This month TelecomsEurope catches up with Jean-Yves Charlier, CEO of COLT, a European provider of business communications that specializes in providing data, voice and managed services to businesses and wholesale customers. COLT owns and operates a 13-country, 20,000-km network that includes MANs in 32 European cities with direct fiber connections into 10,000 buildings and 14 COLT data centers
TelecomsEurope: COLT's activities are largely focused on Europe. What are the advantages of that focus and will that continue‾
Jean-Yves Charlier: To meet the requirements of today's telecoms market, focus and specialization are essential. First, COLT focuses solely on business customers, both major and mid-size organizations, and today we serve more than 50,000 across Europe. This means our solutions and services are designed specifically to meet the needs of the business market. Second, we own and operate our own infrastructure, combining our fiber network and data-center footprint, enabling us to offer a very high quality of service and support the new generation of data and converged services. Finally, as we focus solely on Europe, we can provide end-to-end connectivity to our customers directly to over 10,000 buildings in 13 countries.
Do you have any plans for Eastern Europe‾
We provide connectivity services in Eastern Europe for our customers but we do this through partners. We do not have any plans to build out metropolitan networks in Eastern Europe today. Current demand for business services is not sufficient to justify the significant investment required to build out fiber networks.
How would you describe the European enterprise telecoms market‾
The business telecoms market is challenging in Europe and is going through profound change. Over-capacity continues to drive prices down, particularly for traditional services. At the same time new technologies are emerging, such as Ethernet, VoIP and broadband, which are leading to a new range of converged services offering greater ease of use, functionality and value for money. The successful telecoms operators of tomorrow will be those that adapt at fast pace to these changes in the marketplace and focus on meeting their customers' expectations.
How's the managed services sector looking‾
It's growing. Business customers across Europe require more than just basic telecoms services today. They are looking for managed end-to-end services and want to take advantage of the convergence of IT and telecoms for the benefit of their businesses.
What's the future for ATM and frame relay services‾
ATM and frame relay services have lived long lives. Customers are turning to Ethernet and IP services which offer more functionality at better price points.
Where do you think Ethernet is going‾
As all LANs run on Ethernet, it makes sense for WANs to operate on the same, simple-to-use technology. We have been pioneering Ethernet services in Europe for several years. They offer greater flexibility, ease of delivery and management, better functionality as well as improved price points, compared to any competing technology.
What part does Ethernet play in the wholesale market‾
As Ethernet becomes more widespread in the enterprise market, we are also seeing rapid demand on the wholesale side as some operators turn to partnering rather than building these services.
Is consolidation of the wholesale carrier market continuing‾
The consolidation process in Europe will continue, particularly in the wholesale space. As pressure on margins increases in the carrier voice market, operators will consolidate to leverage further economies of scale.
How important are mobile operators to COLT's wholesale business‾
Mobile operators are a key strategic segment for our wholesale business as we believe the depth of our network in 32 cities across Europe as well as our data-center platforms can provide significant value for the new services they are launching. Furthermore, COLT is in a unique position in that we already interconnect with most mobile operators across Europe, enabling the sector to take advantage of COLT's services rapidly.
Is VoIP an opportunity or a threat, or simply inevitable‾
For many operators, VoIP is a threat, but for us it represents a significant opportunity. We have positioned ourselves to provide a full range of new voice services for our business customers using VoIP technology. While consumer VoIP is mainly associated with cheap calls, enterprise IP telephony has the potential to offer a real step-change in operational efficiencies and productivity at work. VoIP essentially makes location irrelevant so business users will have real flexibility about how and when they work. Ultimately, we will have the freedom to access any application we need from any device wherever we go.
Is the IP Multimedia Subsystem of interest to COLT‾
Yes, as we are currently exploring ways to deploy IMS into our existing VoIP network to offer new services to customers.
What are the key trends to look out for in COLT's particular business sectors‾
Current key trends include business customer demand for 'on-demand' data network services and end-to-end managed services, as well as the increasing convergence of telecoms and IT infrastructures. COLT is focusing on all these trends for business customers by investing significantly, between ‾30 million and ‾50 million every year, in our infrastructure, systems and teams across Europe to provide our customers with the innovation and services they require to enhance their businesses.