Q&A with Contributing Editor, Kathy Xu
Conrad Mallon is the Chief Network Architect for SSE Enterprise Telecoms, which operates a 13,700 km private telecoms network and 15 data centers across the UK to provide a competitive range of leading edge Ethernet, cloud connect, and optical networking services, as well as colocation services. During his more than 30 years of industry experience, Conrad has overseen many large-scale network enhancements. In his current role, Conrad is responsible for defining, delivering, and maintaining technical architectures to support SSE Enterprise Telecoms service portfolio, as well as integrating new ground-breaking technologies.
Ahead of the company’s appearance at International Telecoms Week 2018, taking place May 6-9 in Chicago, Data Center POST had the opportunity to speak with Conrad about the fallout of last year’s Dark Fiber Access (DFA) ruling, the affect of SD-WAN on enterprise digital transformation, and trends in the telecom industry over the year ahead.
Data Center POST, Kathy Xu (DCP-KX) Question: What network challenges does the industry face as we head to the middle of 2018 and beyond?
SSE Enterprise Telecom, Conrad Mallon (SSE Enterprise Telecom-CM) Answer: I think 2018 will prove to be a pivotal year for progress in the UK’s telecom industry. While we may reach a positive resolution in the DFA debate, for other issues, such as developments in 5G and rural broadband, we may only lay the groundwork for rollouts in 2019 and beyond. The decisions and partnerships that may be formed this year, however, will fundamentally prepare the UK to fulfill its digital economy ambitions. The government has been vocal about its goals, but we feel they must be supported by continued investment in creating new networks to back up these aspirations. The one constant is that new networks are a necessity in 2018 if we are to meet the demand for new connectivity, in both the present and future.
DCP-KX Q: What impact will increasing SD-WAN adoption have on digital transformation plans within organizations?
SSE Enterprise Telecom-CM A: SD-WAN is about hit the mainstream. Much like how it took several years for business to “get” cloud, 2018 will be an inflection point in the adoption of SD-WAN. As the legacy gap widens, and more and more demands are placed on ageing networks, all things ‘software-defined’ will come to the fore. With a software-based approach, networks can be operated using several means of connectivity – be it the public internet, Ethernet or optical solutions. SD-WAN is becoming increasingly attractive as it means enterprises are only obligated to pay for the level of service and assurance they require. It is the flexibility of SD-WAN, and the ability to manage the network estate in one place without lengthy legacy contracts, that will drive adoption.
DCP-KX Q: How do you see 5G development playing out this year in the UK?
SSE Enterprise Telecom-CM A: The 5G spectrum debate will continue. The investment required to enable 5G is too great for individual operators to shoulder alone, so the market will see alternative infrastructure aggregators emerge, allowing for multiple service providers to provide a genuine alternative to traditional wholesalers. The Digital Economy Act 2017 outlined new Secretary of State powers and set out the government’s strategic priorities for telecommunications and the management of the radio spectrum, with big implications for 5G. This could potentially be the year to develop a future-focused spectrum policy to ensure it is allocated in a way that supports the government’s world-leading mobile ambitions. The government wants Ofcom (the Office of Communications), to complete the licensing of spectrum bands as soon as possible, and there is the possibility that the government may licence spectrum in a way that enables pure-play service providers to take a stake beyond traditional operators.
DCP-KX Q: What broad trends do you see in telecoms in the next 12 months?
SSE Enterprise Telecom-CM A: 2018 is the year of innovative connection paths. In 2017, the staggered process of the DFA ruling caused significant uncertainty in UK connectivity, with implications for the way that networks will be built out this year. Connectivity providers have been encouraged to find alternative routes, but in order to overcome possible latency issues in congested areas, they must embrace their creative competency to enable new connections. SSE Enterprise Telecoms expects that as more network is required, more use will be made of existing assets. Over the next year we will see creative and innovative ways to deliver connectivity, such as using sewers, spare ducts, and rail networks for alternative network cabling, or physical fixed infrastructure including buildings and street furniture to reduce costs compared to new digging projects, in order to bring services closer to customers, and reduce latency.
New, future-proofed networks are a necessity, and 2018 will see a steep rise in new networks being created in order to meet demand against this business backdrop. Evolving technologies like SD-WAN are altering the way UK enterprises manage their networks. The rise in edge computing initiatives means data and services are being positioned closer to customer premises to solve latency issues by decentralising network processing.
DCP-KX : Thank you for sharing your insights with us today, and best of luck at ITW 2018!