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March 2021

PCCW Global: On Leveraging Global IoT Connectivity to Create Mission Critical Use Cases for Enterprises

PCCW Global: On Leveraging Global IoT Connectivity to Create Mission Critical Use Cases for Enterprises

“None of my inventions came by accident.  I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes.  What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Thomas Edison (1929)

Thomas Edison is one of the greatest technologists America ever produced.  Through painstaking research, he and his team invented many miraculous things, such as: the electric light bulb, the phonograph player, and movie cameras.

Edison was also a forerunner of Silicon Valley: his research lab in New Jersey was one of the first successful technology incubator centers.  Indeed, Menlo Park, California (where Facebook is headquartered) is named after Edison’s research lab.

But great gadgets — whether they be light bulbs, devices, apps, or “better mouse traps” — are not valuable by themselves.  They almost always require distribution, transmission, marketing, and supporting infrastructure.

And here’s where Edison’s genius is less recognized.  He not only invented the light bulb, he also created electric power generation and distribution systems to bring his electric inventions to market.  A few decades later, electricity had transformed dark, gas-lamp-lit cities into dazzling displays of illumination and neon colors.

The Internet of Things today kind of mirrors that early electric utility industry.  Yes, remarkable devices, sensors, clouds, and software gadgets have been created, but the connectivity and security are not mature enough to deliver many global and mission critical IoT for things like connected cars, industrial machine control, and advanced medical use cases.

Well, Craig Price — and his merry team of telecom industry veterans at PCCW Global — recognize the challenges are huge, yet are eager to seize IoT’s growth opportunities.

And as global wholesalers, I think their confidence is justified.  They’ve leaped over many tough connectivity and integration hurdles before.  What’s more, they genuinely believe IoT is a great prospect for global telecoms because enterprise IT desperately needs the combined transport, connectivity, and integration skills they specialize in.

As you’ll soon discover, Craig Price, who leads PCCW Global’s IoT and mobility businesses, is a marvelous explainer of business challenges.  In his discussion with me, he paints a compelling picture of the current global IoT scene as it spans many spheres: technical, political, marketing, and enterprise customer value creation.

Dan Baker, Editor, Black Swan Telecom Journal: Craig, could you please explain your role at PCCW Global and your assessment of where global IoT is today?

Craig Price’s Background & Responsibilities

Craig Price: Happy to do so, Dan.  I think it’s best to briefly discuss my background because it colors my view of global IoT and where I want to go with it at PCCW Global.

I’ve been in the tech industry for 37 years.  Initially with IBM for nine years, then in 1993 I moved into telecom.

I’m a lawyer by profession, and was a lawyer at IBM till around 1990 when I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore and I moved into IBM sales to experience an environment where I was in more personal control of my own career.

This was an exciting time: it was the period when IBM’s proprietary systems were steadily being replaced by UNIX, and IBM was struggling to keep its edge in the marketplace.

When I decided to move into telecom, my first role was with Optus in Australia.  And there I took on the role of dealer channel manager.  It was curious to me that they hired a lawyer with some experience as a sales manager, but then when I took the job I discovered to my dismay that there were many legal challenges associated with an emerging dealer market in the early days of a deregulated dealer market.

But then I got into the bespoke solutions business where I built up some valuable expertise.  A customer would come to you with a requirement and it didn’t fit at all, but it was my job to build the services around that — to meet a particular customer’s requirement.

When I moved into Hong Kong Telecom in 2008, I was focused very much on a joint venture in the Middle East.  Initially I went in there to do the business evaluation and setup.  And this was a good fit for me with my 25 years of experience in doing M&A work.  Ultimately I ended up becoming the COO and head of legal for that joint venture in the Middle East.

Then in 2013 I started developing the professional services business for PCCW Global which meant I could get into just about any project that we could make money at — as long as it had something vaguely to do with telecommunications.

I did a large number of projects in very different kinds of deals to make that happen.  As a result, I developed a reputation of being able to deliver the difficult stuff... the conceptual stuff.  Then about three years ago I was asked to head up mobility products and marketing.

