‘Wholesale telecoms is not about networks or technology – it’s about people’

27 Mar 2020

John Gilvarry. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Enet’s John Gilvarry discusses connectivity, cloud-enabled services and how tech can change the future of commuting.

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John Gilvarry is the newly appointed chief technology officer of Irish wholesale, open-access network provider Enet. The company works with more than 80 retail service providers, including Vodafone, Imagine and Three Ireland, to bring broadband and wireless to more than 1m users across the country.

Gilvarry, who is now leading Enet’s tech strategy, has more than two decades of experience in the telecoms industry, having held roles at Digicel, O2, Vilicom, Meteor and Hutchison.

‘The availability of reliable telecoms infrastructure is a key success factor for the growth of the wider tech sector’

Describe your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

As Enet’s chief technology officer, a core responsibility of my role is directing the company’s technical strategy – particularly based around engineering, vendor and platform choices. I’m also responsible for strategic projects that support ongoing business transformation and our wider development objectives.

While there’s always a big focus on the technology, we’re also a very customer-focused business, so my role is to ensure we have the right tech strategy in place to deliver that for our customers. My focus is on ensuring that we have systems and processes throughout engineering, IT, service delivery and network operations that deliver high levels of flexibility, but that are backed up by rigorous testing, short lead times and high-touch customer service management.

Are you spearheading any major initiatives you can tell us about?

We are continuing to develop an automated wholesale aggregation platform. This cloud-based, secure and scalable solution connects small and large service providers across both wholesale and retail services to a range of different network and access technologies. It is an impressive tool that is capable of efficiently combining qualification, provisioning, billing, ticketing and life-cycle management, and is a key component of our overall digital strategy.

The platform, Enet Connect, and the significant commercial deals that underpin it, mean that, for the first time in Ireland, our own proprietary infrastructure and that of third parties are available through one simple portal.

On the back of our investment, Enet customers, be they small regional players or large multinationals, can compete on an even footing and have access to the same high-quality national fibre infrastructure. It’s also good for the broadband market as a whole – driving further competition by giving more retail service providers access to gigabit connectivity.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Across the telecoms industry, the biggest challenges are increased competition, the rising costs of infrastructure development and increased labour costs. For us, building successful infrastructure is about assembling an experienced team who have done it before and systemising as much as possible, with meticulous planning and tight management of the execution. 

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Digital transformation must have a real purpose. At Enet, we try to ensure that any digital transformation will drive real change in operations and ultimately manifest a value for our customers.

A vital consideration in any digital transformation project is the people. In reality, wholesale telecommunications is not about networks or technology – it’s about people. There is a real focus on developing the existing team and then recruiting and partnering when we need to. For us, the three things that matter are commitment, talent and experience – in that order.

An organisation comprised of people who are genuinely committed to a vision and who apply their talents to it will always do well – and that includes digital transformation projects. In Enet, we are lucky to have the core talent upon which we are building our digital transformation agenda.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and the comms industry specifically?

Undoubtedly the proliferation of cloud-enabled services is a major driver for changing trends. The OTT players are leveraging these technologies and traditional comms infrastructure to make available novel services. This, combined with the enablement of digital rather than traditional channels, has fundamentally changed the telecoms industry.

Despite the threats these new service models have posed, the availability of ubiquitous, reliable telecoms infrastructure is a key success factor for the growth of the wider tech sector. The need for collaboration between the comms sector and the wider tech industry is now greater than ever. 

What could the future hold in terms of connectivity and smart cities?

In the next few years, the telecoms industry will have dramatically improved connectivity – whether that be with fibre to the home or with 4G/5G mobile small cells supporting a true internet of things.

This kind of environment will likely see the rapid emergence of disruptive technology companies, and it will be a game-changer in how we interact with the world around us. For example, the rise of AI, connected sensors and mobile payments will facilitate the rise of car-sharing services, autonomous driving, smart parking solutions and greater on-board safety in both cars and public transport.

All of this will change how we commute and should mean increased mobility for commuters, less time wasted due to congestion and consequently reduced carbon emissions.

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