TelecityGroup’s Maurice Mortell – prepare your economy for the digital wireless future (video)

19 Sep 2012

By 2016, more people will be connected wirelessly than via wired technology and the implications for businesses in Ireland already playing catch-up with e-commerce needs to be understood, the managing director of TelecityGroup in Ireland Maurice Mortell says.

TelecityGroup, which acquired Irish data centre group Data Electronics in August last year for €100m, has plans in progress to add an additional 7.5MW of incremental customer power, which will take its total customer capability across its sites to 12.5MW.

TelecityGroup Ireland operates three carrier-neutral data centres in Dublin, with a combined capacity of more than 5,000 sq metres and 5MW of customer available power.

These data centres – which can be accurately described as the engine rooms of e-commerce, cloud computing and the vast array of social networks and entertainment services we take for granted online today – are key international internet hubs and offer access to more than 40 carrier networks and access to INEX, the Dublin internet exchange.

Mortell points out that while for most of us wireless will overtake wired devices by 2016, in reality data centres in which most of our private content and digital media will reside across the world, need to be connected by high-speed fibre networks. Not only that, but the very base stations that will keep us all connected wirelessly need to be connected via fibre networks.

TelecityGroup Ireland MD Maurice Mortell has his finger on the pulse of the changing digital business challenges 

“What we are trying to ensure is the infrastructure – the mobile and fibre connectivity – is able to cater for everything that’s required on the client end.”

The skills race

As an employer in Ireland, Mortell is keen to point out that despite successive jobs announcements in ICT, there are problems filling these roles due to a scarcity of the right skills. For the best part of 10 years, young people went to college to train for areas like property and law which are no longer relevant, instead of engaging in computer science and other areas where demand is currently quite high.

“There is a void there at the moment in that we are not able to cater for the ICT jobs and skills that are currently available in the market. We are having to source them from outside Ireland and I’d include ourselves [TelecityGroup] in that bracket.

“Ireland has made a huge amount of strides, certainly at the third-level side of things, and there’s a real understanding that the void is there. We are seeing cloud initiative from DCU, National College of Ireland, IT Tallaght and others and there are conversion programmes with up to 800 places to bring graduates into the cloud environment. So I think there’s an appreciation there that wasn’t before.”

Mortell says he’s confident that Ireland’s Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, TD, has a handle on the situation but conservatively estimates it could take three to four years for these efforts to pay dividends. “It’s going to take time for it to come to fruition in terms of the kids coming out of schools and coming through university. Now we know where the gaps are we have to spend the time investing in and making sure we have the skills we need to fill the jobs that are out there at the moment.”

Connecting businesses

I point out to Mortell that in terms of the connected consumer, Irish businesses are behind the curve when it comes to reaping the rewards of e-commerce. In the UK, 7pc of GDP comes from the internet economy while only 4pc of GDP in Ireland comes from the internet economy.

“That isn’t bad when you look at the size of the market and the type of economy Ireland has and a comparison with the UK may not be entirely fair.

“But it is a valid point, and if you look at online spending, connectivity and how people are downloading more entertainment content, I would say the internet economy is performing well in places where infrastructure is good.”

Mortell, formerly a board member of the Irish Internet Association, recalls the organisation’s mission was to inform, connect and get as many individuals onto the internet as possible.

“We still struggle for certain businesses to get the benefit of using the internet for the growth of their business. If you look at our dual economy now you’ll see the fallout from that.

“Irish businesses looking for growth will have to look at external markets – the business just isn’t in the local economy. So how do they break into markets outside Ireland where demand for their products and services is expanding?

“The best way to do that is online.”

The new economic opportunities

As a provider of the “engine rooms of e-commerce” Mortell has a bird’s eye view of the shifting landscape in digital media, as well as opportunities in gaming and entertainment.

“Are we missing a trick in some industries? I think we are and if we don’t get in quick enough the opportunities can disappear for another three to four years,” he says, referring to missed opportunities in online gaming and gambling that Ireland has been slow to facilitate from a legal perspective.

“If you look at the digital content industry – online media, video streaming and entertainment – in the next three to four years there is going to be compound annual growth of 12pc a year in each of these industries. Billions of dollars of value will be added to the current value of what’s going on and billions of new people will be connected via mobile devices. Video streaming is predicted to exceed the TV world in the next four years.

“The natural progression will be for the mobile and content guys to go where the huge markets are.

“Can Ireland deliver pockets of that as a base for Europe or globally? Yes, we can.

“We already have some of the biggest players in the world here,” he says referring to Facebook, Google, Amazon and others based in Ireland. “We have the track record, the talent and the tax regime and the IDA are all over this industry at the moment bringing in the jobs.

“But we need to be aware we don’t always win the opportunities. Other countries have cottoned on to this and the race is on to deliver where the real value will be in the next three to four years,” Mortell says.

Ireland’s digital leaders will be joined by international speakers to discuss Ireland’s opportunities and challenges in the age of the connected consumer, at a forum hosted by Silicon Republic on 21 September in Dublin. Digital communications expert Neville Hobson and Wired‘s editor-at-large Ben Hammersley have been confirmed as keynote speakers.

Confirmed panelists include:

  • Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO, Vodafone Ireland
  • Tanya Duncan, CEO, Interxion Ireland
  • Múirne Laffan, managing director, RTÉ Digital
  • Maurice Mortell, MD Ireland, TelecityGroup
  • Colm O’Neill, CEO, BT Ireland
  • Andrew Maybin, network services director, Tibus
  • Daniel Adams, executive director, Communications, Media & Technology, Accenture
  • Anna Scally, partner, KPMG in Ireland

Click here for full details and for keynote and speaker updates.

Highlights from the last Digital Ireland Forum in March can be viewed here.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years