Now the services I look after today in that particular portfolio are effectively in three sets:

  • International Mobility Products, which is supplying our IPX/GRX services and SMS connections for about 600 mobile carriers and MVNOs.
  • IoT Products, initially focused on connectivity, but now includes roaming, MVNE services, and other services necessitated by the growth of IoT.  And that includes planning the 5 year horizon for the business including the impact of 5G on IoT.
  • GIS Services, which on first glance doesn’t match with Mobility.  But think of Twilio, who is interested in taking the legacy management services (such as number management — still critical because of the KYC element of it) and wraps that into a CPaaS service.  This will have a big impact as people rely more and more on their mobile device, not the PC, as their major communications tool.

Product & Channel Marketing for IoT and 5G

I also look after product marketing — though not the branding and corporate marketing side.  My role is focused on the messages, how we go to market, and scanning the competitive landscape.

Channel sales for IoT and soon 5G services are also particularly important because you’re now looking at a market where you’ve got digital marketing which is “low touch” requiring very little direct sales.

But you also have “high touch”, high sales marketing to enterprises.  And on top of that, I need to manage SIs, VARs, agents, dealers, and a big ecosystem of channels to take the services to market.

So the channel management and developing an IoT ecosystem of partners are absolutely key to positioning your services in the market.

Another channel is the industry analysts like Analysys Mason and Gartner.

Now I look at all my services in a holistic way, but especially IoT.  So channel management is important for gaining the mindshare of people as they look for individual services.

The Enterprise Market for IoT: What’s the Use Case?

Another area I’m driving here is the enterprise IoT market.  We view enterprise business as key because PCCW Global has a software defined network (SDN) to connect IT and IoT applications directly to public and private clouds.

So I’m constantly asking myself questions like: How do you get to the enterprise?  How do I best work with them?  How do you gain their trust?

And these questions also show why channel management is one of the core pillars of taking these services to market.

We still look at IoT from a product perspective but that’s changing now because you need to approach enterprises by addressing their use case.  You can’t tell an enterprise, “I’ve got a brand new product called IoT Connectivity...” because the customer will come back and say, “What’s that?”

Serving enterprises begins with a problem.  How do we meet a specific problem?  What’s the solution I need to address that?  Only when you get to that stage can you begin to build up your marketing messages.

And I suppose that’s one reason the management team asked me to take up this role because I don’t really look at why the IoT product is important.  The point is you can only establish an IoT product’s value by addressing the enterprise’s use case.

Now to get familiar with use cases and practical ways to address enterprise problems, I run a monthly IoT ecosystem partnership webinar where our ecosystem partners present their various use cases.

So an IoT security company has given a presentation.  And we recently had a cleaning robotics company explain how they use IoT to clean buildings and airports of Covid 19.

A couple weeks ago we had a logistics company come in.  These discussions are all based on a specific use case.  And when you talk to customers about IoT, you really need to get talk with them at the use case level.

Winning the Enterprise’s Trust

One thing we’ve learned from IoT is that every customer is different.  There are unique regulatory, technical, and solution evolution issues to solve.

So this is a long term investment.  But if you work with the enterprise on IoT, you can then become their connectivity partner.  That’s the attraction.  However enterprises are justifiably cautious, so they definitely want to see the road map for your service over the next few years.

Once they make the decision to integrate you, there are many technical boundaries to get through to deliver the overall service.

While we can provide a really base core of services that are tested and proven, it’s only when you utilize the use case that you can identity and provision the specific requirements that deliver great value to the enterprise.

Global IoT Uses Cases In Demand

Now when I say “enterprise use cases”, that covers a wide range of solutions, but here are some of the IoT solution areas we see making waves today:

    Remote Diagnostics Icon
  • Medical is pretty hot right, especially the provisioning of remote diagnostics using a medical platform and IoT related equipment.  The key requirement is to do remote diagnostics without a doctor or technician being present — and using IoT devices to do that.
  • Cleaning robots are in big demand, and that’s being driven by Covid 19.  The robots travel to sanitize airports and are remotely controlled.
  • Drones are becoming much more exciting for doing building diagnostics.  It’s a growing use case.
  • Logistics is big and will continue to grow in terms of tracking shipments and cargoes.  However we’re also seeing people-tracking and tracing.  For example, there’s demand for tracking people to protect the public from Covid 19.
  • Digital transformation of enterprise is another big one.  Investments in that area were initially delayed by Covid because people were worried about spending capital, but now we’re seeing great interest in digital transformation.

Now to win solutions business we run an extensive program of providing trials for customers, either free of charge or at low cost.

In short, we are out in the marketplace to enable customers to look at IoT type services at very little to zero costs.

