With the shortlist of the World Communication Awards released last month, we look at the changing role of the CTO and ask what it takes to become a CTO of the Year

Across the UK the leaves are starting to turn, temperatures are beginning to drop and baristas across the land are relentlessly nagging you to upgrade your regular morning coffee to a pumpkin spiced latte (seriously, who wants that in their life). All this can mean only one thing – it’s October and winter is just around the corner.

But never fear, it’s not all doom and gloom, October also heralds the arrival of the World Communication Awards in London, celebrating achievement and innovation across the global telecommunications industry.

Amongst the most keenly contested of the WCA categories will be the much-coveted CTO of the Year award, which brings us to the subject of this week’s Friday Review: The ever-changing role of the Chief Technology Officer.

Whether you are talking about the immense challenges of readying the world’s mobile communication networks for the arrival of 5G, keeping up with the spiralling demand for bandwidth that the explosion in online HD video streaming has caused, or boosting a network’s edge computing functionality, there are a swathe of technical challenges for the modern-day CTO to overcome.

The demands of the job are constantly evolving as networks become ever more complex and consumers demand an increasingly comprehensive portfolio of services.   

"The role of the CTO has changed dramatically over the last decade. The main reason for this change is that operators’ businesses have now entered a phase whereby revenues have stopped growing while at the same time there is a need for continued investments in networks, thanks to strong user demand for consuming more data," said WCA judge and CEO of Northstream, Bengt Nordstrom.

"This combination puts very high demands on the CTO to build out more network capacity with a flat or shrinking capital expenditure budget. At the same time, today’s CTOs must evolve their networks to capitalize on the commercial and operational opportunities created by new technology developments like cloud, virtualization and SDN."

The pace of change in the industry means that CTOs must be nimble and agile problem solvers, who are able to marry cutting edge technology with existing network infrastructure.  

"Integrating these new technologies with legacy network equipment, processes and systems is a hugely complicated process, and a huge challenge for CTOs to tackle. What this means is that the CTO, as well as possessing strong competence in traditional telecoms, must today also be knowledgeable and well-versed in IT and transformation programs," Nordstrom added.  

This year the WCA’s CTO of the Year category has an especially strong shortlist, which includes Telin’s Nanang Hendarno, Virtual1’s James Hickman, Airtel’s Abhay Savargaonkar, Turkcell’s Gediz Sezgin and BT’s Howard Watson. All five of these nominees have demonstrated a huge range of skills and competencies over the past 12 months. Let’s wait and see who the WCA judges picked as their CTO of the Year for 2018.


The World Communication Awards 2018 will be held at the Sheraton Grand hotel in London’s Park Lane on the evening of the 31st October 2018. Click here to reserve your seat at the industry’s best loved awards ceremony. 

Friday Review  –  05/10/2018