Digital transformation is not only for enterprises. It's also for operators serving large businesses, and undergoing this process unveils new services, savings and opportunities, an Altice Portugal executive shared with Broadband World Forum attendees today.
After all, tier one service providers like Altice and its in-country organizations are big businesses. Like their marquis-name customers, they need to rid themselves of encumbrances such as costly, inefficient technologies and processes, antiquated org charts that deter creativity and offerings that no longer fit well with customers' evolving needs, said Jorge Bonifacio, director of Network and Services Strategy at Altice Portugal, formerly Portugal Telecom, and now a division of Altice Europe.
"We are giving out customers convergence in bundles," Bonifacio said. "We are creating a digital transformation not just for our customers, but also throughout our company."
To accomplish this, Altice Portugal is focusing on investment, innovation and proximity, he said. Central to this strategy? Fiber, fiber and yet more fiber, he said.
In a Short Time, Portugal Is Filled With Fiber
"By 2010 we passed 1 million homes. And we kept growing... we announced that by 2020 we wanted to reach 5.3 million houses -- and we are on target to do so," said Jorge Bonifacio, director of Network and Services Strategy at Altice Portugal, during a Broadband World Forum keynote today.
(Photo: Niall Hunt)
"It is impossible to talk about investment without talking about fiber," he said, noting that when Altice Portugal began its fiber rollout in 2007
, it began immediately with fiber to the home (FTTH). While a growing number of service providers -- both fixed and mobile -- now invest heavily in fiber, 11 years ago that was an uncommon approach for a tier one operator.
"Then it was quite unusual to go straight to fiber to the home. But by 2010 we passed 1 million homes. And we kept growing. When we were acquired by Altice, we announced that by 2020 we wanted to reach 5.3 million houses -- and we are on target to do so," Bonifacio said.
In effect, that means Altice Portugal's FTTH service spans the entire European country, he said. And in those regions where the provider cannot deploy fiber, it will use other technologies to deliver broadband, Bonifacio said.
Altice is building an innovation ecosystem at the heart of which lies Altice Labs. Even before Altice -- with its larger bank account and access to many more resources -- acquired the Portuguese provider, it recognized the value, the importance of investing in research, development and innovation, Bonifacio noted. Indeed, pre-acquisition Altice Labs was called Portugal Telecom Innovation Labs, he said.
Post-acquisition, the lab's focus has expanded beyond interoperability and services into actual products, said Bonifacio. This enables Altice Portugal to use open source, standards-based products specifically designed for its network.
"They are creating a range of products for us," he explained. "By doing that, it means we get a constant stream of products and services to put on the network."
Here, there, everywhere
Altice Portugal has a large footprint, making it ubiquitous across the country. That reach brings a lot of opportunity and the ability to deliver real social benefits, too, said Bonifacio. The digital divide that plagues many nations -- holding back entire populations from access to benefits such as telehealth, remote-based careers, e-commerce sales and purchasing sites and online education -- is or will be practically eliminated in Portugal for anyone but those who wish to remain unplugged.
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Competition keeps pricing reasonable. Last year, for example, Vodafone Portugal partnered with cable operator NOS to build a FTTH network covering about 2.6 million premises by leveraging their existing infrastructures and advancing into greenfield communities. Vodafone Portugal predicted the pact would bolster its network coverage to 4 million homes (or 80% of Portuguese households) from its 2017 coverage of about 2.7 million residences, according to Iain Morris' report in Light Reading. (See Vodafone Portugal to Boost FTTH Footprint With NOS Deal.)
"We believe we have some social function, but it is evolving into a win-win situation. There is a real value proposition here. When we start getting out of copper and into fiber there is a real advantage in terms of churn rate and lifetime value of customers," he said.
Just as Google Fiber's entry into full-fiber broadband forced many operators' hands in the United States, Altice Portugal's fiber focus encouraged other operators to respond with their own fiber initiatives. (See BBWF: G.fast, Video, NG-PON2 & a New Way of Thinking.)
"No one is talking about cable any more. All the operators, even cable [providers], are focused on fiber," he noted.
— Niall Hunt, Digital Lead, Content & Communities, KNect365. Follow him on Twitter @Niall_Hunt and learn more about Broadband World Forum here.