Edwin Van Ierland, chief commercial officer at iBASIS since 2019 and former SVP global voice sales and retail from 2017, has built a substantial career at the Ministry of Defense, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Schiphol Telematics, KPN Telecom, and iBASIS Inc. in various staff and executive positions. Edwin has completed advanced study programs in Management, Business (IMD), Information Systems, and New Business (Boston University), among others.
How can telecommunication technologies help humanity?
First of all, I think it’s extremely important that we understand that telecommunication critically connects people, on both local and global scales. Secondly, the COVID-19 situation has opened our eyes to even more areas in which telecommunication can assist humanity, areas we hadn’t investigated closely when we were working in a “normal” environment. For example, we saw how communication – of alerts, of warnings, of protocol – was essential. We also saw in a very short time period all schools transition online. And who would have anticipated the explosion in the use of VPN, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, or Skype Business? These apps were always there, but we never used them in the ways we do now. Telecommunication enabled that communication; there is no denying its ability to reach vast swaths of the global population. Now we see significantly more opportunities to use telecommunication to create more business while at the same time bettering the human condition. The start of the digital transformation has been boosted and will even accelerate more the coming period.
What new apps would be a game-changer in the next five (5) years?
I think virtual reality apps will become important, especially to maintain connection between the elderly and the young. We can’t visit them now, but we want them to be a part of our daily lives. These apps allow the family to remain connected where they would otherwise be limited in doing so. COVID-19 has of course been a terrible crisis; however, I think it revealed the possibilities that telecom affords us.
Another key area is location applications. In the past, we thought, “Okay. Location apps infringe on our privacy and that’s an issue.” But now people want to know “In the midst of all that’s going on, is there an urgent need in my neighborhood that I can help with?” or “Is the area I’m in right now a COVID-19 hotbed?” Finally, health apps will become more critical. The “medical finger” or pulse oximeter is already an example of this, where you can measure the oxygen in your blood to see how healthy you are next to blood pressure and all kinds of other KPIs.
What would you share with those interested in becoming a PTC Member?
First of all, it’s a long flight from Europe! Don’t underestimate that. But of course, the PTC Annual Conference is worth the time. Why? It’s the beginning of the year. It’s in January. Start of the new season. You have just closed a year where you worked hard, accomplished a lot, and can now reset in a completely different environment. The 11-hour time difference with Europe means you are not bothered by emails or phone calls because they all will take place when it’s night at PTC. But, also, the environment is so relaxing. It does something to you. The temperature is nice, you’re at the beach, and in a fantastic relaxing location. But if you want to become a PTC Member, this is only the frosting on the cake. The real ingredients are that you are together with a group of leading professionals in a very friendly setting. It is a perfect networking environment.
What important piece of information should people know about PTC?
In the beginning, I think PTC was almost something secret. It started slow with a happy few and then it began to expand. Is it equivalent in its worth and size to an ITW or other big events? I believe it is. However, it has this specific theme. It has this specific atmosphere that you can’t copy/paste. If you pick up PTC’s Annual Conference and you reposition it in another part of the world, then it’s no longer PTC. It becomes just another traditional trade show. So, there is this consistency and connection of PTC in Hawaii, they go hand in hand. It brings people together, interesting people, new people, new businesses, old businesses, in an unrushed, friendly atmosphere.
What advice would you share with current and future graduates interested in this field?
I think telecom might sound old-fashioned, but it’s really a fast-moving environment with unlimited opportunities. In the past, if you studied electronics and you became an expert of digital telecommunications, then it was almost assured that you would find a job somewhere in telecom. But telecom is no longer traditional. It’s no longer a traditional phone, fax, email, or other form of communications. It’s the Internet of Things. It’s emerging cloud communications and the API marketplace. It’s a platform as a service or software as a service. Expansive new opportunities now exist, and we need to find new graduates entering this business to become the next generation, inspiring those of us who have been in the industry for many, many years. We need to invest in and be challenged by the ideas of these new graduates.
What industry mogul or up-and-coming leader have you followed or are currently following, and why?
It isn’t one particular leader I’m following. I’m following a bunch of start-up leaders who dare to make a decision, dare to be different from the traditional industry. Due to my involvement in emerging cloud communications, I discovered parties I’ve never heard before. Each party had an individual leader, which was a surprise to me. For example, I talked to the CEO of TelAgility, responsible for Microsoft Plus!, the calling feature under the brand name SIPPIO, about how they are rolling that out. I hadn’t heard of this CEO before, but he was so inspirational, so motivational. That’s what you see in different areas. You see that also with Mavenir, with Ribbon, with Rakuten, and with many other lesser-known parties. Sure, everybody knows Verizon, but it is the parties that are surrounding us and that are filling up the gaps with their applications and with their solutions that inspire me and I can follow. At the end of the day, they can’t do without global telecommunication, global connectivity, and we can’t do without them.
iBASIS is the leading communications solutions provider enabling operators and digital players worldwide to perform and transform. Powered by Tofane Global, iBASIS is ranked third-largest global wholesale voice operator and Top 3 LTE IPX vendor with 700+ LTE destinations. iBASIS serves 1,000+ customers across 18 offices worldwide. After its acquisition of the Altice Europe N.V. international voice carrier business in France, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic in 2018 and iBASIS in 2019, Tofane continues to accelerate its consolidation strategy, recently acquiring NOS International Carrier Services in Portugal, boosting its scale in voice, mobile, SMS services, and new business opportunities like CPaaS.