Strategy Update

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In this interview, Kara Howard, Head of Communicate Portfolio at TalkTalk Business, spoke to David Dungay about the growth in their SIP business but also about the seven year lead up to the ISDN switch-off.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Cavell as recently reported a slowdown in the growth of SIP which seems strange, what is TTB seeing on this front?
Kara Howard (KH): From a TalkTalk Business perspective we are seeing continued strong adoption with SIP and hosted voice. Our SIP trunking business grew by 200% last year, our hosted product grew by about 35%. I think the market is in a little bit of a limbo phase at the moment though, we have had the early adoption phase and we have seen the Narrow Band Market Review bloom which I think will have an impact this year with the deregulations etc. Our view is that this could provide the catalyst to get things going and regain that momentum.

CBM: What is the latest on the ISDN switch-off?
KH: We see a lot of talk in the Channel when we see our partners. It’s on some people’s radar but I think there is still a large education piece to be done by our partners and service providers like ourselves, that this is coming and what the right options are for customers now and in the future.
I think there are a small number which think it will get delayed, which may well happen but if you look at what Ofcom are doing with the deregulation of the market they are really supporting this move to more efficient services via IP.
I think the biggest thing is the education around the implications of the ISDN switch-off and how we can support partners to ensure end users are making the right choices. That’s really important as we are seeing some of those early adopters now changing services because they didn’t make the right choice the first time around.

CBM: What is your market strategy for the next 12 months?
KH: The big focus for the next financial year is very much around service wrap and the support we can give to our Channel base. There will still be that focus on our core services but the wrap needs to be right. We think we can enhance that service and introduce some more automation into it to help partners sell more. Activities will be around the on boarding journey but also on support, provisioning and collateral to assist partners too.
We are looking at our 3 and 5 year strategies and how we are working with partners and delivering products that are currently in the pipeline. There is a lot of exciting stuff coming along in the world of voice and the lines are continually blurring between voice and data. We want to make the most use of the data portfolio we have especially as we have the voice element too.

CBM: Tell me about your hosted proposition.
KH: We have been doing a lot of work with Mitel, a long standing partner, over the last 12 months and we think we have something different for partners to go out into the market with, it isn’t just another me-too. We are offering different business models and flexibility within those models like pay as you go etc…we are really proud of the hosted platform we have, there is very little churn and I can only see that coming on leaps and bounds this year as we enhance our service wrap.

CBM: Any trepidation on the Cisco BroadSoft merger?
KH: I think it will be really interesting seeing two giants in their own right coming together. What will they do in the market, will development slow down or even increase… who knows?! How are they going to incorporate the Cisco brand into the BroadCloud portfolio when it comes to the hardware? I think it will be a very interesting 12 months

CBM: Plans in WebRTC?
KH: There is some exciting stuff going on in WebRTC and it is something we are looking at how it will complement our portfolio and if anyone actually actively wants it. We don’t have anyone asking us right now for it but we know that is a matter of time. It makes up part of our 3 year strategy and features within the debates around strategy we have within TalkTalk Business but what that will look like I can’t say any more at this point.

CBM: What are the biggest market challenges for the Channel right now?
KH: We did a big piece on the workplace in 2025 and what that will look like recently with the goal of identifying and highlighting the dynamics and the working environment of the future. We don’t just have these market changes with Ofcom releasing regulations and BT switching off the networks, we also have the dynamics of the way businesses interact and that will be very different in the future. There will be more home working, business consolidation, flexible working and agile team environments. As that changes the telecoms infrastructure has to be able to support that changing environment. If you couple that with the millennials coming into the workplace and how they want to work moving forwards there will be a certain level of expectation there and so we, along with our partners, will need to support that. There is a lot going on in comms right now which is really exciting!

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine