Bertrand Pourcelot, Director General of telephony systems provider Centile, outlines the opportunity for UK resellers wanting to reposition as service providers
The goal of moving up the value-chain, away from just selling product to owning the customer experience end-to-end, has long been a focus for resellers in all kinds of markets. In 2018, one of the biggest opportunities for UK resellers and service providers will be to evolve into mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), to become service providers without the overheads of owning expensive network assets.
By collaborating with innovative market players, this new breed of channel firm can start to offer a wide range of native, fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and unified communications (UC) services.
The SME-to-mid-range enterprise customer is a particular sweet spot, since many of these organisations have both the desire and the flexibility to move to a more mobile business environment. According to Strategy Analytics, 38.8% of the workforce was mobile in 2016. That trend is likely to increase.
Attractive business models made possible by cloud technologies mean that customers can get sophisticated, flexible and value-for-money services, with mobile at their heart rather than just an afterthought. The channel community benefits from a monthly income stream and the ability to offer additional features and services on top.
The mobile enterprise story has already played out well in the Nordics and France. Finland’s Elisa (a Centile customer) has more than 225,000 mobile enterprise users and is arguably the region’s leading pioneer of ‘mobile first’.
The UK channel is ripe to learn from the experiences of other regions, to launch their own services and to differentiate themselves and gain control over the customer relationship and experience. As the margin narrows between fixed and mobile minute costs, taking a more mobilecentric approach to telecoms is within the grasp of every business.
The big switch off
We’re at a pivotal point in the European telecoms industry, with many European PTTs planning to switch off ISDN and PSTN lines by the middle of the next decade. In the UK, BT aims to stop selling such lines in 2020 and turn them off completely by 2025.
While not necessarily related to mobile services directly, this does mean that customers using ISDN and PSTN lines are going to have to explore IP-based alternatives. This alone is a catalyst for UK businesses to rethink the telecoms services they invest in, subscribe to or rent. The switch-off date may be a few years away, but, even so, companies are likely to want services that are fit-for-purpose for the next decade.
Any end user organisation looking at what’s on offer right now is probably in for a pleasant surprise, particularly if they are coming from a legacy environment dating back more than a few years. The range of features available is amazing and available at attractive price points.
For some organisations, on-premise will remain the preference, but there is no doubt that telecoms is where we are seeing some of the most exciting cloud innovations. This is particularly true of Europe, which is being keenly watched by big firms in other parts of the world. We’re also witnessing traditional handset vendors moving toward the FMC space, so expect to see a lot of energy and investment in this market space over the next few years.
Hang on, you might be thinking, how do we get from being a product reseller today to an operator tomorrow? It may sound pretty daunting, but the reality is that the evolution of cloud-based solutions has completely disrupted the traditional telecom services landscape all over the world.
One thing we have seen in other markets, and which is vital to take on board, is that technology is one thing and knowing how to successfully sell mobile services is quite another.
The technology foundation is there
Cloud-enabled ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS) enables companies to become providers of comms services without having to run their own data centres or employ in-house technical expertise while ‘keeping control of’ their own platform instance.
Organisations already in this market – for instance, service providers – have the option to bring their existing carrier SIP trunk relationships and data networking partners to the cloud-based PaaS and tailor their own service bundles accordingly.
Regardless of which deployment approach is adopted, resellers have the ability to bring ‘telephony’ into the heart of the IT strategy, rather than run it as a separate entity. This in turns allows smooth integrations with, and upselling of, all kinds of enterprise apps, such as video conferencing tools like Zoom and a whole range of other services, many of which are typically ‘OTT’ (over the top) Internet-basedservices. These have been taking the customer relationship away from traditional service providers, so, again, there is a huge opportunity here for UK channel firms to ‘own’ that relationship again and truly ‘add value’.
This is where it gets interesting. First, some SME firms like proximity, so a local service has an advantage over a nameless giant firm. Second, many UK enterprise customers are operating in their own niche vertical markets, so tailoring solutions to meet their specific needs is another opportunity. For instance, the education sector could be offered a business model that reduces costs when out of term-time.
The rise of the ‘micronational’ means that many small and medium-sized organisations are operating in multiple countries, so the ability of the service provider to offer seamless FMC services to teams in different locations is appealing. Cloud-based telecom services make that possible.
One thing that’s incredibly important is the user experience. This may sound like stating the obvious, but it is overlooked in so many areas of technology, and telecoms is no exception. Usability is often compromised in the face of sophistication, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Focus on the features that people are most likely to use and give them a ‘one touch’ experience as much as possible. In other words, keep it simple and do not put users in an environment where they are having constantly to switch views, log in to apps or make lots of manual interventions.
It is also important to allow them to retain control over their mobile services. The current evolution around presence based services is a case in point: rather than users having their availability dictated by a mail calendar (‘in a meeting’/’unavailable’/’available’/’away’), allow them to use their mobiles and linked fixed-line devices to manage real-time presence. After all, while most of us may start the day with an idea of what is going to happen according to our calendars, the reality is often quite different, depending on influencing factors. This is all part of using the mobile more as a remote controller for our business lives.
By helping businesses to embrace ‘mobile first’, the UK channel is in poll position to marry the two worlds of telecoms and IT, the two worlds of fixed and mobile, and finally to give businesses one seamless workplace for all their communications, regardless of device, network or location.
Telephony systems provider Centile supports approximately 100 service providers in 20 countries with its advanced unified communications, IP Centrex and fixed mobile convergence products. Today, almost one million people worldwide make voice calls supported by Centile, independent of any service, device or network.