Comms Business Magazine talks to Paul Sillars of M247 about super-fast connectivity, connectivity, 4G data and how to differentiate services.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How important is it for resellers to be able to provide a migration path to super-fast access? A customer’s initial requirement for, say VoIP may not justify an expensive investment initially so is this about paving the way to sell more to that customer, for example cloud-based services?
Paul Sillars of M247 (PS): The provision of super-fast access is a real opportunity for the Channel but everyone needs to be aware of the marketing hype. Because of the way we’ve seen connectivity technologies develop, we all anticipate that super-fast equates to ‘super better’. However, that’s not always the case and the most obvious area to be cautious of is the published headline speed. We all know that, although this may look impressive, the speeds are often published as a hook to get customers interested and may not always be as good as is claimed. It’s very important that the ISP you connect to is able to fully support your customer’s other requirements, such as the specific demands of their network. To avoid potential disappointment further down the line, it’s vital to clarify every potential problem with super-fast access so your customer is able to make a reasoned decision when in possession of all the facts. That said, once the limitations are out in the open, the advantages of super-fast access are significant and can be a real accelerator to the growth of most businesses.
As soon as we get beyond the 1Mb/s upload speed we often find that VoIP is much more viable but bear in mind that it will always be impacted by other services that contend for space down the same connection. By adding greater capacity to a connection, migration to super-fast broadband reduces the risk to other services. For example, large file downloads, or the use of streaming services, such as YouTube, will have less of a detrimental effect on voice calls. Increasing line capacity is one solution but an alternative is to add in some equipment at the customer end to manage the traffic more effectively. Our own sales team make all of their calls using VOIP over a standard FTTC connection and it works well, but then, we have the expertise here to optimise everything in our favour.
In real-life business situations, to justify the potential spend on upgrading to super-fast access, the greatest benefit is the potential for improved upload speeds and these will be most effective in businesses transferring large amounts of data. These could be design engineers handling large 3D files, media companies sending out video and sound files, or they could be law firms or architects with a need to handle large amounts of data at the same time there is a requirement for quality voice calls to be made to their customers and suppliers.
In many companies, it can be tiresome waiting for weighty uploads to complete and the delays add up to an expensive use of resources. Using just standard FTTC, or more business grade products, such as GEA with uploads of 10Mb/s+, companies can begin to realise the benefits brought to them by cloud technologies and these will pave the way to access solutions based outside of the office. It also makes it more possible for companies to host some solutions in-house so that remote workers can gain access to them at any time of the day or night.
All in all, it will be vital for resellers to provide a migration path to super-fast connectivity but it’s more vital for them to partner with a good ISP capable of handling future growth and who can also provide extensive advice and support stretching off into the future.
CBM: Will 4G services eat into the fixed line access market for data connectivity?
PS: In due course 4G will make a significant advancement into the traditional fixed line broadband access, but it will only be as effective as its coverage, which is currently somewhat patchy. Already we are starting to see the decline of traditional lines and per minute billing. As more people move to mobile technology, the thought of not having to pay a line rental will become very appealing. However, there is a balance to this, which is that multiple devices within a property will want to share the same connection. This situation may still lend itself to a fixed line solution, but we may start to see 4G/3G data only access bundled with DSL packages to help further incentivise the market.
CBM: How can network providers and reseller suppliers differentiate their connectivity offerings apart from price?
PS: As the price drops and the range of choice increases, I believe that people will return to the good old values of customer service. I believe that, in the reseller and VAR market space, most companies are adding connectivity to their portfolio as a way of tying up the whole order and giving the customer one place to come for support and solutions. I believe the differentiator should be the services that are being sold and how they are supported. If all you have to offer is a range of largely unsupported services, your customers will always be comparing prices with other resellers.
All of the above just underpins my conviction that the way forward for the switched-on reseller is to involve a good ISP to help them differentiate themselves in the market. With access to a comprehensive range of products and extensive expertise, the reseller has a real opportunity to grow and improve the level of service to their own customers. Resellers that don’t partner with good providers can’t possibly keep up with the speed of technological development and will eventually be left bewildered and missing out on some valuable opportunities that will be taken up by their competitors.