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The connected player

Gibtelecom has been both building block and beneficiary of the explosion of e-gaming on the Rock. Its Chief Executive Officer, Tim Bristow, makes the links.

 Gibraltar Telecom has sponsored this supplement on e-gaming but you’re a telecoms company. What’s the link?

Gibtelecom built a fibre-optic network throughout Gibraltar in the 1990s which, together with the merger with a local international carrier and mobile business, provides the communications backbone for the e-gaming sector in Gibraltar. Meeting the requirements of some of the biggest and best e-gaming companies in the world has influenced our development and made us raise our game. Without the communications infrastructure, online companies could not have come to Gibraltar in the first place. Since then, we have substantially enhanced our national and international networks, and consequently Gibtelecom remains the communications company of choice in the jurisdiction even after competitors entered the scene.

What makes Gibraltar a competitive jurisdiction for e-gaming?

Though e-gaming companies are attracted to Gibraltar as an EU jurisdiction, with a friendly business environment and competitive fiscal package, they also benefit from a qualified workforce and plenty of ancillary professionals. The online gaming industry is dependent on good telecommunications, and would not be able to thrive here if the industry was not up to speed; it is this all round package that makes Gibraltar competitive. Although Gibraltar has more than one local telecommunications provider, it is Gibtelecom that is still leading the way locally with resilient fibre optic connectivity, multiple diverse international links (partnering with Telefonica, Interoute and Vodafone amongst others). Gibtelecom has huge amounts of bandwidth readily available for expansion or event bursting. Gibtelecom has been committed to investing in providing robust and diverse national and international fibre-optic routes. Gibtelecom’s investment in the state-ofthe- art Europe India Gateway (EIG) submarine cable and quality data centres will help keep Gibraltar a top tier business jurisdiction. The EIG high bandwidth fibre-optic system not only complements existing routes but also provides Gibraltar with an alternative submarine path, without the capacity limitations or the incidence of interruptions that often face land routes.

What does Gibtelecom have to offer and what has it been doing to meet the quality and services required in such a demanding area such as e-gaming?

Gibtelecom prides itself on being in-sync with technology as well as in touch with its customers. Gibraltar is a hub for some of the leading e-gaming companies in the world. The Rock is not just a business friendly environment with a competitive tax regime, it is also well connected and has a stable regulatory framework focused on good corporate governance and customer protection. Indeed, if the communications infrastructure and solutions were not continuously developing then the e-gaming sector couldn’t have thrived in the jurisdiction as well as it has. In a world that is increasingly reliant on round-the-clock high speed communications Gibtelecom is at the forefront of de- veloping the technology to ensure the growing needs of e-commerce and the wider community in Gibraltar are met. At home Gibtelecom is building a next generation network, which can facilitate internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps throughout Gibraltar. Gibtelecom is also an accredited ‘recognised for excellence’ company by the European Foundation for Quality Management, which is a testament to the high standards the Company has delivered to Gibraltar’s e-gaming community.

How has the Company developed its data centre business?

The data centre business as we know it today has changed much since Gibtelecom set up its first hosting environment nearly a decade ago, and as the market needs changed developing this part of the business was a natural move. Gibtelecom’s data centre development plans are very much aligned to customers’ business and IT strategies, as well as their specific regulatory and industry requirements. For example, the facilities being Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant is an essential factor for many of our customers due to the large volumes of financial transactions they process. Our aim is to be the customer’s partner of choice by ensuring that our data centres have the right technical set-up, connectivity, security and environment to meet market requirements.

What challenges does a focus on egaming and finance markets create?

Catering for some of the most demanding e-commerce businesses in the world has resulted in Gibtelecom creating a more robust international network from Gibraltar. In a global business environment, hosting facilities need to be paired with seamless and resilient connectivity. This was the impetus for the Company being one of the founding shareholders of the Europe India Gateway (EIG) consortium, a new 15,000km high bandwidth fibreoptic submarine cable spanning from London to Mumbai. The cable system runs across three continents and has thirteen landing points along the way, of which Gibraltar is one. As well as providing linkages to other international cable systems, the route complements Gibtelecom’s other links, connecting to hubs in London, Madrid and Marseilles.

What is Gibtelecom doing to meet the demands of gaming companies with regards to the contracting of hosting services?

Trends in the sector, which Gibtelecom is actively leading, are towards a one-stopcommunications- shop, embracing telecommunications, computer hosting and value-added services. Gibtelecom is by far the biggest provider of data hosting services in Gibraltar. We operate several stateof- the-art data centres in a secure location; well above sea level and away from the main centres of business on the Rock. Our data centres employ the latest industry standard technologies, including efficient cooling and standby power, and are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. All Gibtelecom’s data centres are supported by an onsite Network Operations Centre, with engineers available 24/7.

Could you explain what the EIG project represents and what does this investment represent to the Company?

The EIG submarine cable not only complements Gibtelecom’s extant terrestrial and other sea routes, but has placed the company in a position to seek business opportunities outside Gibraltar. This is an exciting project for us. It means Gibtelecom is now a global carrier and able to provide wholesale bandwidth and carrier services with more routing options and diversity. Gibtelecom set up an international marketing arm in 2011 to develop and seek new offshore growth opportunities, since landing partnerships with telco’s headquartered in London, Sydney, New York, Monaco, Johannesburg and Seychelles amongst others. Following the substantial multi-million pound investment in this submarine route, Gibtelecom is looking at expanding its networks further, with plans already underway to increase network diversity via new routes transiting through Monaco and Marseilles into various key communications hubs in Europe. This said, the considerable additional investment has not been endured by the customer. In fact, 2012 saw substantial reductions in IP bandwidth prices of up to 25 percent, and averaging some 14 percent across all e-commerce customers.

Photo: Getty
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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.