Unofficial Notes from PTC-23

Pacific Telecommunications Counsil Conference 2023 - Unofficial Notes (Full Version - 44 pages) Here



One veteran consultant declared, “The PTC conference is the Davos of the telecom sector! Attendees have lots of honest unplanned conversations about a range of topics.” While that may be a slightly generous take, the PTC conference always features an exceptional give and take between segments of the communications sector that often operate in silos.

Like news reports from Davos, most executive at PTC cautious about the global economic outlook, expecting a recession or at least lull in the market. Companies have had challenges with inflation, rising interest rates, and lingering supply chain challenges. Executive emphasized, where possible, their companies’ strong cash positions and other factors allowing them to ride out the economic cycle.

Regulation, consolidation, ESG and latency were central intertwined themes. Its clear senior executives have taken environmental responsibilities seriously. Several executives indicated that for data centers, having a zero-carbon plan was “table stakes” – needed to even be considered by major customers. Zero carbon policies, especially if considering the supply chain, require deep reviews of internal operations, those of suppliers and investment in new technologies, often forcing consolidation. Data centers expect significant growth and pressure to build closes to the edge to reduce latency. However, planned data centers are face increasing permitting challenges and pressure to minimize their impact on local communities (noise, electric use, water use, etc.). Undersee cable projects are proceeding, including a major replacement cycle for fiber laid ~20 year ago in the turn of the century TMT bubble. However, many of these projects are being delayed by increasingly difficult international permitting processes, often based on conservation principles. Undersee cable permitting is expected to become more difficult, particularly in Latin America with the rise of several left-wing governments.

Mobile operators are rapidly deploying 5G internationally, with over 170 systems operational globally - the fastest rollout of any of the wireless technologies to date. Expanding business models to serve fixed locations, managing expanding data demand, and digital inclusion were sub themes. Notably, the major wireless operators were not in attendance.

The role of satellite is evolving. New Very High Throughput Satellites (“VHTS”), e.g., ViaSat-3 and Non-Geostationary Satellite (“NGSO”) systems such as Starlink, portend to expand satellite’s role as an increasingly cost-effective alternative in hard to provision areas. NGSO systems will also reduce the traditional satellite latency issue. However, here again the issue of regulation arises with many governments in areas which might benefit the most from satellite, adding increasingly onerous requirements for market access.

Note: Multiple sessions were running simultaneously, so I was not able to summarize all of them.