Get Connected

Get Connected

Tony Lewis

Tony Lewis has launched Club Connect, a no risk VoIP model for the channel that looks set to cause a stir in the market and, he tells Comms Business Magazine, offer something very different.

“As far as VoIP is concerned, we can talk forever on how the market may evolve – there is no consensus from any quarter and I don’t want to enter that discussion as I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that something is going on and I don’t want to waste time talking about the future when there is a new race under way. A race in which there will eventually be winners and losers but, and one thing is for certain – the world is going to be a very different place.”

That was quite an opening statement from Tony Lewis, managing director of Club Communications, made as I was greeted in the foyer of his new offices following my drive to see him in Gloucester.

 

“I will also say that you have to be in the race to stand a chance of winning and Club Communications are positioning ourselves to be in that race.” We reached his boardroom and sat down – Lewis is clearly excited to spill the beans.

“Club has bought a Class 5 soft switch which is installed and up and running in Tele House. A second switch is on order and will be located elsewhere – would you like a coffee?”

The Club channel proposition is to sell partitions of the soft switch to resellers who in turn will offer and sell VoIP to their customer base. The entry price for resellers is around £5000 with a small monthly service charge and resellers transferring minutes to this service will break even on their investment at £1000 of minutes per month – most should be able to do this. Club Connect, the name of the new service, gives resellers a low risk opportunity to enter the VoIP race and benefit from the two and a half years experience Club has gained in researching and putting together this service offering – milk and sugar?”

 

VoIP Awareness

“Two and a half years spent understanding the technology, SIP, H.323, Latency, Jitter and Broadband etc.,” comments Club Connect’s technical director Sam Dawkins adding, “We don’t just know the buzz words we know their meaning and implications for the VoIP Market. We can encapsulate that experience in a two and a half our course that will get resellers straight in to this market.”

My visit to Club co-incided with the announcement from Dixons that they are entering the VoIP market with their Freetalk product.

Lewis, “We are not in the B2C market but every company director has a home, will now be aware of VoIP and may want to have a similar service for his business. Resellers are already getting calls and requests for VoIP but right now they have a hole in their portfolio. However, VoIP can increase reseller margins.

From analysing the £1 million a month minutes business we already have Club believes that the free ‘on net’ call element will only account for 5-10% of traffic. But, because you only pay for egress calls with VoIP you only have half of the interconnection costs, ingress is free. Effectively you are buying at half price.”

 

Selling

According to Lewis, most PBX systems are sold on the back of a minutes offering that saves the user money and ‘funds’ the purchase of the new telephone system, “Imagine how many more PBX systems the reseller could sell by increasing the network cost savings the customer could make by fifty percent!”

“Club has interconnect agreements with many carriers offering different QoS and pricing packages. Resellers can choose which carriers they want to work with by customer. Their principal interconnect agreement is with Energis. Ingress is obviously over broadband and here Club is vendor agnostic but recommends a DSL circuit dedicated to the voice service to avoid contention with data applications. Club is however wholesaling broadband themselves with guaranteed QoS.”

 

Easy

All service provisioning is via a browser based application that directly connects to the soft switch in Tele House – you can provision CLI in seconds. Backing this up is a team of four technicians headed up by Sam Dawkins.

“It is all available now,” says Lewis. “As far as end points are concerned, there too we are agnostic to a degree. We have a ‘Club Compatible’ process and have tested most manufacturers IP phones which has resulted in a recommended list of devices for Club Members.”

Club Connect membership is straightforward – it comes with the purchase of a partition on the Club soft switch and brings with it some innovative benefits that many observers will say could only be brought to market by a channel savvy player such as Lewis.

“It is an investment – a whole new way of doing business and a true partnership. We have twenty resellers involved already and all the elements are in place. Each member get a stake in Club Connect – 15% of the equity in Club Connect is reserved for members and as the business grows so will the value of their investment in the business. As will the margin in their own business. As I say, the world will be a different place.”

 

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