Wholesaler vs.  Equipment Manufacturer View
of Global Connectivity

At the wholesale level, we view global connectivity of IoT as another exciting opportunity for PCCW Global to play.

Remember that different players in the IoT ecosystem have a different view.  When you look at an equipment manufacturer such as Sierra Wireless, they look at IoT from the device backwards and ask, “How can I support that device and IoT service on that device?”

Sierra is a partner customer of ours — and sometimes a competitor because in addition to wholesale products, I also sell retail.

But as a carrier, we look at the connectivity out to the device which means we are fundamentally device agnostic and to some degree application agnostic.

A Wholesaler’s Three Levels of Connectivity

So as a wholesaler, the first layer of connectivity — telecom data connectivity — is somewhat easy for us because we have 600 bilateral agreements with operators around the world.  We’ve got that thanks to market demand for roaming.  Our IPX network allows us to ship data around the world very cheaply.

Connectivity cables

IoT connectivity management is the next step, and that means basic provisioning control of the device so the IoT supplier can turn the connectivity on or off.  You also enable them to put APIs there and wrap their devices with security.

Now the service we use currently for IoT device connectivity management is the DCP from Ericsson.  And the reason we chose Ericsson — rather than Cisco or others — is that the DCP is a core network element in its own right that allows us to provide regional services.

So I can have an instance in Singapore and provide IoT services in the region.  And, of course, I can provide that at very low latency.  Frankly, the latency issue has not much to do with the provisioning of the core controller or even the international network.  Most of the latency issues are sitting in the GSM network.

But generally, once you establish a connection, you can maintain a pretty low latency.  So because it’s regionally based, it means I just need to provide a regional service, rather than a country by country service.

And the final connectivity need is getting the application-to-IoT-device connectivity.  So how we do that?

Well, fortunately we have a cloud connectivity service called Console Connect.  This is our Software Defined Network (SDN) which allows us to globally access every public cloud and a lot of private clouds as well.

So when you add up these three services: cloud connectivity, device connectivity/ management, and telecom data connectivity, that’s the core of our IoT service.

Other Partners Who Deliver the IoT Service

Up to now, I’ve talked mostly about the connectivity requirements.  But, of course, there are many other partners needed at either end of the IoT service:

  • The cloud holder/provider stores the data and inputs it to the application.
  • Special SIs (or the cloud providers themselves) need to manage the data, partition it, and form it to deliver an application.
  • Mobility connects the devices, such as GSM service to the device itself typically via a modem or some other methodology.
  • Finally there are the thousands of devices out there and millions of applications.

So at PCCW Global, we are really focusing on providing the core service provision.  That doesn’t mean that ultimately we’ll provide an end-to-end service into particular verticals.  We probably will.

But at this stage in development, PCCW Global is looking at getting the core platforms right.  And our other focus is reducing the delivery cost.

Bilateral Agreements

The biggest strategic issue I suffer are the hundreds of bilateral agreements we have with MNOs around the world.

The trouble is, the rates today are calculated based on people roaming to tourist destinations or doing business travel.  But IoT usage rates, traffic flows, and the value of traffic are quite different from people roaming.

Bilateral Agreements Icon

So the two kinds of usage don’t correlate, and that’s something we work on.  However you’re dealing with a legacy environment.  Bilaterals have been around a long time, so it’s a legacy kind of negotiation.  And it’s not particularly easy to iron these issues out.

In every country you must have a local supplier of connectivity.  The good thing about roaming arrangements is, typically, they’ve been around a long time and we often have two or three suppliers in each country.  So I have the ability to choose my suppliers.

Typically, I have lots of options and I can also build the network differently to meet the requirements.  So with key players you can develop a service offering.

We just signed an agreement with a Chinese MNO to enable us to actually manage IoT devices in China.

We could accomplish that on our own, but the problem we had with China is they have privacy regulations which means several types of data cannot be taken out of the country.

Local Service Breakout in a Country

Another way of dealing with this is local breakout.  So we can use the IPX network to get to the country, but we can then technically do a local breakout in those countries by negotiating with local MNOs to get a local rate rather than roaming rates for the service.

To do that means I need to have access to IMSIs.  So I had to develop a wholesale IMSI product to integrate IMSIs into my management environment.

