In departure from its DNA, opens APIs to 3rd party developers
Better to enable others, be part of ecosystem, says CTO
TO the roughly 200 participants in last month’s AngelHack event, being offered application-programming interfaces (APIs) to the Telekom Malaysia (TM) network was probably not a big deal, but to TM it was a giant leap forward in breaking its old mindset.
This was a mindset rooted in its days as the monopoly voice and telecommunications provider, giving TM the belief, some say arrogance, that it could provide any service by itself without the need to work with partners.
But Giorgio Migliarina, its Italian chief technology and innovation officer for the past five years, begs to differ.
“We have moved [in mindset] and become much more attuned than before. It is much better to enable others and be part of the ecosystem than to try and do everything yourself. We do not have a monopoly of good ideas,” he admits.
Indeed, in TM’s quest to transform itself into a full-suite services provider, Giorgio recognises the need for it to be humble and open to learning from others. He cites providing third party developers at the AngelHack hackathon with APIs as an example of its willingness to do so.
“This is something we have never done before and is a departure from our historical DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), but we recognise that it is in our interest to open up to third-party developers and tap new ideas. Our objective is to be enablers, where anyone with a good idea is welcome to work with us,” he says.
Such open-mindedness from a senior TM executive will come as a breath of fresh air, especially to those in the mobile space, who can only hope it extends to them too.
For while TM is open to collaborating and learning on the software applications front, when it comes to the fibre network side of things, the telco giant is known to drive hard bargains, sometimes too hard to swallow.
For instance, Celcom Axiata and DiGi Telecommunications are currently building their own fibre network, each from one end of the country, to be joined in the middle. The reason for this? TM wanted to charge them too high a price to lease its network.
As a result, the two mobile operators are building a fibre network that costs around 20% less per kilometre to build than what TM wanted to charge them.
While mindset may not have changed much in the infrastructure business, as TM gears itself to earn more revenue from services, this open and collaborative mindset and sense of humbleness is certainly critical.
Exciting potential in Internet of Things
Migliarina (pic) meanwhile, feels that much of the excitement and potential for its services business will come out from the Internet of Things (IoT) trend.
He points to its recent move to establish a joint venture with UEM Sunrise and Iskandar Innovations to offer and operate smart services in Nusajaya as a harbinger of things to come. TM owns 51% in the venture with Sunrise at 39% and Iskandar Innovations at 10%.
But the opportunity is not just in greenfield sites like in Iskandar. He shares news of how TM can learn from established European cities that are retrofitting their roads and infrastructure to deliver IoT services.
Another huge advantage TM has in being more open about its approach to building its smart services business is that fact that, “we do not have a legacy business to protect,” notes Migliarina.
As a result, TM has much more flexibility in choosing the right platform on which to build this business on. Whatever platform chosen will be an open one that will easily allow various services to sit on it and be delivered to customers.
The search for the right platform sees TM looking at some Malaysian companies and some from overseas. Right now, a TM team is in Europe looking at some companies, which have interesting platforms that TM may consider. “But we need to make a decision quite soon,” he shares.
Meanwhile, Migliarina even sees fleet management as an area TM can play in, describing it as a “sweet spot.”
And when challenged that this would seem to be a service better delivered by mobile service providers, he shoots back: “What is fixed? What is mobile? I find the split very confusing.”
Declaring that the distinction between the two is becoming blurred, he argues that TM has to ensure that it delivers effective connectivity, hence its investment into Packet One International Sdn Bhd (P1).
“At the end of the day, it is not about mobility versus fixed. Wireless access is here to stay but it will be multimodal – WiFi, WiMAX, LTE or anything else with the devices intelligent enough to switch from one to another,” he adds.
And with TM able to offer connectivity services through all these platforms, it is not hard to share Migliarina's excitement over the potential of its services business.
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