Chief corporate and operating officer, Celcom Axiata Berhad: “FTTH is key to meeting business and consumer needs.”

Suresh Sidhu, chief corporate and operating officer, Celcom Axiata Berhad
Suresh Sidhu, chief corporate and operating officer, Celcom Axiata Berhad

Suresh Sidhu, chief corporate and operating officer, Celcom Axiata Berhad is appearing on Day One of the Broadband Asia conference, taking place on the 9th-10th April 2013 at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel, Hong Kong. Ahead of the show he tells us more about how big bandwidth technologies such as FTTH are starting to become necessary in Malaysia.

What have been the major developments for the broadband industry in your region over the past year?

In Malaysia, the major developments have been the growth of FTTH for fixed broadband and the deployment of 42 Mbps HSPA+ in major cities. Fibre developments even extend to the increasing fibreisation of mobile operator’s cell sites. We also see fixed and mobile operators cooperating in go-to-market partnerships to resell FTTH. The resulting upgrade in speed and access is translating to strong sales of smartphones, tablets and other data-enabled devices. In addition, wireless operators have been busy rolling out LTE with major launches expected this year. At Celcom, we are looking at the convergent, data-ubiquity approach, where we see “sit and play” type behaviour becoming the central organising principle for broadband.

Is FTTH really necessary for businesses and consumers, what are the stumbling blocks to rolling it out and how can these be solved?

FTTH is key to meeting business and consumer need for stable, secure and reliable high speed data services from a static location. Naturally, LTE/HSPA+ are still the best solutions for mobility. The key challenge facing FTTH take-up is clearly the need to build the infrastructure. High trenching costs, lengthy trenching timelines coupled with complex logistics involving local authorities, contractors and utility companies are the main challenges. We need to see greater adoption of solutions like the use of utility poles in hanging fibre for rapid and cost-effective FTTH deployments.

As next-gen wireless services develop will there be a need for fixed-line services in five years’ time?

We see that the customers we serve are changing their behaviour from “walk and talk” to “sit and play”. Or rather – “walk somewhere, sit, play, walk somewhere else, sit, play”. Critical to this value proposition is the ability for wireless service providers to be present at the key “data hotspots” which could be home, cafes or the traditional street locations. We believe that LTE, HSPA+ and HetNets (including femtocells, WiFi, etc.) are key to serving this need. However, the best way forward may well be to seek convergent approaches that include the fixed world as well. People will do different things at different locations and a holistic relationship will drive both wireless and fixed technologies to develop their niches.

What opportunities do the new cloud services provide for operators?

Cloud-based services presents operators with innovative business models in addressing the consumer and enterprise business segments via hosted platforms, infrastructure and software services in generating new revenue streams. The ability for cloud-based platforms to offer safe and secure services via remote backups, wipe-outs of lost devices, configuration of replacements, storage, music and business process management type applications and services are some common cloud-based services currently favoured by operators. It will probably be easier to monetise cloud services for SMEs, but models will emerge for large enterprises as well as consumers.

How important is wifi offload to your rollout plans?

At Celcom, we see WiFi as less of an offload opportunity and more as a service enhancement play. In the “sit and play” world, wifi is a component of Celcom’s overall network plans. It presents operators with an opportunity to ensure a seamless experience in the places customers hang out – cafes, bars, cinemas, etc. Any point where people congregate socially or spend time waiting is an opportunity to extend a connected experience. It is at these targeted hot spots where we aim to offer wifi and other HetNet technologies.

With networks where there are a mix of technologies in play, are HetNet technologies the answer and how best can they be exploited?  

Future HetNet technologies integrated into the macro base station could be the answer given the challenge of today’s wifi and femto core integration in assuring a consistent Quality of Service. The key to effective HetNet deployment is in exploiting the network load distribution techniques via idle mode camping strategies, active traffic steering and load-based handovers between small cells and ubiquitous cellular networks, thereby further optimising the use of limited network resources without costly upgrades or sacrificing end users’ quality of experience. However, this will take time to develop and wifi/femtocells/picocells etc. may well be more commonly used in the near term.

What is the most exciting development you expect to see in broadband over the next 12 months?

From a technology and service point of view, it must be the wide-scale deployment of LTE and the availability of leading-edge devices from Samsung, Apple and others. From a customer’s point of view, we see the ability to access content (especially video) at home as well as work and play on multiple devices as being the first sign of a major revolution in entertainment. It will come with major challenges, but players who get this right stand to be at the forefront of change in the industry.

Celcom Axiata Berhad is Malaysia’s most experienced and premier mobile telecommunications provider with more than 13 million subscribers including mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) on the company’s network.  Established in 1988, it boasts the widest national 2G and 3G networks, covering over 98 per cent of the population. Currently the largest mobile broadband and corporate services provider, Celcom is now moving towards integrated multi-access and multimedia services, in line with evolving technologies and consumer behaviour in Malaysia. A culture that places the customer first is reflected in Celcom’s award-winning customer service, products, and other corporate accolades at a regional level. Celcom is part of the Axiata Group of Companies, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, with more than 180 million customers across 10 Asian markets.

Celcom is also a leading provider of corporate mobile services and wireless business solutions in Malaysia. Through strategic partnerships and leveraging on the latest technologies, offerings under the Celcom First banner is making headway across target business segments by offering intelligent integrated solutions, products, and services while delivering greater business efficiency and cost savings for specific industries and company sizes.

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