Technology Reseller speaks with Tony Cook and Vincent Disneur from Union Street Technologies, the UK’s leading supplier of comms billing software, to find out why there’s never been a better time for VARs and IT Resellers to supply connectivity services
With a customer base of over 600 communication providers and a user community of 3,500, Union Street Technologies is one of the leading software vendors in the communications channel. Although the company is best known as a supplier of billing and provisioning solutions for connectivity services, it has in recent years diversified its service offering to supply a broad portfolio of back-office solutions for ICT services management.
As Head of Sales and Marketing for Union Street, Vincent Disneur is well placed to observe market trends. He firmly believes that for VARS and suppliers of managed IT services, there’s never been a better time to break into the connectivity market.
“The IT industry is increasingly moving towards a converged market for voice, data and IT services. Many IT resellers and VARs are excellently placed to supply connectivity and associated billing services to their customers. However, there’s a common misconception that connectivity services, particularly VoIP and other types of voice product, require specialist skills that prohibit entry into this market,” he explains.
“The truth is that, today, providing these services is no more technically challenging than the data networking that IT resellers and VARs already provide. Once established, connectivity services will generate ongoing revenue streams that customers are unlikely to change unless there’s a major disruption in service. This can also help to prevent rival suppliers breaking into accounts, keeping customers sticky.”
Managing Director Tony Cook adds: “Following the BT announcement to withdraw ISDN services in 2025, the replacement of millions of ISDN lines with IP-based telephony is the biggest opportunity the ICT channel has seen in years. IT resellers who can offer the right service and package will clean up. The channel can also take advantage of many other interesting revenue streams, such as cloud computing, data services and M2M.”
So, where should an IT reseller start? “We’ve produced a whitepaper on this very subject,” says Disneur, “and you can request a copy by emailing us at UST@ unionstreet.co.uk. But, in short, the first step is to select service providers. Direct relationships with carriers like Openreach can be advantageous, but also quite risky due to the level of commitment the largest carriers require. For those just starting out, it’s usually best to partner with one of the many wholesalers of connectivity services. “Depending on the type of partnership you choose, the wholesaler may manage the invoicing of end users in addition to supplying connectivity services. This often means that the wholesaler has a direct relationship with the customer and pays you a commission, though some will offer white labelled billing with your branding.”
While this can be an attractive option, Disneur points out that there are many advantages to managing the billing process directly.
“Managing billing in-house gives you complete control. You have the reassurance that all the services you are providing to customers are being billed accurately, rather than taking this on trust. Voice billing charges can rise rapidly to over £100,000 a month, so accuracy is critical.”
Due to the potentially large volumes of call traffic involved and the requirement to rate this traffic according to customer tariffs, this can quickly become a time consuming process. This is why most providers of connectivity services will use a billing software package (or billing platform) to automate the process.
“This is where we come in,” explains Disneur. “Our aBILLity billing software takes much of the effort out of the billing process. Because it’s agnostic, aBILLity has the added benefit of enabling you to cherry pick the most attractive services from multiple suppliers to build the most competitive portfolio of connectivity services. It will then consolidate these services into a single bill for your end user customers.
“aBILLity can also bill service charges, maintenance and other types of contractual arrangements, such as software licenses, all in one invoice. Coherent, consolidated billing is a major selling point for customers and can be as important to them as cost savings. This also means you can achieve complete and continuous visibility of customer profitability, maximising your margins without need for intensive manual analysis.”
In addition to its billing platform, Union Street offers consultancy services to assist resellers with the billing process, as Cook explains: “If the prospect of managing billing under your own roof appeals but you don’t have the resources available to manage this in-house, our Bureau Service is the perfect solution.
“With this service, we manage the preparation, generation and dispatch of bills on your behalf. This can be a great way of getting started quickly. Best of all, you retain the maximum level of control over your customer base from the outset, whilst outsourcing much of the work involved to our expert team.”
Disneur adds: “If you’re not offering connectivity services to your customers, someone else will be. Diversifying your market proposition by offering connectivity services provides huge potential for business development, generating opportunities for cross-selling telephony with your existing portfolio of services and vice versa. If you’re keen to get started, then give us a call. Our team possess a huge amount of experience of working in the connectivity market and are ideally placed to help you on your way.”
To know about the aBILLity application suite and other Union Street services call 020 8614 9090; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit unionstreet.uk.com
This September, Union Street will be attending the Channel Live exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. One of the most important events in the ICT channel calendar, Channel Live provides the perfect opportunity to network with industry peers, meet suppliers and find out what they have to offer.
Commenting on Union Street’s involvement, Disneur says: “It’s highly beneficial to have an event like this that is 100% channel-focused and brings together some of the most forward-thinking companies in the ICT industry. We’re looking forward to meeting both new and existing partners, to discuss how we can add value to their businesses, and to demonstrating how our products can increase profitability and efficiency. If you’re there, make sure to pay us a visit on stand 316.”
aBILLity™ Billing Platform
Union Street’s aBILLity billing platform is the most widely deployed solution of its type in the UK. It has been developed over many years to provide a total solution for billing connectivity services, service provisioning, revenue assurance and fraud management.
The platform enables resellers of connectivity services to maximise the customer’s potential by allowing them to utilise multiple suppliers and bill for all types of connectivity services. The aBILLity application has the flexibility to produce custom bills, enabling the user to create innovative packages and price plans.
aBILLity also features out-of-the-box integrations with other back-office solutions and APIs that make it possible to integrate billing with many other software packages.
Commenting on aBILLity’s deployment options, Disneur states: “Because it is a completely hosted SAAS solution powered by Microsoft’s Azure public cloud, aBILLity users enjoy multiple benefits, including market-leading performance, data security and availability. There’s no need to buy and maintain servers or to manage security, capacity, data backups or disaster recovery measures. Union Street takes care of everything, allowing you to get on with building your business.”
To assist its customers in getting the most from the aBILLity platform and other solutions, Union Street focuses heavily on its support provision, as Disneur explains: “Service is very much the key differentiator in this market, and it’s the combination of advanced software applications coupled with outstanding service levels that places us in a different class. We back our products with account management, customer service and consultancy teams that can respond effectively to the needs of our partners. Many of our staff have previously worked for Communications Providers and have direct relevant expertise in billing and provisioning.”