This article was authored by Joseph Waring, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.
Another year and another 1,000+ wholesale executives flock to Cebu to work out bilateral deals on voice and data. Judging from discussions with a number of telcos, that's a lot of voice and a bit of data. A common question when people would meet was "do you handle voice OR data?" So much for convergence. The ACC has quadrupled in size since it was started eight years ago. In that time carriers' methods for working out interconnect agreements, sometimes with more than 100 other telcos, haven't changed much and remain largely manual.
The Cebu shindig isn't a one-off negotiation marathon. The wholesale crowd meets at PTC in Hawaii in January and ITW in Chicago in May -- and many will also be at BARG in Greece next month.
But help apparently is on the way. A handful of carriers have set up the Global Business Exchange for Telecom, or GBET, which held a workshop on Wednesday. The founding members are Verizon, TeliaSonera, Deutsche Telekom, PCCW, iBasis and Telarix.
The association's goal is simple: improve back-office efficiency by automating the currently cumbersome processes of working out agreements and getting signoffs. The first step is setting standards. GBET aims to announce a contract management support system at ITW next May.
GBET chairman Margaret Morosi, who is with Deutsche Telekom, said that addressing these pain points will be a lengthy process but "a new approach to old problems" is essential as the exchange of data between carriers has become increasingly complex and costly.
Verizon's Henrik Liungman said that the telecom industry "has a ways to go in its level of maturity in streamlining processes. The banking industry has SWIFT for international transactions." He noted that no one could imagine banks handling these manually.
Let's see if by next year, the initiative has an impact on turnout as electronic exchange cuts into face-to-face interaction.
With carriers tied down in back-to-back meetings almost all week, Telecom Asia was severely challenged in setting up interviews. One executive said he's been here six times and has yet to set foot on the beach.