice President, Data Sales for the Asia Pacific region at PCCW Global has called for the wholesale carrier industry to start developing standards for the development and use of blockchain technology. Telecom Review managed to secure an exclusive interview with the charismatic executive who expressed eloquently how the industry needs to cooperate in order to embrace the cutting-edge technology, which she feels will bring many benefits to the sector.

Carol gave an insightful and engaging interview during which she disclosed the results of the blockchain PoC (Proof of Concept) trial it recently conducted in collaboration with Colt Technology Services, and highlighted the importance of the connectivity project PCCW Global has embarked upon with Mauritius Telecom in the Rodrigues Islands.  She took time to outline the company’s objectives and goals for the remainder of 2018 as well.

Q1. Do you believe that the entire wholesale carrier industry should embrace blockchain technology in order to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency? How important is industry cooperation in this sector?

Blockchain, at the end of the day, is a technology that allows an exchange of information through a trusted and secure shared repository. There are many potential use cases in the wholesale carrier environment where such technology can yield efficiencies, cost reductions, improved security and agility. To list a few: Wholesale voice settlement (which PCCW Global and Colt have already demonstrated through a PoC as already mentioned), the Orchestration of on-demand connectivity in a multi-domain wholesale environment, Shared inventory repositories, Ported numbers repository, Shared blacklist repositories and others.

Blockchain, by its nature, requires cooperation, as all participants must use the same platform in the same manner for the platform to properly operate. However, my view is that cooperation should be expressed on higher levels than just an operational framework. The industry should be developing standards for the development and use of the technology, in a manner that ensures standard-based solutions and an approach which avoids proprietary solutions and vendor lock-in.

Q2. Can you tell us about the recent Blockchain PoC (Proof of Concept) trials you’ve conducted with Colt Technology Services – and outline the impact the initiative has had on the industry?

The PoC, which is still underway, has proven the participants’ ability to automate the manual process of dispute resolution and settlement. In its initial phase the scope was limited to the bilateral relationship between the pair of wholesale voice carriers.

The PoC successfully demonstrated that a blockchain and AI combined platform was able to automatically extract CDRs from both carriers, in near-real time, compare the records of both bilateral partners, identify discrepancies, use AI to resolve disputes, and generate undisputed invoices for settlement. In the second phase, which is currently underway, the scope has been extended to include up to eight operators, with the purpose of proving scalability as well as the ability to resolve more complex dispute scenarios. Future versions will also explore the automation of financial transactions as well as fraud detection and prevention.

We have seen an enormous interest in the PoC and the list of wholesale carriers that want to take part in the upcoming phases of the PoC keeps growing. In parallel we are defining the industry-led vehicle that will drive and govern the deployment of this technology, and will also develop the methods and standards required to extend this PoC to a commercially operational platform.

Q3. Can you tell us more about the project you’ve embarked on with Mauritius Telecom which will see you construct a high-speed submarine cable that will improve connectivity on the Island of Rodrigues?

Rodrigues Island used to be the tenth District of Mauritius; it gained autonomous status on 10 December 2002, and it is governed by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA).

The telecommunications infrastructure currently connecting Rodrigues to Mauritius and rest of the world is inadequate. The only means of connectivity available at the moment is satellite communication which is expensive and very limited capacity. The situation is limiting the citizens’ lives as well as the development of the local economy.  

The RRA was very aware of these limitations and looked for an alternative, finally deciding to build a submarine cable connecting Rodrigues and Mauritius, along with Global IP access. A Public Tender was issued in earlier 2017 to select a right partner. 

PCCW Global and Mauritius Telecom teamed up and participated in the tender, proposing to deliver a turnkey solution to both build the submarine cable and provide Global IP access.  In the third quarter of 2017, Mauritius Telecom was being announced as the winner of the tender and entered into agreement with RRA to build the submarine cable and Global IP access. 

PCCW Global has in turn entered into an agreement with Mauritius Telecom to provide a turnkey solution and related project management to build the submarine cable, which will be known as MARS (the Mauritius Rodrigues Submarine cable system).

Q4. PCCW Global recently announced it had entered into an agreement with Virtutel to bring hosted unified voice services to Australia and New Zealand. Can you elaborate on what benefits this partnership will entail?

Virtutel is a fast growing Australian-based wholesale and enterprise telecom service provider.  PCCW Global has entered into an agreement to provide a turnkey UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) solution to Virtutel, using its market-leading nTwine UCaaS platform.  This will enable Virtutel to expand its business rapidly in both Australia and New Zealand using this innovative platform offering. 

Our solution offering includes the provision of a fully white-labelled hosted platform together with a best-of-breed fully-automated orchestration, operation and business solution, allowing Virtutel to offer customized service propositions to its enterprise customers.  In addition, as our partner, we provide Virtutel with a flexible Opex-based commercial model to align with their expansion plan.    

Available in more than 30 countries, the nTwine service leverages PCCW Global’s global fibre network and its relationship with over 200 global operators to provide international voice and voice over IPX services, eliminating the need for our customers/partners to invest in and run their own communications infrastructure.  
Q5. Can you outline to us what the primary objectives and goals are for PCCW Global in 2018?

PCCW Global has built a strong reputation as a trusted partner to both Service Providers and multi-national enterprises around the world – supporting them with flexible and scalable next generation network and digital solutions. 

We shall continue to enhance our core international data and voice service offerings enabling our carrier partners and enterprise customers to better meet their future business and communication needs. In addition to nTwine service as described above, we also offer a suite of value-adding digital solutions in the Media, Security and Mobility domain. 

To support the ongoing shift to digital business and cloud workloads, PCCW Global recently launched Console connect, a software-defined interconnect platform across its global IP network that enables customers to instantly provision private, direct connections to remote data centers, partners, and cloud service providers.

As the international operating arm of HKT (Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service provider), we deliver innovations and operating experience developed in Hong Kong in the fields of network, media, and smart services to global markets via our GDS (Global Development Services) venture.  Using this vehicle we are able to assist our local partners/operators to leapfrog their competitors by providing them with access to highly innovative market-proven solution and skillsets.

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