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As the Chief Growth Officer at Bankai Group and member of the Pacific Telecommunications Council Organization (PTC), Nakul Rege is responsible for successfully expanding the Group's footprint globally across all segments – wholesale, retail and technology solutions. Telecom Review explores PTC’s vast influence on the ICT sector and what this means for the future of telecoms in the Pacific Rim.
For the benefit of our readers, could you please explain the organization’s role within the industry and how it has benefitted its subscribers?
The Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) is a global non-profit membership organization promoting the advancement of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the Pacific Rim, including Pacific islands, through collaboration, knowledge, and outreach. PTC is led by a Board of Governors and an Advisory Council, both comprising of global executives in the telecom, academia, and other ICT industries.
I first attended PTC’s annual conference in 1992. I found it gave all operators and carriers working with Pacific region operators an opportunity to meet and negotiate with senior executives in a less formal setting, to get to know them better and to set the course of action at the start of the business plan year.
You are always learning something new at each PTC annual conference, meeting new faces and it helps you keep in touch with developments and changes in the world, particularly in the Pacific area. A few years ago, I decided to serve on the Advisory Council and give back to PTC and share with newer members my experience and knowledge in this field.
Unlike other organizations, funds from PTC annual conferences and membership support research and projects to improve the quality of life in the Pacific Rim. One example is the PTC Academy where experts share their knowledge and experience with young executives from around the globe. Many ‘students’ welcome this opportunity to learn and improve their skills and are able to go back more motivated and it has a positive effect on their fellow colleagues and their organizations as a whole.
Another example is the PTC Young Scholar Program (YSP) and Research Awards that encourage young scholars to submit papers, which are independently reviewed and awards given, with the opportunity to present their research at PTC’s annual conference. This brings in new blood into the telecom and ICT industry.
In addition to its annual global conference, what other events or projects does the PTC get involved in to advance its role in the ecosystem?
Many people think of PTC as simply the January conference but it is a lot more than that. There are various chapters in Japan and India associated with the PTC. Apart from the Academy Young Scholar Program, and Research Awards mentioned earlier, PTC also funds projects that promote the use of telecommunications and ICT to improve the quality of life in the Pacific region.
Additionally, the PTC network continues to expand, as there are individuals involved with subsea cables, data centers, satellite technology as well as the major players these days like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. PTC’s Board of Governors and Advisory Council, with their knowledge and industry experience, work hand-in-hand to provide strategic direction of PTC’s involvement and work in the industry.
In your experience, what do you believe are the advantages of being a member of the PTC?
I have attended every PTC annual conference since 1992 and by being a PTC member, it has enabled me and my colleagues to develop long relationships with people. Knowing your subject matter is important but earning the respect and understanding of people takes a very long time – it is difficult to imagine this developing without my companies (over the years) being members of PTC.
Over time, as you understand the challenges that some of the Pacific Islands face in their day to day operations to communicate with their own people (some countries extend over 1 million square miles across the Pacific), you want to assist them to the best of your abilities. The academy and research studies that the PTC is involved with is only a small step but it is in the right direction.
The telecom and ICT community is very closely knit. Based on my personal experience, once you are in it, you are often associated with it for a long period of time. Your actions are seen by all and communicated by others in different parts of the world. People will also find the need to communicate with each other as long as life exists - there were days of Telex and Telegram, then voice (regulated and unregulated), Internet, now OTTs but more and more people are being brought together as part of the ecosystem.
Membership fees at PTC contribute to the overall growth of activities that the Council can run – it is a non-profit organization. The memberships have been tailored according to company size, university, and individual member capabilities. In addition, if there are specific topics or areas that members would like to be addressed, PTC welcomes the feedback and insights on new ideas and initiatives.
Do you have any future plans in the pipeline for the PTC?
Some of the steps that the council has recently taken is to expand the Board of Governors categories to Middle East and Africa regions and encourage global participation and not just restrict the area of coverage to the Pacific Rim/Asia regions.
The PTC Job Board is a recent PTC Member benefit that has been set up to allow members to post job vacancies that are available for the general public to view and apply. The PTC Academy was being held once or twice a year, and in 2020 is now expected to be held four times.
All these actions have been based on member feedback but the core mission and objectives of PTC remain. I am sure as the participation of the OTTs increases, it is expected that they will also make some changes based on their outlook. New contributing members and fresh ideas are therefore important for the long term success of PTC, their members and the Pacific region.
The European Commission has accused Facebook of providing them with false and misleading information in relation to its takeover of WhatsApp in 2014. At the time of the proposed takeover, the European Commission queried the social media giants on the topic of data sharing. Facebook insisted at the time of the takeover that it would be unable to establish automated matching between users ID’s on its social media platform with those on WhatsApp.
However, the European Commission has highlighted the latest update available to users on WhatsApp, which opens up the possibility of linking WhatsApp phone numbers with Facebook user ID’s. The European Commission believes this illustrates that the technology was available to do this when they bought WhatsApp two years ago.
The European Commission has stated on record that it has taken the ‘preliminary view’ that Facebook knew this technology was available to do this in 2014, but withheld the information from the EC in order to complete the takeover and avoid the thorny issue of data sharing and data protection.
The European Commission released the following statement, “Contrary to Facebook’s statements and reply during the merger review, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook users’ IDs with WhatsApp users’ IDs already existed in 2014. At this stage, the Commission therefore has concerns that Facebook intentionally, or negligently, submitted incorrect or misleading information to the Commission, in breach of its obligations under the EU Merger Regulation.”
The European Commission has given Facebook until January 31st to respond to the accusations aimed at them.
The EC’s accusations come days after EU advisory group. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29) raised further doubts on WhatsApp’s claim to have paused data sharing within the EU. In a letter to the company last week, the WP29 demanded “precise clarification” on how WhatsApp shares customer data within the region, adding it remains concerned “data exchange does still take place between WhatsApp and Facebook for purposes other than improving Facebook products and advertising experiences.”
The company in November said it paused data sharing on EU customers. In response, the working group requested further confirmation on this point and requested “comprehensive information” on how the company proposes using customer data going forward.
The WP29 launched an investigation into Facebook’s privacy policies in October, following a change to the IM platform’s policies in August, which the advisory group believed could lead to the sharing of WhatsApp data including phone numbers to other companies within the Facebook group.