Twang.net in harmony with Vodafone

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Twang.net provides voice, data and Internet communications solutions for enterprise. It is a company that has grown from being an ISP in 1998 to supplying a broad spectrum of services with sales of over £4million a year.

The company ‘s headquarters are in Newbury  it sells mobile services to businesses, including Vodafone itself.
Twang.net managing director James Sumsion says: About three and half years ago we were approached by Vodafone to do a project on the mobile side of things, with an application called Appswing. They had a requirement for three hundred of their engineers who were struggling with lumping laptops around, so Vodafone at the time wanted the information the engineers needed to be presented on a hand-held device.
They chose the BlackBerry, because this dovetailed with Vodafone ‘s strategy for more data services. They approached companies to try and find one who could translate the software on to a mobile device  it was quite innovative at the time.
We engaged with Appswing  who have patents on this software  and we put together a bid to Vodafone that was a lot more cost-effective and had a shorter lead time than the other suppliers. So we went off and delivered that solution to Vodafone, which is still being used today.
Both MD James Sumsion and workforce mobility manager Richard King have
previously worked for Vodafone. The tables have now turned and it is one of Twang.net ‘s biggest clients  it supplies 2,000 broadband circuits to Vodafone.
King says Being in Newbury in the home of Vodafone, James and I have both worked for Vodafone and some of the other guys in the office  so we do have a very strong relationship with Vodafone, because we supply the broadband circuits for their home workers.
The Vodafone/Twang.net history
This relationship has not always been quite so simple. Twang.net currently connects most of its clients to Vodafone, but not directly. When Vodafone streamlined its distribution model 18 months ago, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Twang.net.
We did have a direct relationship with Vodafone as a premier data reseller but the distribution model was closed and everybody was pushed through the distributors, so all our new business goes through Yes Telecom, says King.
The reason Yes Telecom work very well for us is because we have an existing customer base that we have built up over the years. Likewise, a number of our resellers had a direct relationship with Vodafone, but when they closed the model those resellers come through us.
The BlackBerry proposition is a lot more successful with Vodafone so if we are going in with a data solution, the ease of connectivity through Yes Telecom and the price points that Vodafone can provide work well for us. 95 per cent of business would go through Vodafone on the data side of things. However, if we were providing a converged solution where a customer is going to use voice as well, we would look at all the networks. Companies haven ‘t got time to go through all the tariffs to see which is best for them, but that is what we are specialised in, so we would provide the most cost-effective tariff to meet the customer ‘s needs and the network would be irrelevant, says King.
Sumsion adds: What the customers like is the strength of the Vodafone brand, but they like the fact that we manage the relationship. We specify the solution and manage the ongoing support, they get the personal one-to-one touch, but with the strength of the Vodafone brand behind it  that appears to work for a lot of our customers.
The team at Twang.net comprises 28 people, which includes the direct sales team
that accounts for 60 per cent of the company ‘s sales. Twang.net also has engineers, all of whom are BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 4.1 trained, which means it does not have to outsource any engineers.
Sumsion says: We are a reasonably young workforce and everybody has an innovative nature about them. The customer base consists of like-minded people  they are innovative and forward thinking and that ‘s where they see the value of us as a supplier.
Twang.net expects the business to grow more aggressively from now on, as historically it has been very cautious and enjoyed organic growth. It is currently establishing relationships with some of the existing providers who want to scale their business and want Twang.net to define some of their products. In the past, companies would have been bought out or merged, but now there is a trend to partner each other on this type of venture. For the moment Twang.net is committed to building the business in a number of ways, including adding more resellers to the mobile data side of the business and getting ready for the VoIP explosion next year.
King says: On my side of the business, what we are going to be pursuing is to increase our reseller channel. We as a company took on the BlackBerry solution and included that in our portfolio about three years ago. As now the distribution model has closed at Vodafone, there are lots of resellers that want to add BlackBerry to their portfolio who are now coming through us, but we are now going to actively be starting to recruit more sellers.
Single product
Twang.net ‘s vision is to pull all their services into a single proposition with a single bill. They feel that it is in the future but currently the technology is not appropriate.
The technology is almost there and the billing system is too. We ‘re on the cusp of introducing a really succinct product. The proposition at the moment doesn ‘t have the maturity in the marketplace for serious consideration by everybody. At the moment what we have are three distinct products and, as a single supplier, we go in and sell the whole portfolio, but what we are looking forward to is the hand-off between the mobile phone and the VoIP network in the office. That technology for us will be part of our main proposition, says Sumsion.
Both King and Sumsion are actively looking at new ways they can get better returns from their clients, in terms of adding value to each contract and new services they can sell. They are looking forward to the introduction of BT ‘s 21st Century Network (BT 21CN) next year.
BT 21CN is the underlying infrastructure that will deliver and support computing and telecoms converged services. It is an end-to-end IP-based network delivering services such as VoIP faster, cheaper and more efficiently than what is currently on offer.
Richard and I have to make sure that we capture all the revenue streams and maximise the opportunity from each customer by having a lot of bundled and complimentary services. I am looking forward to the hand-off between mobile phone and the VoIP network in the office. We are conceptually talking about it with some of our larger clients, Sumsion says.
It ties into our main VoIP strategy, which has all sorts of other considerations. At the moment we are putting everything on a standard broadband circuit. Where we see the opportunity is when the BT 21CN network comes online in July 2007  we want to make sure we have everything in order because effectively it will offer more for less.
King added: That ‘s where the industry is moving to, but we wouldn ‘t be able to provide that to a client yet because the technology is in its infancy. It is not available in the market yet as a sustainable package where you can say ܘYes I would like this ‘, but we have all the parts ready within our organisation, for one number. That number would be for your mobile and your landline and you would be able to come into the office and pick up your phone, but still be able to come out of the office network and trip over onto the mobile network using the same handset and one point of contact.
Consolidating billing
Although BT 21CN does not come online till next summer, Twang.net is already in talks with its customers about this new proposition. Another possibility that Twang.net is looking into is the introduction of one bill.
Sumsion says: To consolidate the billing
is all part of our long-term strategy. We run our own bill for CPS [carrier pre-select]
and have done so for about three years. Currently you get one bill for the broadband and fixed-line services that we provide. For us, the bill is a product and we want to simplify the services for our clients so at a snapshot they will be able to understand company ‘s expenditure without lots of bits of paper and providers.
King was not as enthusiastic about the idea of one bill, citing confusion as one of the main concerns. He also believes that if the customer is receiving good customer service, what the bill looks like does not matter.
He says: The customers buy into us  the bill that drops through their door once a month would almost be irrelevant. I do think though that there are pluses and minuses to having a single bill. The problem is, if you have an issue with one of the services and you cannot pay for those with which you do not, you are unable to pay for those services.
However, Sumsion is keen to reassure us that when Twang.net has a converged bill for all its services, previous problems that some providers have had will be taken into account and managed separately.

James Sumsion profile

Job title Managing director
Work history98  presentMDTwang.net
96  98Network designerNTL
92  96Network engineerVodafone
80  92Apprentice engineerRoyal Navy
HobbiesMotor racing, sailing and squash

Richard King profile

Job title Workforce mobility sales manager
Work history05  PresentWorkforce mobility managerTwang.net
03  05Sales development representativeDVC Sales (Coors Brewers account)
00  02Corporate sales managerProject Telecom
99  00Direct account managerVodafone Corporate
98  99Corporate customer care advisorVodafone Corporate
96  98Manager of branchBewise
HobbiesHealth and fitness, reading and sport

 

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