ESB Telecoms Managing Director Rory McGowan shares insights into ESB’s telecoms business division by detailing the market changes, challenges and the constant demand for power and speed that is shaping the future.
ESB Telecoms began as a wholesale towers provider in 1995, renting space to the growing number of mobile networks that were being rolled out across Ireland. Originally, ESB Telecoms purchased sites around ESB substations which allowed us to develop a national towers portfolio, and we have been growing that ever since.
In 2001, we began building our national backhaul fibre network. At the time, the Government was developing the Metropolitan Area Networks to improve connectivity in urban locations around the country. The ESB fibre network was initially built and wrapped on the national electricity transmission line and provided backhaul services to those Metro Area Networks.
Customers and Competitors
Since then, we have developed significantly as a wholesale telecoms provider. ESB Telecoms has become the ‘carrier's carrier’ as almost all of the large telecommunications or mobile network operators are on our client list, along with a range of small but equally important towers and fibre customers.
As a wholesaler, our business is with telecoms retailers and we have built a powerful business to business (B2B) brand by working closely with our customers to provide the bespoke services they require.
On the competitor side, it's an interesting industry. For example, with towers – mobile networks need to engage with a whole range of independent operators to offer coverage across the country. These networks operators would not have the volume of towers within their portfolio to do that, and so, ESB Telecoms is one of the independent providers that can help meet these needs.
With fibre, every retailer is looking to get from A to B. They may be looking for connectivity between a data centre in Dublin and a premises in Cork. In many cases, they can go some of the way, but they need to purchase specific services from a wholesaler to complete the route and that is where we come in.
Unique Selling Point
There are independent tower operators in the market, and then there are fibre operators. Uniquely, ESB Telecoms has a combination of towers and fibre which is becoming increasingly important with the emergence of 5G and higher traffic volumes in the market.
In the past, people were just using their devices to send texts or make a call. Now, people want to sit on a park bench and stream a movie onto their laptop or phone – that alone results in hefty increases in traffic volumes which must be catered for. ESB Telecoms, combining its towers portfolio and fibre reach, is uniquely placed to meet our customer's needs.
We have built a strong reputation as a trusted brand by designing products to meet our customers’ needs, which in turn, support the rapid evolution of society.
Growing Through the Years
There is an insatiable demand among our customers for higher volumes of bandwidth and increased security.
When ESB Telecoms built its national fibre optic backhaul network, we provided dark fibre and managed bandwidth services of up to 100Mb. Today, between 1GB and 10GB links are standard, and we are continuing to develop our services to offer 100GB interfaces.
Initially, coverage was the big differentiator among the mobile operators – this is no longer the case. The operators are now competing on brand and price. With ESB Telecoms, our customers and the Irish market know they can achieve sustainability and value for money.
Customers are demanding increased volume, better security, faster speeds and all for the same price; ESB Telecoms has designed a network to cater to the demands of the Irish Telecoms marketplace.
The other substantial change industry-wide is the emergence of the cloud – the explosion of data and the rapid emergence of social media and streaming sites like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. These are now a growing customer base as they look to cater to the demand for the cloud services they are providing.
Meeting Future Challenges
We must meet the challenges our customers are facing to deliver for their customers. This is why ESB Telecoms is continuously investing so that we can carry higher levels of traffic while reducing incremental costs.
Our product suite is constantly evolving. Some of this is due to the way the market is developing but it is mainly due to the direct interactions we have with our customers in terms of their future needs. Instilled within ESB Telecoms' ethos is an attitude that puts the customer first, that works with the wholesale industry to meet these challenges head-on and delivers for our customers.
If you look to the future; we have emerging smart cities, driverless cars, cloud services, and movie and entertainment streaming to hand-held remote locations. Look at what is happening in IoT (internet of things) with automated machine-to-machine communications – they require increased telecom traffic, higher speeds and the need to secure diverse network connectivity. Security is of vital importance to all of this.
On a global level, that is the direction the communications industry is going, so we have to tailor our offering to meet the demands we see emerging. We are a wholesaler – our business is facilitating and enabling our retail customers to meet their objectives.
Performance and the Pandemic
When Covid-19 struck, telecommunications were instantly recognised as essential services – which is reflective of how important communications are in our interconnected world.
ESB Telecoms is highly safety conscious. It is one of our absolute core values. Because many of our activities were continuing as an essential service, we had to review our processes to ensure they were Covid-proof.
Communication performance has been paramount during the pandemic, both for our employees and on a national level as people moved to remote working. The focus has shifted to the demand for secure services to homes, mobile and hand-held devices. It has been a significant change for us but we have risen to the challenge.
This all combines to make it an interesting, challenging, and exciting time in telecommunications and one which ESB Telecoms is ready to embrace.
The big focus for our team is the emergence of 5G. With increasing demand, we are constantly looking to develop our towers portfolio and tailor our products. We are continuously redeveloping, particularly to address the needs of the smaller operators with more bespoke requirements.
With fibre, it's about extending our footprint to allow us to develop and provide end-to-end services. To cater for the demand and the changing face of the telecoms industry in Ireland, ESB Telecoms has added new fibre products to our portfolio. With our Ethernet Tail Extension product launch, we have extended our fibre offering to the end-user using SIRO and other fibre networks. Throughout 2021, there will be further announcements on product enhancement and the expansion of our network.
We always look for new ways we can provide solutions for our customers. One of our innovations has been an alien wavelength, which sits between dark fibre and managed bandwidth. It is a high-capacity wavelength that provides an additional level of control to the customer.
There was a time when there was a lot of pressure in the industry on cost. The issue now is that our customers need to be able to fund the likes of 5G licence costs, which are significant, plus the assets and infrastructure required to deliver the technology. That's creating pressure that we understand, and we are partnering with them to help to address this.
It is a challenging time for our customers, and to help them meet these challenges, ESB Telecoms has invested heavily in our product offerings to the Irish Telecoms market over the past year. This ensures we are well-positioned to support, enable and empower them to further succeed in their markets well into the future.
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