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“Identity-based architecture is a key internet precept,” says YTL

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We speak to Wing Lee, CEO of Malaysian communications provider YTL, which won this year’s Broadband InfoVision Award for ‘Best New Service’ for its new Yes 4G network.

Can you tell us a little more about your entry?

Backed by the financial strength of the YTL Group, YTL Communications designed and launched ‘Yes’ – the most advanced, nationwide, converged 4G network in the world – in November 2010. YTL Communications is the first operator in the world to commercially launch a converged 4G network on a national scale.

Our service is unique in three ways:

– A nationwide footprint at launch covering more than 65 per cent of the country’s population.

– A flat-IP network architecture with full Quality-of-Service support from mobile terminal, wireless infrastructure to the IP core, that gives users unmatched performance and cost savings by bringing together mobile broadband, mobile IP telephony (we have deployed a complete IMS stack with full voice and SMS interconnect with domestic and international operators) and cloud-based application and content services, all via the elegance of a single account.

– The use of an identity-based architecture that enables that same User-ID to be used concurrently across the world’s broadest range of 4G devices. Not only our customers are able to choose their favourite User ID, they are also given a fully routable mobile number. The end result is a fully converged services where the same ID or mobile number can be used by the customers to interface with the Internet world AND the telephony world.

Additionally, we have also implemented advance IP telephony services where the same number can be use across multiple devices concurrently for in-bound or out-bound services. This has enabled a highly convenient and elegant experience where a single number can be used to reach our customers – whether they are at home, on the go, or at the office. Additionally, our IP telephony service works with any Internet connection, thereby extending the convenience to travel with the customer wherever she goes.

Identity-based architecture is a key Internet precept. We engineered our network to be identity-driven, where every account is defined by a single user ID (the Yes ID) that comes with a mobile telephone number plus a set of cloud-based services such as push email (where the Yes ID also serves as the email address), SyncML-based synchronised address book and location-based content services, as a start.

What recent industry developments does your winning entry specifically address?

Beyond providing new ways of connectivity for those using traditional computing devices such as PC’s and laptops, we are fully addressing the changing needs of the post-PC era user. Internet is an IP-based world. And IP is cross-border. The Yes ID concept elegantly support this cross border, cross-device age we are in. Coupled with the mega-trend of cloud-based services, we will help customers get to their favourite content and applications wherever they are.

But “post-PC”s is not just about smartphones and tablets. We are deploying our technology to support machine-to-machine applications and using our expansive wireless network to provide Internet connectivity on public transits. We see the world based on the vision of “Internet like air”.

Also, our innovation pricing model also lead the way to enable convergence. In our price plan, we charge based on data tonnage, voice minutes and SMS using a single service plan that works across devices. And we have created a usage-based pricing model to support that. The end result is that the customer gets to save money from having only one account across all products, and they only pay for what they actually use – much like a utility bill.

What plans do you have to improve it in the coming months?

While we have the largest 4G footprint in Malaysia covering 65 per cent of population, we will further expand our network from the current count of 2,000 base stations to 2,500 base station by year end. We will reach close to 4,000 base stations by the end of next year. All these activities will ensure that we continue to extend the reach of mobile Internet and our innovations to more and more people to enable life changing opportunities.

We’re also working toward the launch of the world’s first converged 4G smartphone that supports 4G and legacy GSM/2G/3G. While in Malaysia, customers can use 4G solely for both mobile Internet and mobile telephony. As they travel, they can easily switch mode to any legacy networks using the built-in SIM slot. With the phone and SMS modules we built ourselves, this Android-based smartphone will feature deep integration with our IMS to deliver advanced IP telephony functions include multi-way video call and a cloud-synchronised address book.

We are still working on other existing new concepts, but let us to keep mum on those for now.

What changes do you believe are ahead for the broadband industry as a whole?

The next big shift will come in the form of what you can do (applications and services) and what you do it with (mobile Internet-enabled devices). Broadband as a plain data pipe is a downward spiral. The next generation players must aspire to the vision of providing “smart pipes”.

Granted, there are certain factors that many 3G operators must fix before aspiring to this vision, such as the unsustainable surge in demand for bandwidth from smartphone and tablets. So I truly have empathy for them. But given that we had a clean slate and started with a pure-breed converged 4G footprint, it is our calling to show how 4G network is more than a fast pipe, it is one that enables new innovations.

The “smartness” could come in may ways – from using context awareness to improve service delivery to machine-to-machine type opportunities – all it takes is for us to have the curiosity and courage to ask “why not?”.

What do you see as being the biggest single challenge to the broadband industry in the next few years, and why?

The biggest challenge for operator currently is to make the switch from a telephony-dependent business model to an IP-based business model. Operators around the world have been slow to embrace the Internet and the onslaught of mobile data demand. Many of them are still very happy with the fat margin from the traditional circuit switch business of mobile voice. But we all know these days are numbered.

We know fighting the legacy mindset internally is hard. But it is better for one to initiate disruption from within than to be disputed involuntarily. The sea change in user habit is around all of us.

How do you think the industry should start preparing to meet this challenge?

Transitioning to 4G technology is a critical step as there is not much headroom left for 3G to scale to meet user needs, but it is equally important to ensure that the business model is correct.

How does being named for this award benefit your business?

It is a fantastic honour and validation for us as an innovator on the global stage. We hope to draw attention to the new model of mobile Internet innovation we are doing here in Malaysia and the paradigm shift we have embarked on. We also hope to share our real world experience to help like-minded industry peers advance further. Together, we can use mobile Internet as a platform to unleash human potential from economies of all scale.

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This year’s Broadband InfoVision Awards were announced during a gala dinner held aboard a river cruise in Paris on September 27th, 2011. For a complete list of winners, please click here


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