This also meant I brought in two elements to make that happen.  First, I’m developing an MVNE service to manage those IMSIs in a better manner.  Second, I developed a sponsored roaming service.  And by that I don’t mean I need actual roaming capability.  I need sponsored roaming service merely to get access to IMSIs.  Without that, you don’t have the local country component you need.

All of this is happening now and we’ll continue to develop it.  And you’ll see MVNOs and MVNEs merge to actually manage IMSIs globally to get that localization.

The Regulatory Constraints of Global IoT Deployment

These localization requirements are also driven by regulations, and they are quite interesting.

Telecom Regulations Icon

Initially, most of the global IoT services are provided through roaming arrangements.  However some countries ban roaming in different ways.  And there’s also data privacy and other data regulations we need to work through.

We prioritize our more in-depth partnerships based on the country, its regulatory requirements, and also the market opportunity for that country.

  • In Brazil, for example, you actually can’t do permanent roaming there.  And if they discover that you are permanent roaming, the sanction is you can’t do business AT ALL in Brazil for years.  So obviously we work through a partner in Brazil.  And that’s vital because Brazil is one of the biggest IoT markets in the world.
  • Turkey has also done something similar — a bit differently — however the IT market is not so big there, so we’re holding off and keeping them in mind as a future place to invest.
  • India, while their laws and regulations are often obscure and a bit contrary, and the government says permanent roaming is OK, the regulations still prevent permanent roaming for consumers.  So it’s not quite clear what the laws are there right now.
  • In China, the IoT laws are unclear, but their data privacy laws are very clear.  You simply can’t move sensitive data out of the country.  But that’s OK, because if you have the right partner, you can provide the service.
  • Australia actually leaves it up to the operator to ban or not ban IoT according to their network.  So Telstra does not allow IoT third parties to utilize their network, however Vodafone and Optus do.

So there’s no common regulatory framework.  And if you take it a step further, with IoT devices there’s no common IoT framework.  In connectivity as well, there are no codified standards, really.

So we tend to rely very much on the core GSMA services and also using reliable vendors.

Obviously, our key connectivity partner and management partner at this stage is Ericsson.  And our choice globally for that — apart from their architecture meet our requirements — is they are politically neutral.  If you choose someone else, it may not be the same.

So while I can achieve central control, I’m having to de-centralize the management of the data.  Data remains local; control is centralized through a control device like the Ericsson DCP.

The Value of the P Gateway

One of the things we focus on is 5G’s impact on global IoT.  Since I work on a 5-year horizon, what I’m planning has already started regarding that.

Actually, 5G opens up another competitor to me because 5G allows operators to de-centralize their core.  So you can actually provide a quality of service, yet the elements of my core are scattered around the world.  That’s what a Software Defined Service is all about.

But an exciting and highly useful addition that 5G offers is the P Gateway.

Say I’m a Hong Kong Telecom customer who is traveling to Singapore, and as I’m roaming, I want to send a file on my mobile to my Singaporean customer.  So what happens in the network?

Well, signaling occurs between Singapore and Hong Kong, and the data file actually goes from my phone and data actually flows from Singapore to Hong Kong and back again to Singapore.  Not very efficient.

But if I have a P Gateway in Singapore which enables the flow of data, I can actually just signal what I want to happen back to Hong Kong (very low bandwidth) and the data flow is sent directly — from Singapore to Singapore.

But we don’t really have to wait for 5G to arrive to make P Gateways happen.  What you’re now seeing is the emergence of a new telecom service which is essentially the provision of local P Gateways — and thus the localization of your data flow.

This is actually feasible through 4G, but it’s never been adopted commercially.  And the reason is telcos don’t like to let data out of their network.

Now as a practical matter P Gateways will be essential in 5G anyway because the volume of data will explode, together with growth in multi-edge computing.  Combine that with the demand for low latency service, and the fact that you’re going to decentralize — or SDN your 5G network, too.

So when full 5G arrives, it make sense to enable P Gateways in many locations.  But that doesn’t prevent us from delivering the same capability in 4G.  So that’s what we’re doing.

PCCW Global IoT Ecosystem Small Image


There are two ways to tackle security in IoT.  One, you put the security on the device and allow some level of encryption to occur.  That’s certainly being done on IoT devices.

Another way we’re looking at it is to provide service in a way that you don’t break out onto the internet at all.  That gets rid of 99% of your security concerns.

So one of the services we provide is an end-to-end connection between the cloud and the device.  We have no need to branch off into the internet, so there’s not need to use security protocols.  What we’re effectively providing there is a private network.

