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July 2018

Momentum Builds for SDN-Enabled Networking in Global Wholesaling

Momentum Builds for SDN-Enabled Networking in Global Wholesaling

Over the past 30 years, the telecom industry has enabled thousands of exchanges and marketplaces that deliver enduring value:

Marketplaces or Exchanges

And now — finally — after decades of fundamentally enabling all these great marketplaces for other people, telecoms are starting to realize, “Gee, maybe it’s time to build some marketplaces of our own.”

This is what the new neutral SDN-driven wholesale ecosystems are all about.

Data-side wholesaling is nothing new, of course.  But up till now, the portals were proprietary and limited to orchestrating the order processing flow.  On top of this, the business models were rigid, requiring long-term commitments and the building of one-to-one relationships and trust with other telcos in far-off places.

But just as indirect international voice wholesaling was enabled by automated price lists and intelligent routing, the new SDN tools are enabling on-demand provisioning, real time insights into the network performance and integrated partner interoperability through APIs.

The strongest driver of international SDN wholesaling today is Epsilon, and at the ITW show in Chicago I was pleased to continue my conversation with Carl Roberts, Chief Commercial Officer at Epsilon.  Joining Mr. Roberts I was also pleased to have Epsilon’s co-founder and CEO, Jerzy Szlosarek.

In the interview, Jerzy and Carl discuss how their partnership with Middle Eastern Incumbent, du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company) was formed while sharing the new partnerships Epsilon has formed in Canada and West Africa.  They explain Epsilon’s software-centered/asset-lite strategy, the attraction of new breed network operators, the born-in-the-cloud “unicorns”, and the benefits of meshed network fabrics.

Dan Baker, Editor, Top Operator: Carl, this SDN-driven ecosystem thing is new, but it certainly has legs.  It’s shaping up to be a paradigm shift in the way international wholesale operates.

Carl Roberts: For the longest time, Dan, executives from a vast array of network operators would sit down and say, “There’s got to be an easier way for us to work together.” Everyone had different systems and processes, and yet we knew we needed to work with each other.

But unfortunately every time we tried to work together in a more automated way we hit a wall; a wall built of pre-established embedded processes and systems siloed and unique to each operator.

But SDN has changed all that: it automates the infrastructure and drives intelligence across the network through a software application layer — giving you tremendous flexibility.

So clearly the future is all about APIs, and yet the first thing that needs to change is the mindset.  If we’re not careful in the way we roll out SDNs, we’re liable to create islands.  And if we do that, we’ve missed the fundamental opportunity this technology brings.

Building an ecosystem is enormously challenging because of the multi-faceted services they support.  Then there are the different players: Carriers, ISPs, Cloud Service Providers, SaaS and PaaS Network Operators, OTTs etc.

Everybody plays a role — and nobody can do everything.

So the new networking world demands a federation of meshed capability, and the more open you are, the more successful you are going to be.

Now one of the big things customers tell us is: “You’re not a typical carrier; you’re somewhat agnostic in how you operate.”  And that’s true.  We leverage our own global backbone and interconnects to bring the ecosystem together.  If you visualize wholesale as a brain — we view ourselves as part of the synaptic connections that hook everything together and make it work.

Now I’ll admit we are fortunate to be in the position of being a smaller and somewhat more nimble company because we are not dragging around a truckload of legacy.

I suppose there are many ways you could roll out SDN.  But Epsilon has chosen a path that emphasizes partnering with global wholesalers and carriers.  I’m curious to hear about your important relationship with Du in the Middle East.

Carl: The Du partnership started with a conversation.  They wanted to take their enterprise customers global.  Their network is expansive and robust within their region, but they wanted solutions and partners to facilitate interconnects and presence around the world.  So today Epsilon is extremely proud to be a partner supporting Du with software driven global connectivity.

Now to support Du to roll out certain elements of their capability internationally, we shared some infrastructure with them in Asia and Europe and plugged them into our ecosystem.  So what does that do for them?  Let’s say a customer in Chicago goes on our Infiny SDN portal and wants to connect from New York to Dubai.  Well, we have exposed certain elements of Du’s network within the platform, so it’s a case where Du’s connectivity infrastructure is being sold halfway around the world while, potentially as the UAE is asleep.

So each time we bring on a global partner, everyone in the partnership wins in terms of broader reach and capabilities.

If you take a look at a map of the world, there are places where we have direct capabilities, but there are also big patches that are going to be filled by partnerships.  What we aspire to achieve is to bring the network operators around the world into our unified global fabric.

Jerzy Szlosarek: Dan, we want to stay close to our roots as a global wholesaler.  We are committed about facilitating our service capability “through”, not just “to” partners, supporting their success.  Same way as we’ve always done.

Platforms, Portals and Partners is at the core of our business model.  We take all our service offerings and integrate them into a Platform.  The Portal provides the user access allowing the customer to easily conceive, click and consume network services.  But the most critical one is our Partnerships.

And Epsilon, as the provider presenting the SDN fabric, doesn’t have to be a huge carrier to make a difference.  If all goes well, the ecosystem will grow much larger than Epsilon’s core telecom assets.

Jerzy: That’s right, Dan, it is important to focus on where you play best.

Investments in network infrastructure can be enormous capital expenditures.  As such, we run an asset-lite business model.  We take spectrum, and we also buy dark where it’s commercially justified to do so, but ultimately Epsilon’s core strength is as an interconnect company.  We know how to easily interconnect networks.  When customer A wants to connect with customer B — it’s all done very easily through our portal.

