It’s always fascinating to get a sense of the global conversation around connectivity – so it’s been a great few days at International Telecoms Week (ITW) in Atlanta, mingling with delegates from around the world. It’s the key event of the year for the industry to compare notes and learn about the vision of our shared future.

As you might expect, there’s been plenty of talk around AI and the IoT – and of course 5G. But rather than focusing on what these technologies can do, there’s been more emphasis on exactly how we’re going to deliver them.

Because, as exciting as the use cases are, we won’t be able to unlock the potential of AI and IoT if we can’t nail down the delivery of 5G.

We’ve seen ample conversations around the requirement for high capacity fibre backhaul, and all the attendant investment and infrastructure needed to make it a robust reality. But there’s also been an interesting shift in attitudes…

The need for strategic collaboration has never been greater

A theme that’s emerged strongly is the importance of forging strategic alliances.

At SSE Enterprise Telecoms, we’ve long believed that working together is the only way to deliver next generation connectivity – so I was glad to see that collaboration, not competition, seemed to be the order of the day at ITW.

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After all, delivering 5G – and meeting global demand for data more generally – will require significant investment and sharing of resources. The telecoms community is realising that no single organisation can provide this.

This is a viewpoint that’s coming from the very top, with even the biggest global carriers admitting they just cannot do it alone.

If we’re going to thrive and achieve our objectives, we need to prioritise strategic convergence.

Innovation abounds in subsea cabling

Discussions around subsea connectivity were extremely well attended. You can rely on the subsea consortiums to have their finger on the pulse of global connectivity demand, so I thought it was particularly interesting to hear that many are hard at work increasing the capacity of their assets.

We often talk about ‘the world’s growing demand for data’, but the fact subsea consortiums are working to almost double capacity (from 24 to 40 terabits, in some cases) should stand as a proof point to the urgency of this issue.

Beyond that, I was excited to encounter truly innovative thinking from the subsea space. Where once content providers relied on buying cable from the subsea consortiums, it seems they’re increasingly taking matters into their own hands and investing in private deployment.

With that comes the ability for content providers to select their own landing stations, meaning they can essentially run subsea cables directly to their chosen data centres. This can provide the sort of low latency, high capacity connectivity that’s so crucial to powering 5G, and in turn, AI and the IoT.

The opportunity here is huge. We’ve personally spoken with carriers and content providers, for example, who are looking at using very smart optics to run  cables over the North of Scotland and into Northwest Europe. By connecting these cables to data centres in Scotland, they can provide more robust connectivity and even help to meet the needs of Scotland’s huge renewable energy market.

Again, collaboration is key here. From SSE Enterprise Telecom’s point of view, our current strategy already involves network investment in strategic locations, particularly where data centres are concerned – looking to future possibilities, the industry must draw on its collective strengths to provide more resilient, diverse connectivity.

In with the new

My key takeaways from ITW? We all need to embrace the ecosystem of collaboration, and be prepared to do things a little differently in order to work more effectively.

We’re standing on the precipice of a hugely exciting time for connectivity, but to thrive in this new world, we have to welcome in fresh ways of working.

Fortunately, the signs from ITW suggest that the global telecoms industry is ready to do just that.