Vodafone and O2 look increasingly set to take their battle in the UK business market to the next level in 2009.
Details of their burgeoning unified communications plays remain scant, but there are rumblings within the industry that point they are to go beyond mobile voice and data to provide integrated fixed line and IT solutions.
O2 UK business sales director Ben Dowd said last week O2 would likely look to acquire a fixed line player in the first half of 2009 to extend its offering to SME and corporate customers, and to entangle them further in its service mix. It will also partner more closely with IT systems integrators too, remarked Dowd.
Vodafone is readying a fuller fixed line and IT proposition, also.
Vodafone refused to comment last week, except to say it is focusing on the IT sector for the end of Q1. “A lot is going on in terms of IT. But nothing will be ready until the middle of Q1,” said a spokesperson.
Industry watchers have pointed to the team Vodafone has assembled this year as evidence of a major push into IT and managed services.
Earlier this year, it appointed Bob Brace as head of IT communications product marketing, covering fixed/mobile convergence and IP product marketing.
It has recruited former Nortel EMEA president Peter Kelly as UK enterprise director, replacing long-serving business channel boss Kyle Whitehill, who joined Vodafone Essar as chief operating officer in February.
And outgoing Avenir UK managing director Tanny Price has been drafted in for her knowledge of overlapping mobile/IT sectors in indirect sales channels. Her working knowledge of O2’s channel revenue share scheme among its partners is also considered a boon for Vodafone.
Sources claimed last week Vodafone has been in discussions with Carphone Warehouse about a possible deal for its fixed line service provider Opal Telecom. Both Vodafone and Carphone strenuously denied the claims as rumours.
Still, IDC analyst Lars Vestergaard, closely following Vodafone’s convergence strategy in particular, remarked that Vodafone will ensure it becomes a systems integrator through next year, assisting companies with a total solution rather than just straight mobile service provision.
Said Vestergaard: “Vodafone has a lot of the capabilities to come close to being a systems integrator already. Does it aspire to be one? Most definitely.”
He went on: “Vodafone is a total communications provider, not just a telco. It is focusing very much on guiding and hand-holding vertical markets, demonstrating how customers can work outside of the office space efficiently and effectively.”