How has the market changed since Capacity was founded? Alan Burkitt-Gray talks to major industry figures about today’s changed business.
The industry is “a lot more responsible” than it was 20 years ago, says Carl Roberts, who’s seen a few bumps in the road, especially around the millennium. “And the actors have changed. We have Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix. They either didn’t exist or were just starting out in 2000. Now they are the principal drivers of subsea cables.”
Phil Mottram, now at HPE, agrees.
“There’s a real risk telcos will be dumb pipes, with more and more reliance on apps on the public cloud. AWS, Google and Microsoft will ensure their infrastructure underpins their apps. All of them are trying to establish a position not only in the cloud but on the edge.”
He smiles: “The next 20 years will happen in two years.”
Meanwhile, says Roberts, now a partner at Hadaara Consulting in Dubai, “carriers are trying to reinvent themselves”. They are starting to focus on enterprise.
Hunter Newby recalls that 20 years ago, “I was a TDM voice person at 60 Hudson Street, learning about subsea cables and circuit-switched voice. They’re literally all Smithsonian relics now.”
“Now it’s a lot more diversified business,” says Christian Michaud, now with Tata Communications. “We’ve seen quite a revolution and a change for the industry. It’s been a long revolution. Voice is still a large component — people still talk — but now it’s on unified communications or platforms.”
Telepresence was the latest hot product in 2000, recalls Roberts. “It was amazing and fully immersive, but very expensive — a two-screen set-up cost $350,000, a six-person room a lot more.” Now we have Skype, Teams and Zoom. It works on our phones or laptops.
Full immersion? Who needs it? (I remember being in AT&T’s London office, interviewing an executive in the US over telepresence. Someone’s left their handbag on the desk, I said as I sat down. No, the bag was in Dallas. It was amazingly realistic.)
Cyber security has remained a concern, but it’s different today. In those days it was mainly fraud against businesses: staff would arrive on Monday to find their PABXs had been used to dial up vastly expensive calls, largely to premium-rate numbers. “A lot of smaller companies could go under in a weekend” because of the bills, says Roberts. “With 5G and the internet of things (IoT) there’s more scope for fraud. There’s a great ransomware opportunity,” he warns.
“Now it’s a very software-defined world. Our lives depend on it. This industry is as vital as healthcare and the utilities.” During the Covid-19 crisis “this industry has kept businesses going. Telcos have worked together.”
Former editor Matt Whalley adds: “The biggest thing about this industry is the community and camaraderie around everything. Meetings are like seeing old friends. So much about the carrier business is about trust. The magazine built a community around the industry.”
And he remembers the parties, especially at ITW. “Global Crossing used to do one on a boat every year” when ITW was in Washington. “There are some many places in DC for parties.” There are still some spectacular parties: that hasn’t changed in the industry.
Ajay Joseph, CTO of iBasis, asks: “Are we more sober and more boring now? I don’t think so. There’s always something that is different.”
Two decades of editors
The first editor, Eira Hayward, worked alongside Rachel Jones, editorial director. Amber Key, now a teacher, joined in 2003 and was succeeded by Matt Whalley in 2005; now he runs Ilex Content, a marketing consultancy. Angela Partington followed in 2010.
Alex Hawkes was deputy editor from 2010 and then editor. He went to Liquid Telecom and is now with PCCW Global’s Console Connect, based the UK.
Other editorial staff over the years have included Kavit Majithia, now with the GSMA in the UK, Agnes Teh Stubbs, now with Gartner in the US, and Laura Hedges, now with QBE in Australia. People such as Guy Matthews and
Tim Phillips have written for Capacity for most of our existence. Camille Mendler, who advised the founders, also wrote for the magazine in the early days.
The three editors since Hawkes are all still with the group: Alan Burkitt-Gray, who came from another telecoms publication in Euromoney; Jason McGee-Abe, who joined in 2017; and João Marques Lima, who joined in 2019 with the unification with the editorial team of BroadGroup’s Data Economy.
Current staff are Melanie Mingas, deputy editor, and Natalie Bannerman and Abigail Opiah, senior reporters. We are all supported by a wide range of marketing and production people, as well as our colleagues on the events side of Capacity and ITW.
Incidentally, TelCap, Capacity Media and now the telecoms division of Euromoney have always been a diverse group in terms of gender: women make up around three-quarters of our staff, including at the highest levels of management.