What network challenges does the industry face as we head to the middle of 2018 and beyond?
2018 will prove to be a pivotal year for progress in UK telecoms. While we may reach a positive resolution in the DFA debate, others, such as developments in 5G and rural broadband may only lay the groundwork for rollout in 2019 and beyond. But that is not to diminish the significance of the decisions and partnerships that may be formed this year, that will fundamentally prepare the UK with its digital economy ambitions in mind. The government has been vocal about its goals. But we feel this 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 for now and later.

What impact will industry changes (you describe the industry change) have on digital transformation plans within organizations?
SD-WAN will hit the mainstream. Much like how it took several years for business to ‘get cloud’, 2018 will prove to be a pivotal year for 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 using 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 ability to manage the network estate in one place without lengthy legacy contracts that will drive adoption.

What broad trends do you see in telecoms in the next 12 months?
2018 will be the year of innovative connection paths. In 2017, the staggered process of the DFA ruling caused significant uncertainly in UK connectivity, with implications for the way that networks will be built out in 2018. Connectivity providers have been encouraged to find alternative routes, but in order to overcome possible latency issues in congested areas, must embrace their creative competency to create new connections. SSE Enterprise Telecoms expects that as more network is required, more use will be made of existing assets. It will see creative and innovative ways to deliver connectivity, such as using sewers, spare ducts, highways, overhead lines and rail networks for alternative network cabling, or physical fixed infrastructure including buildings and street furniture to reduce costs versus 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. The way networks are created and used is undergoing huge transformation. New, evolving technologies like SD-WAN are altering the way UK enterprises manage their network estate. Entire business communities are being created with connectivity at the heart, while successful digital transformation initiatives fundamentally rely on their network to underpin everyday operations. The rise in edge computing initiatives mean data and services are being positioned closer to customer premises to solve latency issues by decentralising network processing.

Additionally, the 5G spectrum debate will continue. The investment required to enable 5G is too great for individual operators to shoulder alone, 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. 2018 will be a potentially pivotal year for developing a future-focused spectrum policy to ensure it’s allocated in a way that supports the Government's world-leading mobile ambitions. The Government wants Ofcom to complete the licensing of spectrum bands as soon as possible. There may be a possibility that the government may licence spectrum in a way that enables pure-play service providers to take a stake beyond traditional operators.

With over 30 years’ experience in the telecoms industry, Conrad brings a wealth of knowledge to his role as Chief Network Architect having previously held several senior roles at Level 3, which included overseeing many large-scale network enhancements and significantly expanding their European network reach. In his current role, Conrad will be responsible for defining, delivering and maintaining the technical architectures that will support our existing portfolio, as well as new ground-breaking technologies. He is determined to see the innovative, appropriate application of advanced technology both maintain and improve those relationships with our customers as the business grows.