Of course, we also focusing on firewall services too.  Certainly device encryption will continue to be an issue, but again we look at from a carrier perspective and see ways we can make the device secure without the need to invest heavily in security services.

Often we know the customers will choose a combination of both network security plus device security.  And this gives them multiple layers of protection.

Craig, thank you for this wonderful snapshot of global IoT challenges and opportunities.  And the picture you paint is one of great potential and blue skies on the horizon.

Thanks, Dan.  IoT is indeed exciting and there are thousands of use cases, but they are built around a strong telecommunications theme.

But you also need to build these networks and deliver the service in a way that’s cost-effective and low latency and meets customer requirements.  So that’s causing a lot of new developments or re-thinking of ways to provision services into the marketplace.

One of the things I see as particularly important is that 5G will turn telcos into IT companies.  The same goes for the MNOs.  Going forward, IoT is an IT service — a really core IT service.

And all of this reminds of my early days at IBM.  The good thing about IBM is they put a heavy emphasis on training and making sure you were equipped with the right technology knowledge, the right concepts, and they really set you up to think like an IT person.

So I’m discovering what I learned early in my career is actually very relevant day — certainly on the software side and how it comes together.  Their technology training stands the test of time because I use those concepts daily.

One last question: how do you keep yourself updated on developments in IoT and the market?

Well, I probably spend most of my lunch hours reading white papers.  Being a lawyer, I like to read what’s happening.  I read what my competitors are doing as well.

Craig price large portrait

White papers are infomercials, and if you’re like me, you read so many that you soon notice how they repeat themselves.  Yet in each white paper, there’s often a little gem of new information you haven’t seen before.

At the same time, because you know the content reasonably well, your brain starts to absorb what you’re reading.  Then as the real world examples hit you — through the sales teams and your partners — you can begin to mesh the white paper concepts with what’s happening in the real world, so you create your own view of how it all fits together.

Then you see what your competitors are doing, and that gives you a feeling of comfort.  What I mean by that is: you come up with an idea and since there’s a lot of smart people in the world, it’s reassuring to find them following a similar path.  So when they happens, you understand your choices were not so “insane” after all.

I’m also blessed and continue to learn from the very good people who work for me.  My people are all quite senior.  They been around a while.  They know their stuff and are very smart.

It’s sad that I now consider someone in their 40’s as young now, but senior people are all technologists.  They lived in the early days of the PC, Unix vs. proprietary issues, and the rise of GSMA services.

I’m still fascinated by the technology, but I’m more interested in the technology journey — where the technology is currently taking us and what it enables.

Now in terms of IoT elements, there’s a lot of smart people developing those applications.  Will we ever be as clever as that?  Maybe never, but our mission is to deliver the requirements and level of service needed to achieve the right outcome.

And that prompts the biggest strategic question I ask daily: what are the core services I need to provide to enable it all.

Copyright 2021 Black Swan Telecom Journal

Craig Price

Craig Price

Craig is the Senior Vice President heading up the Mobility Products and Marketing team for PCCW Global, which is an affiliate of HKT, and is part of the PCCW Group.  That team is responsible for mobility products including IPX, A2P, IoT and MVNE/MVNO Solutions.

He has 36 years of professional, management and senior management experience in the IT and Telecom industries working for blue chip IT companies and Telcos such as IBM, Cable and Wireless and SingTel/Optus, and various other telecom companies and joint ventures with expertise in:
  • Developing strategic business plans, organisational and operational plans and leading the implementation of those plans.
  • Leading sales/business development, marketing teams, customer delivery, product management and development teams and solutions consultancy teams.
  • Developing and managing various start-ups and driving organisational change in various other telecom companies.
  • Country management and CXO experience in Middle East, Australia & Oceania and South East Asia.

His education and professional qualifications are:
  • BEc (Bachelor of Economics) Sydney University
  • LLB (Bachelor of Laws) Sydney University
  • Barrister (Admitted 1984) Solicitor (Admitted 1987) New South Wales Supreme Court.
  • Member Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD)
  • Member of the Hong Kong Institute of Company Directors (HKIoD)
  • Vice Chair of Innovation and Technology Committee of the Australian Chamber of Commerce (Hong Kong and Macau)
  • MIT Sloan School of Management certificate in Block Chain technologies

Contact Craig via

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