Colt this month grew its Dedicated Cloud Access (DCA) on-demand service via connectivity to Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, one of several moves the service provider is making to address enterprise ultra-broadband needs in its European, Asian and African markets.
The service provider's recently extended relationship with Amazon is only one way that Colt hopes to expand its enterprise business, says Peter Coppens, director of network portfolio at Colt, in an interview with UBB2020 this week.
Colt is rolling out an ambitious fiber-optic network and over-provisioning enterprises' broadband services to future-proof offerings and enhance customer service, he said. Read on for more:
Peter Coppens: Some time ago, we launched our on-demand portfolio, which means a customer can go to a portal and he can order just like he orders a book, and he can order connectivity between Point A and Point B as long as that connectivity to Point A and B end are in eligible Colt buildings, because obviously those buildings need to have Colt's fiber in them and there are a few requirements in terms of the cable that we have there. If the buildings are ineligible, then the customer cannot just order the connectivity between the two sites, but it also will be delivered in real time, in a matter of one or two minutes the connection is there. Once it is there, the bandwidth can be flexed up and down to meet the need. That was our on-demand capability that we launched earlier.
Now we have expanded that on-demand capability, not just between an A and a B end or enterprise buildings, but to include also connectivity from an enterprise building to the Amazon Web Services Cloud. That means we have the same ability now to deliver, for example, online and in real-time connectivity from any of the eligible enterprise buildings to the Amazon Web Services cloud, for the moment in Europe. In Europe, we have a number of AWS clouds we are interconnected to and to these clouds we can deliver now, also, on-demand.
UBB2020: How will this increase Colt's broadband footage?
PC: In Europe, I think this is quite unique. In Europe, this is really very new. At the moment, we see this as the start of a new time frame, really. Up to now, connectivity has been very slow to deliver; I'm not talking about Colt, I'm talking about in general. It can be three weeks, six weeks or more. So slow to deliver and not flexible at all, if you want to increase or decrease. And that's what we are overcoming. So, in fact, we are bringing the cloud experience that customers know -- from AWS, from Microsoft Azure, etc. -- to the network.
UBB2020: How else is Colt looking to shorten time-to-delivery for ultra-broadband?
Deploying networks capable of higher speeds than customers initially request allows Colt to deliver upgrades in real-time, on-demand, says Peter Coppen, director of Network Portfolio at the service provider.
PC: It's cutting the initial time frame. It's also making it much more simple for bandwidth to move up, so customers that have a need for flexible cloud workload can also now order flexible bandwidth to go with it. So they can order 100 meg, but if in a week they need 500 meg they can order it in real time and the week after they can go back to 100 meg, for example.
UBB2020: How has this capability affected Colt's internal infrastructure?
PC: There are a number of things we had to change. First, on the network side, we have delivered a network that's capable of an easy, upgradable service at the customer site. We always deliver, for any building that's on our Colt network, a 1-gig connectivity even though the customer might order 10 megabit. At the moment, we are now bringing this now to 10 gigabit. The customer always gets much more than he orders. The first thing is, we over-provision. The physical equipment onsite enables up to 1 gigabit at the moment and by Q3 it will be brought to 10 gigabit as standard. We can do now 10 gigabit, but we don't do it everywhere. We can do 100 gigabit, but we don't do it everywhere. If a customer asks us for 20 megabit, at the moment we're not installing 10 gigabit as access but that's what we're going to do, going forward.
We are over-provisioning the access to the customer. The second thing is we have invested a lot of money into our OSS/BSS systems so the whole system stacks to ensure the whole configuration can be fully automated, completely end-to-end. Those have been the two big impacts on our network. Ensuring we over-provision the access, even if a customer asks for smaller access, we put larger equipment there that can handle it without needing any physical changes and the second is a lot of investment in systems and processes to ensure that end-to-end we can drive that flexible bandwidth, we can deliver that flexible bandwidth.
UBB2020: What are you using to over-provision: fiber-to-the-premises?
PC: Yes, Colt has its own fiber access that we are bringing mainly to business customers. That fiber access we own ourselves and we do that in a lot of countries in Europe -- over 50 metropolitan networks, so London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Milan, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lisbon -- and also in Asia, in Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore. In Europe, in all cases, we own the fiber in the ground. In Japan, it's a mixed model. In some we own the fiber; in some we rent it as a local-loop fiber. In Europe, 99% of it is owned by Colt and we are committed to digging and are still expanding to new buildings.
UBB2020: And fiber ownership gives you the economic model for over-provisioning broadband to customers?
PC: Indeed. We are not bound to buying a commodity from someone else and then paying for that capacity. It's a capital investment that we make. Since we've found some equipment that can, for relatively low cost, deliver up to 1 gig and up to 10 gig in the future. Whenever a customer asks for a service of 20 Mbit/s, we deliver equipment that's able to deliver up to 1 gig. And if the customer upgrades later on, from 20 meg to 600 meg, we can do it just online without needing any onsite intervention, without needing to change equipment, so it delivers a much more scalable model, thanks to the over-delivery.
UBB2020: Is the thinking also that you're creating a stickier customer?
PC: We hope indeed this will also drive a better customer experience because, in Europe, if you're honest, the telecom industry is not the first in terms of customer experience. There are industries that do a lot better. Colt is actually quite good, in fact, compared to most but it's still not enough. In the land of the blind, the one with one eye is king. We're still trying to bring this to a new level by allowing customers to make changes themselves, in real time, via a portal, in initial delivery and also in subsequent upgrades. But this only applies to the buildings where Colt has its own infrastructure installed. We cannot bring this to buildings where we are not in.
UBB2020: Where is Colt at in terms of the fiber optic network upgrade disclosed in November 2016?
PC: We are deploying that now. The first step will be the addition of a whole number -- 50-plus -- optical nodes that we are implementing in key data centers. That will be done really soon, in early second quarter. In early third quarter, we expand this to our packet network and make our packet network 100G-enabled as a business-usual service. Today we can do 100G -- we have sold several ones -- but going forward we can make 100G service an off-the-shelf service. That will be enabled in Q3 when we have the packet network installed and that packet network is based on Cisco, while the optical network is based on Ciena. That is our big investment for the year.
UBB2020: As a truly international company, how much can Colt translate its best practices for technologies and implementation, etc., as you go from country to country?
PC: I've been with Colt for 17 years. When we started, every country was more or less an island, it was very much country-driven. At the moment, it's very much the absolute opposite. We don't have a country structure anymore. We don't have a country P&L. All teams are really, truly international. It's really quite an extreme case of an organization that's set up to be well and truly international. It's not any more a country structure. In Belgium, for example, there is no country managing director. It's a strange set-up for some people, maybe, but it's an extreme setup where with every service -- whether it's operations or sales or service or marketing -- we all report, not to a country reporting line, but one international reporting line. That means in terms of all the processes and products, we define them for every country [in] the same way. Here, we have chosen -- which is quite unusual in Europe -- to have a structure that is exactly the same in every country. Of course, there can be things that are different in each country. We offer the same products everywhere; what can be different is the price points from one country to another. The processes are the same. The service level agreements are the same, because we also want to deliver to our international customers a really seamless experience across Europe.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.