TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia 2018: CenturyLink Strengthens Asia-Pacific Business

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

  • CenturyLink expands and enhances its portfolio in Asia-Pacific to challenge other carriers and grab the growing opportunity.
  • However, there are still gaps with its competitors, especially in portfolio and presence in the region.

At the TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia 2018 in Malaysia earlier this month, CenturyLink shared its direction to strengthen its presence and expand the business in Asia-Pacific. The move is in line with its global expansion strategy announced this year at its annual Analyst Forum. In Asia-Pacific, CenturyLink has over 2,000 employees, on-net presence in 12 countries and sales presence in six key markets (i.e., Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore). With the existing resources in the region, the carrier plays to its strength by focusing on inbound MNCs as well as Asian-based enterprises expanding beyond the region. It focuses in certain verticals, including OTT/content, media, entertainment, financial services, energy and utilities, retail and manufacturing sectors.

CenturyLink has been closing the gap between its offerings in the US and the international markets by enhancing its global portfolio. Last month, it expanded its Versa-based SD-WAN services to 30 new countries, including seven in Asia-Pacific, and it plans to add another 25 globally in 2019. CenturyLink has added Cisco SD-WAN (Viptela) into its SD-WAN vendor list. While the option is currently only available in the U.S. market, the carrier plans to offer it globally next year. Other carriers have been offering at least two vendor options for their SD-WAN services to cater to the dynamic demands from the diverse enterprise market. In the same month, CenturyLink also launched software-defined interconnect services, branded as ‘Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections,’ to offer real-time, on-demand network connections between branches, data centres and cloud, while adding more players in its interconnect partner list. Its current partners include Amazon; Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM will be added next year. The carrier is also currently integrating its underlying infrastructure with the recently acquired Level 3 to offer wider coverage and more reliable network services globally. Apart from networking, the carrier announced to open a new (eighth) SOC in Singapore to strengthen its managed security services delivery in the region.

New technologies such as SDN/NFV are blurring the line between network and other ICT services (e.g., cloud, security, UC&C) and driving the demand for integrated services. Software-defined platforms are becoming a standard offering by carriers and a key differentiator for providers today for efficient management across different services; examples include NTT Communications’ SDx+M, Singtel’s Liquid Infrastructure and Telstra’s CloudSight. CenturyLink has its Cloud Application Manager. While it is currently positioned for a multi-cloud strategy, the carrier is enhancing the platform to add integration with network and other ICT services to offer greater flexibility to its customers. CenturyLink is also adopting technologies such as analytics and open APIs in its portal to enhance service management and customer experience. It also offers a list of virtual network function (VNF) services.

CenturyLink’s direction to expand internationally will close its gap with other global/regional carriers. The move poses a threat to the Asian carriers, especially in the outbound segment (Asian MNCs expanding into the US, Europe and/or Latin America). CenturyLink has a stronger on-net network to address the segment, particularly in the US, Europe and Latin America, compared to the other Asian carriers. While the carrier is expanding its global offerings and closing the gap with what is offered in the US market, its current portfolio in Asia-Pacific, especially around UC&C, security and IoT, is still limited compared to other providers in the region. This makes it challenging for CenturyLink to address enterprises looking for a one-stop provider. CenturyLink should also consider expanding its sales presence to more countries – for example, in Southeast Asia – to complement its existing presence in the region as well as to address the growing number of Asian-based MNCs. Its presence in the six key Asian countries is strategic, but these six markets are already crowded with various global, regional and domestic providers. These markets are led by the incumbent carriers, such as Telstra in Australia, Singtel in Singapore, NTT Communications in Japan, PCCW in Hong Kong and Tata Communications in India.

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