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"We expect to grow with the OTT ecosystem in India" - Verizon Digital's Kyle Okamoto

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The $132.1 billion US telecom giant Verizon Communications provides communications and entertainment services over mobile broadband and the US’ premiere all-fiber network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide. More than that that it operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 113.2 million retail connections nationwide.

In his letter to shareholders in the latest annual report Verizon chairman & CEO Lowell McAdam wrote: “Our strategy for continued growth  and profitability is straightforward:  deliver great wireless and wireline  services over our superior networks, develop new business models in platforms such as video and the Internet of Things, and create incremental revenue opportunities in applications and  content.”

And that’s exactly what its offshoot Verizon Digital Media Services, the next-generation digital media platform,  sought to do when it announced a partnership with Bharti Airtel Limited India’s largest telecommunications services provider. The partnership saw it launch points of presence (PoPs) in four cities in India: Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and New Delhi, marking Verizon’s significant investment into expanding throughout the country, leveraging Airtel’s digital infrastructure as a gateway to India.

Indiantelevision.com had a conversation with Verizon Digital Media Services VP of Technology, Kyle Okamoto, on what this partnership means, what it entails, and how Verizon will foray further into India.

Excerpts:

Why did you have to set up the four POPs in India? Why not three or two? And what is exciting you about the country? And what did you have to innovate on while setting up the POPs in India?

We care about quality and performance. Given the infrastructure and network topology of India, only one or two or three POPs would not achieve the levels of performance that we want to provide to our customers.  The country is important to our customers and growing quickly. Innovation was mainly around performance optimizations regarding network routing utilizing Any case, in addition to the specific SSDs we used to maximize our cache efficiency for better quality.

We want to be among the top three CDNs in India and for that we needed to invest. Which we have done.

How much of an investment has gone in - into hardware and software?

Millions. There was investment from a capital perspective, operational perspective, the data centre and in hardware  and software.  We had to do everything navigating keeping India’s infrastructure in mind.

Over what period of time were the POPs set up? And who did the design, engineering and setting up? Who's maintaining the POP now?

Months of time was spent working out the arrangement with Airtel, while the physical provisioning of the POPs only took a couple of weeks. We did the design and engineering and worked with Airtel on the installation, configuration , testing and optimization.  Our engineers made multiple trips. And on the initial deployment which included the unboxing of the hardware and cabling.  Verizon Digital Media Serivces and Airtel work together on the maintenance and monitoring in terms of data center and network. Ours is a collaborative partnership.

What does your partnership with Airtel entail from both sides? And what does it allow each of you to do? Airtel can sell your services to other content companies? Your other solutions?

Verizon Digital Media Serivces and Airtel work together on the maintenance and monitoring in terms of data center and network. The four PoP installations mark Verizon Digital Media Services’ significant investment into expanding throughout the country, leveraging Airtel’s digital infrastructure as a gateway to India. This partnership will ensure that content on the Verizon Digital Media Services platform can be accessed by digital media consumers in a fast, seamless and reliable way and will improve the experience for users in India.

The launch of these strategic PoPs marks the beginning of a strong partnership between Verizon and Airtel Business and further cements our commitment to providing consumers in India, one of the fastest-growing markets for digital media consumption, with exceptional services and quality. This also allows us to offer amazing quality to our customers and to the consumers in India.  Airtel enjoys network efficiencies, improved quality, lowered costs and the ability to monetize content traffic.

And yes, we can have conversations with each other on sales too. If a customer comes to us to work in India, we can forward them to Airtel and likewise.

What kind of capacity have you built up through your POPs? How much of it is being utilised?

We have built a significant amount of capacity to serve our customers and have prepared for a significant amount of growth. Additionally, we have built our POPs to handle very large customer spikes without affecting any other customers, i.e. gaming or live events or sports or software downloads. We have overbuilt significantly as India is a fast growing market and we wanted to prepare for the future. We are currently using only 2-5 per cent of the capacity we have built so far.

What benefits have the Verizon-AOL/Yahoo acquisitions brought to the company and how will Yahoo's presence in India benefit you?

As Verizon chairman &  CEO Lowell McAdam had previously mentioned, the AOL acquisition enhances Verizon’s strategy of providing a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers. The Yahoo acquisition will put Verizon in a highly competitive position as a top global mobile media company, while also helping to accelerate a revenue stream in digital advertising.  It also enables a wider stack and set of services to our digital media customers enabling creative monetization opportunities.

How do you see your presence in India evolving?

We expect to grow with our customers as they continue to offer amazing OTT experiences to their consumers.

Will we see you offering your OTT end to end solutions in India? Do you see opportunity in this space in India?

We already offer our customers a wide array of digital media solutions including our end-to-end Video Lifecycle Solution that covers the entire supply chain from content to consumer monetization. We do see India as a source of growth moving forward as more and more companies move to OTT and as infrastructure continues to improve. We also have a solution which allows us to build an OTT app in three days for our clients; and we have always met that challenge.

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