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If there is one word that summarizes the current state of our industry, it is probably disruption. Better in capitals: DISRUPTION. More than ever before new technologies are changing the landscape of what we see, what we do, and how we manage.

This disruption is hitting many different areas and taking various forms, making it challenging to understand or interpret, especially in our industry.

PTC’19: From Pipes to Platforms offers opportunities to see what is happening and what it means on an intercontinental, industry wide scale across subsea, data centers, satellite and carrier service sectors. Above all, the currency of disruption is innovation, and we are focusing on that through the 2019 PTC Innovation Awards, as an examination of what the game-changers will be in the future.

We need to understand these game-changers. In the world outside the industry, the disruption could be colossal. Experts said this month, the disruption will likely drive future global industrialization ushering in Industry 4.0, along with entirely new IoT systems with huge capability.

There will be major transformation. At least one industry leader predicts a majority of the jobs that IT will need in 2025 don’t even exist yet. Alongside this trend, he says, there will be many developments: all cloud applications will include AI, and the vast bulk of company to consumer contact will be automated.

5G is perhaps the most evident disruptive factor. Billion dollar contract announcements this month proved the rollout of 5G is a serious one. But many aspects of the picture still need to be filled in. What 5G strategy should be in the service provider space remains open to interpretation. Some say that 5G will act as a major stimulus to improve performance to the next level in IT networks, operating in combination with IoT. But what competitive impact will there be on existing infrastructure such as cable? Network planning and densification are hot topics. There is a big debate on in-building coverage. But the investment demands are formidable. In spectrum, commentators wondered if spectrum auction prices are simply getting too high.

Subsea telecom continues its prodigious rollout across Asia Pacific with seeming no end in sight. In Australia, the major systems, namely INDIGO, are reaching final installation. New cables are already planned across the region as we saw last month in a series of PTC interviews with subsea operator CEOs. Reports also suggest that China Telecom will deploy a new cable between Hong Kong and the Philippines in the wake of winning the third telco license in the country. But experts are warning that the industry may need to develop strategies to deal with old cables. One commentator presents five scenarios that cable owner operators may face in the future.

Meanwhile, experts suggest that onboard Wi-Fi demand may be the biggest driver for next generation satellite services, a view certainly taken by Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg in our recent PTC interview. New satellite systems look like providing broadband across the Pacific and aim to support free public Wi-Fi rollouts. In the U.S., the FCC is mulling the problem of handling orbital debris. It is also proposing a streamlining of satellite rulemaking.

Where are the new strategies?
For many executives in the industry, the talk is of massive innovation led disruption. Consequently, service providers may need to rethink strategy. Experts are evaluating many fronts but see positives and possibilities as new markets come into being. Some muse home Wi-Fi will be a battleground. Another view is a migration of cloud activity to the network edge could uncover opportunities for telcos against the major industry players to reclaim lost ground.

This disruption will likely impose colossal demands on leaders to set the right strategy. Digital transformation, say experts, needs a galvanized leadership taking bold action. Clarity, direction and strategic value are all important.

Technology may mean new kinds of transparency in the customer/provider relationship, at least one view is that companies and executives will have no place to hide.

How far can we take this transparency? Are we making progress to build better and more diverse cultures? At minimum one consultant says overall, gender diversity in the workplace has stalled. Encouragingly, the debate continues, with awards positively highlighting progress.

Resurgent regulation?
In this disruption wave, policy and regulatory action may also be resurgent. This month saw many themes launching many debates. Policymakers are pressing a national plan in Malaysia to supply rural broadband in the near term. In South Korea, regulatory action is said to impact operator performance and the profitability outlook for mobile operators. Regulators in Australia say they are anticipating an “interesting competition dynamic” if 5G becomes a viable alternative to fixed broadband. In New Zealand, there is an intent to overhaul fiber broadband rules to ensure more flexibility and predictability.

Some have mulled the possibility for further regulatory inroads to protect and support customers in their commercial dealings with service providers. Various commentators suggest more meaningful consumer data protection is on the way in markets like the U.S.

Should we be concerned about the availability of communications in critical situations? In the U.S., the FCC mulled possibilities for more resiliency in wireless networks to support post hurricane communities.

Back on the blog
In the PTC blog, we have the privilege of meeting the heavy hitters in our sector, and we all have the opportunity at the PTC’19 Annual Conference. As part of our series on discovering boardroom views across the industry, and across the world, we interviewed several renowned thought leaders.

Equinix CEO, Charles Meyers, speaks on leverage as the key leadership strategy going forward in the industry. Carl Grivner, CEO of Colt Technology Services, gave us his thoughts on what the next generation of service provisioning will look like along with the possibilities of blockchain.

Stephen Ho, CEO of CITIC Telecom CPC, outlines how CEOs should think about innovation in a disruptive time, and what rules service providers need. Larry Schwartz, Chairman and CEO of Seaborn Networks, extrapolates what it takes to build, develop, and operate a major piece of transoceanic infrastructure.

PTC-TV also caught up with Eric Contag, Executive Chairman of GlobeNet, exploring the extensive transformational change of the industry. Phill Lawson-Shanks, Chief Development Officer of Aligned Energy, discusses the trend of shifting to a platform-based society, and how the transition to a platform-based society has transformed everything about how we operate.

Eric Handa of APTelecom, a judge from the inaugural 2018 PTC Innovation Awards, discusses why the merit of submissions allows companies to showcase new products and services that add value and improve the industry. Mr. Handa expresses his support and recommendations on continuing the annual PTC Innovation Awards. Ivo Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer of the DE-CIX Group AG describes why the PTC Innovation Awards are a great initiative, and how companies should be motivated to contribute new ideas.

Submissions have just closed, and we’ve announced the jury! Stay tuned for the short list in mid-December, and hear what award winners from 2018 have said about the impact of the award on their businesses.

The Yale M. Braunstein Student Prize Award for 2019 goes to Yang Bai, a doctoral student from Pennsylvania State University, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications (USA). Yang will present his paper at PTC’19: If You Fund It, Will They Come? The Impact of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program on County Employment.

The blog also examined innovation led disruption and its implications for the Pacific region. It appears disruption is unavoidable, evidently imminent, and something you need to follow. Mark your calendar for PTC’19.

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