ACC2018: Carriers aim to turn vision into action by 2020

2020 ACC
Image credit: SNEHIT /

The Asian Carriers Conference returns to Cebu in a couple of weeks, and this year’s plenary looks ahead to the new decade as the carrier industry works to transform recent visions of 2020 into actionable reality. ACCI chair Katrina “Kat” Luna-Abelarde explains to Disruptive.Asia editor in chief John C Tanner the opportunities and challenges that 2020 will bring, the technology trends that will underpin both, and what delegates can expect to learn from this year’s keynote headliners.

kat luna abelarde
Katrina “Kat” Luna-Abelarde, ACCI chair and president / CEO of PLDT Global

Disruptive.Asia: This year’s theme is “Eyes on 2020: Turning Vision into Action”. What vision do you have in mind?

Kat Luna-Abelarde: We feel that the turn of the new decade, barely two years from now, will be a defining moment for the technology and infrastructure industry at large. Disruption has challenged companies to redefine their vision and complementing strategies, and we find ourselves at a point where the ability to execute matters the most.

For the carrier and wholesale community, there are many opportunities to transform our conventional  partnership principles into one that is fitting to today’s environment – open to new technologies, partners and business models. Generally, we are see a lot of interest for telcos around security, FinTech, AI, IoT and building the foundation for smart cities.

What are the challenges carriers face in turning that vision into action?

Not just for telcos but for corporate monoliths – the main challenges have been two-pronged: financial and commercial. One part is preserving the highly profitable balance sheet while investing on innovation, the other is providing what the customers need today and adopting new technologies that will cater to their future needs. We call it the “Innovator’s Dilemma”. I also believe that culture is an underlying key challenge.

This year’s ACC headliners once again features industry outsiders – Uri Levine of Waze and Pawoot “Pom” Pongvitayapanu of What can delegates expect to learn from them?

Waze has changed the lives of almost everybody who uses it. We are pleased to have Uri Levine talk about disruption and entrepreneurship, and share the power of a clear, specific pain point and a simple, uncluttered UX. Pom will share trends from the e-commerce space, how online and offline interact, and how e-commerce has reached its tipping point fueled by social commerce.

We have called together these two visionaries in business and technology on the conference stage to share their knowledge and experience on how to shape and transform the industry to the next level. Both have proven, time and again, that bright ideas could be turned into reality.

Last year at ACC, blockchain was just starting to stir interest in the carrier community as a possible settlements mechanism –now we’re seeing actual trials. Is blockchain finally living up to the hype for the wholesale sector, or is it still early days? 

We are clearly past the interest stage and operators are already talking use cases and proofs of concept. However, it seems like other industries may be moving faster than we are. Again, its success is contingent on our collective appetite, readiness and agility as an industry.

On the bright side, Orange, Verizon, du, and Telstra have all invested in blockchain projects and start-ups, and BT and AT&T have filed multiple patents. The SoftBank-led CBSG and PCCW Global – via the GLF – are leading the way on the consortium side. Hopefully, we can pin down more use cases and deliver on the partnership promise, as it will take scale to get these flying.

Aside from blockchain, what technologies/trends do you see having the biggest impact on the carrier business between now and 2020?

I would say that for the next two years, a big advancement into security will happen. The cloud space will expand, and ML and big data will transform into AI and AR. Mobile money and FinTech are ripening, and we will see them going mainstream. A lot of energy will be spent on exciting discussions around 5G roadmaps and the critical role they play as a foundation for the IoT ecosystems.

There’s so much more to be done, and “there is no finish line”, as I always say. Among us carriers, the disruption happening all around points to an even greater call to collaborate, partner, leverage, learn, relearn and reinvent.

As well as chairing ACCI, Kat Luna-Abelarde is first vice president and head of PLDT Group’s International & Carrier Business, and president and CEO of PLDT Global.

Disruptive.Asia is an official media partner of ACC2018, which returns to Cebu from September 4 to September 7. All the details are here. Alternatively, you can click the gratuitous yet tasteful banner to your immediate left.

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