Delivery of digital infrastructure is the differentiator, says HGC chief digital officer
Jacqueline Teo is the chief digital officer of HGC Global Communications, the fixed line and ICT service provider that is extending from its roots serving the Hong Kong market to address international markets via its pan-Asian network capacity, including cable into China. Speaking at the TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World event in Nice, France, last month she tells George Malim how the company is innovating on all fronts to compete in the mature Hong Kong market, to develop further its newly acquired operations in Myanmar and to harness software defined network (SDN) technology to enable a more agile mode of operation.
George Malim: How has the Hong Kong market changed since we spoke last year?
Jacqueline Teo: There’s a quite interesting consolidation going on in Hong Kong where the number two fixed provider in the consumer market has merged with the number two in the business-to-business market, creating a quite large fixed line provider. This is resulting in lots of activity in pricing and new services.
Our government has been forward thinking and has come out with two very strong initiatives in the last year. One focuses on open banking application programme interfaces (APIs) which mandate access to banking services by third party service providers. Also, the first of five virtual banking licences has been issued, it’s great fun.
The other area is a slow but sure move to making Hong Kong a smart city. HGC has won projects I three categories: smart lampposts, smart property management and smart recognition. Our smart pole includes embedded Wi-Fi, smart power, smart lighting and AI-driven video surveillance and security. It’s slowly rolling out and covers quite a large area and we expect more of this type of activity from the government.
GM: What about HGC’s activities beyond Hong Kong?
JT: As well as expanding our domestic footprint, we’ve continued our expansion elsewhere in Asia. We’ve acquired infrastructure in Myanmar via our purchase of Myanmar’s Golden TMH Telecom (GTMH). This is a growing market that started in mobile with 4G and the expectation is that it will move to 5G but the need for fibre and cloud services is an opportunity for us.
GM: 5G is still some years away from mainstream and it will require substantial backhaul support. What is HGC doing to prepare?
JT: Over the last year, we’ve expanded our SDN capabilities. We’ve looked at the technology more for its capabilities in the market for customers rather as something we wanted to do in our network for our internal purposes. We’ve launched our SDN marketplace which provides customers with agility, end-to-end, zero-touch, on-demand bandwidth, the ability to scale in minutes, real-time usage monitoring and data analytics.
To enterprises and corporate customers, HGC SDN brings high visibility into network performance, enabling them to consistently and holistically manage their networks and resources, ensuring anytime and anywhere availability and fast business deployment.
GM: As enterprises move to cloud the network becomes a fundamental enabler. What do you see as HGC’s role?
JT: Absolutely public and private cloud connectivity allows seamlessness. AWS and Google have arrived specifically in Hong Kong but there are also providers such as Tencent, Huawei cloud and others serving the market. For us, these companies are our friends because we look only at the infrastructure. From the HGC position, it’s your choice which cloud you adopt and where you want to put a workload and our role is to support you in that. We’re going to market with that.
A lot of telcos look at SDN as another service but it’s a different market and involves smart apps and IoT apps. It’s a specialised situation and I’d rather partner at this stage and build up the ecosystem and the platform. Our differentiator is to be open to all, the apps need to be our customers’ choice.
GM: Many operators see this differently and are struggling to avoid becoming infrastructure players. Where do you see the value in infrastructure?
JT: I absolutely do not think the infrastructure play is the low margin end of the market. Enterprises or buyers are going to be attracted by capacity and functionality but underlying that, you must have the stack to support it. App vendors do not and cannot provide that so there is more need for providers that have the intelligence and can handle the complexity of delivering digital infrastructure. This is a space we can do well in and can absolutely find opportunities in. We just have to be smart about how we scale and to make it repeatable.