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Grab it while you can

Voiceflex Sales Director Paul Taylor tells Technology Reseller why SOGEA is too good an opportunity for resellers to miss

The need to pay a PSTN phone line rental as part of one’s standard broadband provision has long been a source of frustration for consumers who might only ever use a mobile and/or VoIP app. But not for much longer.

BT’s decision to stop providing PSTN and ISDN services by 2025 is also changing how ISPs package broadband.

Instead of the analogue telephone line/broadband bundle they are used to, customers will be offered a standalone fibre broadband solution, without voice, known in the trade as Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA).

While the availability of SOGEA solutions from big carriers like BT, TalkTalk and Vodafone is welcome news for customers who might not have wanted a phone line in the first place (albeit not a big cost saving), what about those consumers and small traders who like having a landline, even if they only use it to phone and locate a misplaced mobile?

They will now need to order a separate voice application, a business opportunity for resellers that Paul Taylor, Sales Director of SIP and hosted telephony carrier Voiceflex, describes as a ‘land grab’.

“There are 28 million PSTN telephone lines with broadband connections on them, and every one of those has to be replaced by 2025. That is a multi-billion pound a year business and it is going to be a land grab,” he said.

“It is not a case of asking customers whether they would like to have SOGEA as an application, but a question of where they are in the cycle and when they will be moved across to it. Most broadband contracts are for 12 months and as they come up for renewal, people will move across to SOGEA, providing it is available at their local exchange.”

The Salisbury exchange has already stopped any new orders of PSTN, so customers can only buy SOGEA, and in 2021 a further 200 exchanges are likely to follow suit.

“Of the 28 million connections out there, probably half will still need voice. Hairdressers, butchers, doctors, small accountants, florists, anybody that has got a telephone line is going to need SOGEA, but they are also going to need a voice element, which BT isn’t providing,” said Taylor.

SoGEA Voice
Last December, Voiceflex became the first carrier to address this opportunity, with the launch of SoGEA Voice, a direct replacement for single line voice services provided by BT, that gives users the ability to make and take calls and opt into additional services, such as voicemail, call recording, transcription, and message forwarding to a mobile, Whatsapp or Facebook.

SoGEA Voice is compatible with any fibre broadband service and has an API for automating ordering, number porting/provisioning and configuration.

“We will be pushing SoGEA Voice through two channels: Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who we hope will take it on as an OEM product and embed it in their portals; and our own channel base through a dedicated, standalone portal –”

Resellers can order SoGEA Voice as a standalone product or as a combined application with SOGEA data connectivity. When a broadband customer’s contract comes up for renewal, a Voiceflex partner can offer broadband plus voice or, if the customer wants to stay with another provider, just the voice element. Either way, it represents a huge opportunity.

“There are an awful lot of organisations out there – in their millions – that have a single handset and will still need some form of voice technology. When we wanted to have some work done on the house, I spotted a builder’s board around the corner; it had a local telephone number, but no mobile number. Millions of companies like that are going to need SoGEA Voice,” explained Taylor.He adds that Voiceflex’s SoGEA offering is also likely to be important to service providers that might need to provide voice with broadband as part of a complete service offering, for example CCTV security or student services.

Consumer packages
Taylor points out that amongst Voiceflex’s reseller community, there might also be some that want to put together a package for domestic users.

“They could package SOGEA up with voice and other applications, such as file share or data connectivity or security cameras, even a video doorbell. Of course, some customer might decide not to go for SOGEA at all and instead will choose a 5G SIM in a router and not have any fixed communication. Or they may decide to have SOGEA and put in a 5G SIM just in case something goes wrong with that circuit. Any forced change is great for the marketplace, because it provides an opportunity to sell other applications or services into that customer.”

Taylor adds that resellers will need to be quick, as this is likely to be a one-off opportunity to capture market share.

“We wanted to be first to market because there is going to be a land grab. If people do replace their existing broadband, it is highly unlikely they are going to move to another broadband supplier, because they will be moving to fibre to the premises and won’t need anything better for a long time,” he said.

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TechnologyReseller: 2021