Gamma: Dealers must stretch selves

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Gamma Telecom chief executive Bob Falconer told dealers at a recent London roadshow they were letting customers and new sales opportunities go, comparing the channel to a “leaky bucket” that does not hold water properly.

“Typical rates of loss of customers can be anything between one and three per cent a month, which doesn’t seem a lot, but can amount to 36 per cent a year.” said Falconer.

He said Gamma Telecom would help dealers plug the holes by providing them with a product set to differentiate their offers. He said dealers could reduce churn within their customer bases, and improve sales of new products to them, and draw in new business too.

Falconer spoke of Gamma Telecom’s broader reseller package of business broadband, fixed line, in/outbound telephony solutions and mobile via its MVNO proposition with 3.

He said the business had resolved financial difficulties from the fall-out of Tiscali’s sale to Carphone Warehouse’s fixed line division TalkTalk last year for £236 million. Tiscali was Gamma Telecom’s biggest reseller customer before Carphone stepped in.

Residential fixed line customers signed by Tiscali represented around 15 per cent of its entire base.

The migration of them to TalkTalk has cost Gamma Telecom a major revenue stream, forcing it to refocus on a broader portfolio of business communications for re-sale to the SME market via the indirect channel.

Falconer said Gamma Telecom has moved to unite a compelling range of voice and data services for business customers, and was driving the “operational gap between Gamma Telecom and its competitors.”

He said fixed line, mobile and broadband industries are moving towards closer technologies. The coming availability of fibre optic broadband nationwide, through the Next Generation Access (NGA) scheme run by BT’s wholesale division BT Openreach, will allow speeds of up to 100Mbps by 2012 offers dealers huge opportunities.

“The speeds we are currently seeing are only the beginning,” he said.

Both the Government and the shadow cabinet are setting targets around the NGA project, observed Falconer, as election pledges. It is the present adminstration’s aim to see fibre-to-the-cabinet access to super-fast broadband for 40 per cent of UK homes by 2012, and the Conservatives have stated recently they will guarantee fibre-to-the-home for 90 per cent of UK residencies by 2017.

Falconer is mindful the importance of the NGA scheme, like the advances promised by the Digital Britain project, should not be lost in the electioneering.

It is “a bandwagon” for politicians to jump on and pay lip service to, but Falconer made clear also such advances are “the biggest investment into telecoms in a decade” and represent clear sales opportunities.

The fact ‘cloud’ computing and  ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) solutions will run even more efficiently with such unlimited bandwidth makes the promise of unified communications and easier working practices a bigger draw for punters, and a richer sale for savvy dealers. “These advances will change everything in this industry,” he said.

The point is Gamma Telecom will advance its service offering in parallel, he remarked. Dealers should grasp the nettle now, and cross-sell and up-sell all broadband, fixed line and mobile services. Its cloud-based services, like its Contact Pro IP inbound call monitoring service, will be expanded and improved with a faster access network.

Gamma Telecom marketing manager Justin Coombes said the company will look to replicate the service for outbound IP telephony solutions also.

Falconer said, after some network reliability associated with the infrastructure programme 3 has been running with T-Mobile to converge and improve their network, Gamma Telecom’s MVNO is now more robust, and showing good growth.

But he said straight voice – whether fixed or mobile – “remains under pressure”, and stressed the importance for dealers to unify their communications offers to business customers. PBX sales were down 40 per cent last year, he remarked; the cabling market, and specifically the installer space, was down 90 per cent. Growth is through hosted solutions and, of course, inbound telephony services.

“Gamma is now supplying around 500 channel partners,” he said. “Our roadshows are an annual thing, a real industry event. One works very hard to get customers and its been especially hard this year. But there are reasons to be cheerful and optimistic.”

This article originally appeared in Mobile News 458 (March 1, 2010).

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