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Zayo’s New CTO Shares Plans to Automate Capacity, Capabilities, and the Customer Experience in 2024


by Nikos Katinakis, Chief Technology Officer

Nikos Katinakis scaled 1

By Nikos Katinakis, Chief Technology Officer 

We’re at a pivotal moment in history. With the rise of personalized video, 5G, fiber to the home, satellite communications, and the widespread adoption of AI has come a historic surge in bandwidth needs. Consumers and businesses rely even more heavily on telecommunications infrastructure companies to meet their needs now and in the future. 

This creates a tremendous opportunity for Zayo to reaffirm our strategy of providing the best possible network with the best possible service as efficiently as possible – an opportunity I plan to capitalize on from day one as Zayo’s new Chief Technology Officer.

I bring to my new role at Zayo decades of experience leading telecommunications companies around the globe, most recently serving as the Group Executive for Global Networks and Technology at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company. 

As Chief Technology Officer at Zayo, I plan to drive the implementation of extensive automation in both our network infrastructure and our operational processes with AI and data analytics embedded in all our decision, support, and restoration processes. I believe automation has the power to drastically alter the telecommunications experience by improving network capabilities and enabling us to scale and optimize the network faster than ever before. We have a tremendous opportunity to set a new standard when it comes to customer experience, and automation is a great enabler. 

The Need for Automation in Telecommunications

Our dependency on connectivity has never been greater and will only continue to rise. On a typical day, we rely on connectivity for everything from buying a coffee to working from home, in an office, or in the field, to connecting with friends and family. All of these daily activities require reliable, real-time connectivity. When the flow of connectivity is interrupted, everything stops. Having resilient and secure infrastructure is the key to keeping things going. 

Still, the telecommunications experience is less than ideal. It’s plagued by long wait times for service, outdated systems, manual processes, low network visibility, and increased cybercrime. 

As connectivity becomes as indispensable a utility as electricity, telecommunications companies have a responsibility to reimagine the experience to put customers first – and everyone is a customer. With the scale at which bandwidth demand is growing, telecommunications companies need to invest in next-generation technologies like automation, AI, and data analytics to keep up, or else risk being left behind. 

In the next couple of years, we’ll leverage automation to build capacity and capability, ensure a reliable, secure connection, and meet increasing bandwidth needs. It’s about strong infrastructure, seamless experiences, automated network management, advanced capabilities, and the latest and best in network technology. 

We have work to do to reach this ideal state. To reach it, we must embed automation into everything we do in three categories: Capacity, capabilities, and customer experience. 

Building Capacity: Meeting Skyrocketing Demand for Bandwidth

Since 2022, Zayo has seen four times the demand for 400G capacity. This is largely due to customers’ increasing usage of advanced technologies like AI, 5G, personalized video, IoT, and cloud computing which require tons of capacity. 

To meet tomorrow’s capacity demands, we need to scale capacity at the same rate as demand. To reach this goal and deliver services accurately, on time, and at scale, we must embed automation into the network. That’s why while others in the industry steer away from investing in the transport network, we’ve doubled down investing in more 400G systems, lit fiber miles, PoPs, and spectral capacity.  

To quickly meet customers’ bandwidth needs as they arise, Zayo offers Waves On Demand – automated, 24-hour delivery on Zayo’s most popular Wavelength routes, the industry’s first on-demand optical network. 

In the future, we’ll seek to optimize capacity planning using automated inputs around network consumption trends. Data around things like factories being built, data center deployments, housing development approvals – anything that could trigger upcoming bandwidth demands – will help us to plan network growth and usage better. Integrating data properly into the network and applying automation can trigger more accurate decision-making, right-sized investments, and efficient deployments. 

Introducing Next-Generation Capabilities 

AI and automation are what I call “capability enablers.” In addition to using automation to right-size network capacity planning, we plan to automate workflows for faster decision-making and a more integrated service. The emergence of accessible AI and automation allows us to completely rethink the way we operate. 

I was excited to join Zayo because of its significant potential to evolve and optimize. There’s such a rich culture here of striving toward what’s next and a hunger for implementing the right technology to do so. In that spirit, we’ll aim to use AI and automation to the extreme, embedding those capabilities in all of our processes. Proactive, end-to-end network management, improved network visibility, automated deployment, and AIOps-enabled network observability will help ensure best-in-class services and greater network assurance and stability. 

Just imagine a future where the Operational Support System (OSS), ordering, and other systems are integrated with those of our customers. A future where, within seconds of an incident, the system can identify a fault, troubleshoot it, and correlate it with the next best action for engineers. A system that identifies spare parts and their location, creates automatic work orders, and is ready to dispatch people. There are so many ways we can leverage automation to increase efficiency and in turn, build our customers’ trust in our capabilities.  

Improving the Customer Experience 

Finally, applying automation to capacity planning and workflow processes will inherently create a better customer experience. However, we can apply automation to other stages of the customer journey beyond the network for an even better experience. There are two key customer experience areas I plan to improve with automation: service delivery and the Network Operations Center (NOC). 

First, we recognize the urgent need to improve our service delivery and will address this through extensive workflow automation. Drawing from my own experiences as a former telecommunications customer, I’ve personally encountered the frustrations that come with service delivery. I can empathize with customers wanting clarity in communication of dates and the possible challenges affecting those timelines. Unexpected delivery dates were my biggest source of frustration as a customer, as they led to my own missed commitments and disrupted plans. 

At Zayo, we want to be a source of solutions, not frustration, for our customers. To do this, we need to communicate clearly, concisely, and with as much detail as possible. To get there, we must first clean up our systems and automate our workflows as much as possible, removing unnecessary manual steps and mistakes. 

Next, the ongoing revamping of the NOC is a huge part of our plans this year. I not only want Zayo to improve in this area; my vision is for us to become an industry leader in this area. We’ll get there using predictive analytics to minimize failures and increase failover capacity to lower downtime. We’ll use correlation engines to determine faults as soon as possible and self-heal the customer’s service. We’ll also use automation to create enhanced alert notifications and improve customer communications to improve customer satisfaction. 

This will be a multi-year journey, but we’re well on our way. Ultimately, we are all our enterprise and telecommunications customers’ customers so we want everyone to have the best possible experience. 

The Journey Ahead

Overall, I’m looking forward to the year ahead. It will be a year marked by continuous progress made possible by putting automation at the forefront, meeting customer demand, introducing improved capabilities, and starting the journey to become an industry leader in customer experience. 

My long-term vision for Zayo is for us to be the most automated company – one that runs on great workflows, optimized processes, and clean data and delivers the most resilient and secure connectivity solutions to our customers. I envision Zayo setting the standard for how a telecommunications company like ours operates. I can’t wait for what’s next. 

About the Author

by Nikos Katinakis

Chief Technology Officer

Nikos Katinakis is Zayo’s Chief Technology Officer, leveraging over 30 years of leadership experience in technology with a deep understanding of the telecommunication and software industries.