Now as Carl mentioned, this transformation is not just technical, it’s also a shift in business model.  Before, our model largely serviced network operators directly.  Now our platform is been exposed through to our customers — at the enterprise level.  This capability has multiple commercial cases, for example it can vary from data center ecosystem to a network provider such as Du.  However at the core we are still fundamentally wholesale.

And it also brings new-found power to the ultimate customer.

Carl: Absolutely.  Customers can turn up services much more quickly.  It allows them to leverage new offerings and extended reach.  Through that flexibility, companies can scale and pivot their businesses to their customers demand.  It allows companies to try more things with a minimal financial risk.

Carl, when we spoke before, I detected a (virtual) twinkle in your eye when you mentioned all the network-driven unicorns that are rising up in the market.

Carl: Dan, there’s an explosion in application providers out there.  And we’re only at the beginning of seeing what SDN at the connectivity level can do to support these operators with their networking.  Fundamentally these application players need access to infrastructure, but they are focused on their products and lean on partners for their network plumbing.

We think we’re a perfect fit for these companies — and more importantly, also a perfect fit for our partners that are serving this ecosystem.

Speaking to traditional carriers, how well is this concept of a federated global ecosystem being received?

Carl: Dan, I can’t over-emphasize: what first needs to change is the mindset and culture.  As such, the pace of adoption varies.  We see many operators starting their journey of digitalization who move quickly.  With others it will take more time, but ultimately everyone acknowledges they need to get there.

In the end it’s all about service flexibility and scalability.  In an always on, on-demand and hyper connected world, the consumer-based technology experience we’re accustomed to — with the likes of Uber and Netflix — has now been translated across the ICT stack.  And that’s kind of magical!

Overall, our services need to keep pace with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Smart Cities.  That’s the key to the future.  We are creating connectivity services that enable these technologies.

Carl, you mentioned that you recently signed an agreement in western Africa.

Carl: Yes we’re delighted to announce the WIOCC partnership, a leading wholesaler who is revolutionizing the delivery of high-capacity end-to-end connectivity between more than 30 African countries.  So they give us connectivity accessibility in African countries, and we give them the rest of the world through our platform, Infiny.

Partners sometimes want to connect indirect.  One will say, “We’d like to interconnect with them at a half way point, can you broker that?” And we say, “Yes”.

I see that you’ve announced at the ITW show a new partner in North America, Metro Optic.

Jerzy: Yes, Epsilon and Metro Optic have partnered to deliver on-demand connectivity within and out of Canada.  Canada is an exciting and high-growth market for Cloud.  It offers direct access to the US market while acting as a bridge to both Europe and Asia.

Our presence in Montreal and Toronto creates a loop between these metro areas and New York and Chicago.  That gives our partners direct access to more than 40 million users.  Our partnership with Metro Optic shows that we are delivering on our promise to grow our presence across North America and bring on-demand connectivity to more Service Providers in more places.

We are extremely pleased to be executing on our vision for Cloud-centric networking and bringing our platform to users in Canada.

What about voice wholesaling?  Does that fit into your future plans?

Jerzy: It does.  Our role in the ecosystem we’re building is to innovate the interconnection experience and that includes what we are implementing with on-demand international SIP trunking solutions.

Service Providers that choose Epsilon are able to connect across multiple geographies from a single provider on a single platform.  Through Infiny, our partners can quickly and efficiently deploy SIP Trunking services and reduce the time and resources it takes to serve markets around the globe.

We give partners the right tools and infrastructure to successfully deploy UC as well as other Voice, Video and Collaboration services.

I love how Epsilon is bringing SDN to market in a way that borrows the trust and partnering practices of international voice wholesale and brings them over to the data side.

Carl: What’s really cool, Dan, is when we sit down with a partner we talk with the VP of Enterprise Sales and say, “What more can we do to help you sell more?  Where do your customers need to go?”

And when you approach them in that way, it becomes a proper business discussion.  Your relationship evolves from a supplier to a trusted partner relationship.  So we are more in listening mode to what the customers want.

Essentially what we provide is Wholesale, but with a small “w” (because Wholesale’s got lots of connotations).  In simpler terms, we sell indirect — but it’s enterprise-grade indirect.  And we built it all to go through partners.

The world is very big and nobody can do everything.

Copyright 2018 Top Operator Journal


About the Experts

Carl Roberts

Carl Roberts

Carl Roberts has worked in the international Information and Communications Technology industry for over 30 years, with a proven track record in International Marketing and Sales, Business Management, Corporate Strategy & Development, M&A, Business Transformation, Implementation, Planning, Restructuring and Corporate Governance.

Prior to joining Epsilon, Carl worked in his own Consultancy company (Hadaara Consulting) after having held numerous senior executive positions in Verizon, MCI, WorldCom Global One and IBM, having started his career in the legal profession working for Ashurst, Morris, Crisp & Co.   Contact Carl via

Jerzy Szlosarek

Jerzy Szlosarek

Epsilon Telecommunications Co-Founder and CEO Jerzy Szlosarek is a seasoned industry executive with a strong sales and engineering background, particularly in the global telecom markets.  Leading Epsilon’s worldwide partner development and innovation initiatives, Jerzy has been central to the company’s success positioning Epsilon into Service Provider Networks worldwide.

Jerzy’s track record of success spans almost twenty years having progressed in Epsilon from the founding days as CTO during which Jerzy laid out the technical vision to running the Global Sales and Operations teams as COO before assuming the CEO position.

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