Open for Business
May 15, 2022
In his bid to bring connectivity to the greatest number of people possible, Open5G’s CEO Gerry Lawlor says pushing the boundaries with data is critical
After swapping the bustle of Wall Street for a role in the telecom industry on a remote island north of Seattle, Gerry Lawlor suddenly found himself in the challenging position of managing a communications company so he could deliver a reliable internet connection.
To build the infrastructure necessary for consistent broadband coverage the aptly named company Rock Island would mean drilling down through masses of hard material, along with all the vast planning and expenditure that process would involve.
Sitting at his new desk, the situation quickly helped Lawlor realise it wasn’t viable for people to live and work in areas without vital network coverage, but equally, the scale of such an undertaking in remote areas such as the San Juan Islands, meant that mistakes were simply not an option.
In his latest role as CEO of fibre optic network company Open5G, where infrastructure projects go through a meticulous research and development process, that investment is safe. This, Lawlor says, is thanks to data integrity.
Describing himself as “an accidental telecom CEO”, Lawlor moved from a 15-year career in the financial industry into a very different sector. Today he is passionate about democratising the internet so that connectivity is available to everybody, no matter where they are.
It may have been a new market for him, but Lawlor soon found that the basic premise of using accurate, consistent, and contextualised data is the same across all major sectors. The principles of managing financial risk depend on it no matter the end product or service. “Good data integrity means having the clarity and capability to make accurate decisions. We’ve created a very unique risk model to finance broadband networks. We’re trying to make significant dollar-sized investments in communities, and we wouldn’t be able to make the right decisions without it.”
One of Lawlor’s prime missions is to provide reliable, easy to access internet at a time when connectivity is needed more than ever. With a colossal shift to working from home, relying on our devices to be able to communicate with family and friends, and largely living an increasingly digitalised existence, the past year has shone a spotlight on just how important that is.
However, bringing this to a country the size of the US is challenging, exacerbated by the fact that a massive proportion of the population is living in small-town and rural America. It’s a tricky investment model, and one that Lawlor says has created a digital divide. “There’s a huge upfront investment that needs to be understood. And that’s the key thing that we’re always trying to figure out with the use of information. We need data integrity across multiple sources, to bring everything together and process it very quickly.”
The ability to respond rapidly to this information is particularly key when dealing with massive infrastructure projects. “The moment you start digging, it’s going to change. It’s a construction project at the end of the day, and they never go according to plan. Your ability to react and make changes in near real time is critical.”
Power of connectivity
Despite the complexities of the sector, it is a crowded and competitive marketplace. While there is no lack of ready capital in the telecom industry, what really sets companies apart is the ability to accurately forecast what is going to be needed from huge scale infrastructure products over the next two or three decades. This is why pushing the boundaries of what data can do and how it is managed is something Lawlor describes as “insanely invaluable”.
The journey from the financial services industry to CEO of a network provider is one that has been driven by his personal experience and belief in the power of connectivity. From that initial terrible internet connection on Orcas Island, it has been data integrity which has underpinned the process. The dataset Lawlor set out with was relatively small at the beginning but finding a way to harness this information and scale it up has allowed Open5G to bring a sense of connection to people across the country. “There’s always been big data, we’ve always had a tremendous amount of information. But what has been extremely difficult in the past is how to access it and use it to scale.”
It’s a journey that has allowed Lawlor to create real evolution in the broadband industry. “Seeing the dynamic of communities change has really pushed my desire to keep innovating in this space and keep pushing the envelope. The impact is huge. Seeing what it means to families and elderly people who live by themselves in their homes to fundamentally feel connected is immense.”
Was originally published on Financial Times.
Hexvarium is a broadband service provider using proprietary Data Science to accurately identify, deliver, and connect profitable networks across all geographies. Building sustainable broadband networks is a complex puzzle of continually changing factors. Yet all other designers, engineers and operators deploy capital using static, antiquated methods and knowledge of each community. Hexvarium’s approach delivers sustainable networks, even in the most challenging circumstances. For more information, please visit hexvarium.com.