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The telecoms sector is changing rapidly. For some businesses, that may mean extinction. For others, evolution into exciting new frontiers. In this panel discussion moderated by Disruptive Asia’s John Tanner, PCCW Global’s CEO Marc Halbfinger, CITIC Telecom International CPC Limited’s CEO Stephen Ho, and Hutchison Global Communications Limited’s President, International & Carrier Business, Andrew Kwok discuss how carriers like themselves are evolving and what questions they must address to continue thriving in a changing world.

Stephen Ho likens this period to the early 80s, when cellular phones were first appearing. Carriers were panicked, he says, and rightfully so because they didn’t know what was coming. Would it be the end of their business? It’s very much a similar situation today, except we are dealing with much more sophisticated technologies, and we have the knowledge of the past to guide us.

So what factors will pave the way for the future? For one, infrastructure. While Marc Halbfinger says that carriers will need to leverage the infrastructure they already own to form partnerships with OTTs and other emerging players, Andrew Kwok believes that infrastructure itself serves as a seat at the table for traditional carriers, no matter how much the industry is changing.

It’s also very much about changing the business model, especially the financial model. Andrew Kwok believes that in order to realize full benefit for both the organization and the end user, organizations must employ big changes, and do so in a top-down way. Stephen Ho rightly points out that the sales and marketing functions must evolve as well.

Innovation is happening faster than ever and traditional carriers need to get up to speed. Marc Halbfinger sees that manifesting in two ways. First, automation is a guiding light that can help organizations get up to speed (online self service portals are one example of this). The other kind of innovation that will continue to be important are people- and skills-based innovations. Halbfinger stopped short of saying companies should hire younger, but said they absolutely need to hire those with updated skill sets.

One thing all three executives agree upon is that resisting disruption is not only futile, but at this point, more likely to be fatal. Can carriers “future-proof” themselves? The panelists are at odds with the term, but all believe that carriers can thrive, regardless of how quickly the industry continues to change. Curious to learn more? Dive into the full panel discussion (31:09) here: