Don’t Believe the Lies

There are many telecoms companies who will have you believe that BT are turning off their ISDN service and that means BT are turning off all phone numbers that run over their copper imminently.

THIS IS A LIE

BT Openreach’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) will reach end of life by 2025 and that is what supports products such as ISDN2 and ISDN30. They are currently planning to phase out their ISDN service from 2025. There is no rush for you to make the change, from ISDN. BT is not going to cut you off. However, there are 16 million lines that need to move by that point.

There are, however, a range a reasons why migrating from ISDN solutions to others would be beneficial for your business. Let’s look at them now.

1. Flexibility

When your phone calls go over ISDN, they can only go to one location; where your phone system is. With a VoIP or SIP solution, your calls go to wherever you are.

  • To another office
  • To your mobile
  • To your laptop
  • To your home – if you really want them to

If your teams need to be highly mobile, but also need to be contactable, an ISDN solution will not meet your needs. Imagine how much more productive your teams can be if they can communicate quickly and easily from wherever they are.

2. Cost management

ISDN contracts are based on a fixed number of lines for a fixed period of time. If your business is growing, this is less of an issue. You may get to the point where some calls cannot get through (you don’t need an ISDN line per person, it’s per concurrent call per line that’s important). You simply add more lines at that point. However, if the number of people working from a specific location gets smaller, you will be wasting more and more money on lines you don’t need. That can be renegotiated at the end of the contract, but not at any point before that.

3. Improved business continuity

If something happens that means you cannot use your office, you want to be able to work productively from another location. This may be a serviced office (if the closure is expected to be for some time), from client locations, from home or even coffee shops (for an hour or two…). Without a solution that allows you to divert calls accordingly, your clients, prospects and suppliers will be calling your office and becoming increasingly frustrated because they cannot reach you.

4. Scalability

Is your business trading pattern the same throughout the year? Or does it have peaks and troughs that mean staff numbers expand and contract? SIP and VoIP solutions can be adjusted on a monthly basis, adapting precisely to your business needs.

5. Opening/closing new locations

If you’re opening a new location, you will need to plan ahead if you have a ISDN solution. Lead times are at least 20 working days, whereas an internet-based solution can be turned on almost instantly. If you then need to close that location, you are still paying for ISDN lines because of the contract.

 

If you do get companies telling you that BT are turning off their ISDN service, simply tell them you know they are lying. Whilst they are trying to get you to think about alternative solutions, that come with a range of benefits, a lie is never the best way to start a relationship.

If you are getting calls from companies lying to you in this way, and want a more accurate conversation, give us a call: 020 8912 0845

 

How Brexit makes calling Scotland very expensive

calling scotland could become expensiveThe EU referendum is rapidly approaching. June 23rd will be a very important day in the history of the UK, no matter which way the vote goes. In telecoms terms the most significant impact would most likely be if the UK population votes to leave the European Union. Let me explain my thoughts…

Roaming

On April 30th 2016, the EU applies further charging caps on what the mobile operators can charge for roaming calls and data. If you are in Europe and either make mobile calls or use data on your smartphone, they will be much cheaper from that date. In 2017, they will be abolished altogether and you will simply use your contract bundle wherever you are in the EU. The most obvious change, if the UK left the EU, could be that this was no longer the case. A new agreement would be required. However, the precedent is there as other countries outside the EU such have Norway have signed up to the deal. The impact may be longer term if the EU starts to promote common tariffs to people visiting from outside the EU. Again as with other trade elements does that mean the UK could set lower costs or be left out?

Now back to the title of this blog. How could calling Scotland become more expensive? Everyone knows that Nicola Sturgeon is planning to hold another Scottish Referendum and if the UK were to leave the EU, this would leave the way for Scotland to have another referendum. If they did and voted to leave that would impact businesses with operations or customers across the two countries.

Calls from London to Edinburgh would then be international calls. If you were in Scotland with an English SIM card, you would be making roaming calls. If you check your LinkedIn status, you would be using roaming data and just how much would that cost you? If Scotland leaves the UK, it doesn’t mean it will be part of Europe and so you could incur Rest of World roaming data charges. For some mobile operators that is up to £8 per MB! Billshock could return!

There would also need an Ofcom for each country and potentially different pricing for lines and internet.

Still, this is all conjecture, so let’s see what we wake up to on the 24th June and go from there.

SIM only, Sharer or Individual Contracts – Which is Best for your Business Mobile Service?

SIM only, Sharer or Individual Contracts – Which is Best for your Business Mobile Service?
There are now a range of different options for organisations when they source their mobiles. Not all will be advertised as the networks would prefer to get you on two year contracts where if you add a handset at a later date that is on its own two year deal and you end up in a loop.
There are alternatives and this blog discusses the pros and cons of each option and the tricks to watch out for before you sign.

Sim Free
One month rolling sims are now readily available offering flexibility to companies with varying levels of requirements in terms of number of users. Unlimited calls and texts with 2Gb of data are available from c £22 a month. Lower usage packages are available for c £10 a month. The advantages are flexibility and absence of a 2 year commitment. The downside is that there is no hardware fund to buy new phones, but the cost of SIM free handsets has dropped significantly on the web. If you already have unlocked phones it could be ideal. You could also use it if you have some people out of contract as an interim measure to align all the renewal dates

Sharer Contracts
Sharer contracts are ideal if you have a lot of users with variable monthly usage. Nowadays you can share minutes, texts and data across each handset. So if one user is high then it can be offset by someone who is under. It avoids concerns over excess usage charges. It can be cheaper than buying unlimited deals for everyone. It is important to ensure that you get a coterminous contract whereby you can add additional users without extending the original contract date. These deals will come with a hardware fund, always ask for the price the handsets will charged for against the fund and check against online prices. If you can buy the handsets you want cheaper online then ask for the fund in cash. Normally you need at least 6 – 7 handsets to make sharer contracts cost in although it can vary depending on usage.

Individual Contracts
The final option is to have a company account but with an individual contract for each user. This gives the flexibility in terms of start and stop dates and still gives a hardware fund. The collective buying power should mean a better deal. But do not buy the same service for everyone. For example not everyone needs unlimited everything. Some users may be very low usage so buy accordingly. The group account will mean free calls between users if you don’t have unlimited packages. This works well for smaller companies with just a few mobiles who need help with financing new handsets.

In either of the last two options if you take a handset as part of a deal do try and ensure it is unlocked or at the very least get written confirmation it will unlocked for free on the last day of the contract. Also if you take a handset as part of a deal at the end of the two years ensure your payments are reduced then if you do not negotiate a new contract. What the mobile companies find very useful is that when the contract is up the same payment continues after the phone has been paid for. In fact a recent report http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/10827082/Britons-waste-1bn-paying-for-phones-they-already-own.html estimated that in the UK alone that £1 billion was being wasted on payments for phones that had already been “bought”.
If you like any advice on what is the most suitable solution for your business then please contact us at 020 8912 0845 or info@equinox.uat.3mil.co.uk for some free impartial advice.

Can your staff really work from home?

With the next tube strike just days away, what options do your staff have if they live on the tube network?

Are they able to effectively work from home or will your business suffer because of the strikes?

Many bosses prefer to have their staff in the office, even with today’s technology meaning it really isn’t necessary.

Is it a trust issue, in that they don’t believe they’re working unless they can see them? In the past “working from home” was a euphemism for taking the day off, but that is no longer the case.

Is it a team issue, in that they believe the team works better when they can bounce ideas off each other and feel the buzz in the room? This can be great when there is a positive vibe in the room, but what will that vibe really be like once everyone has struggled into work on packed buses and overcrowded trains?

A home-working solution based around trust will deliver real benefits, particularly on the days the RMT decide to upset everyone in London again. Think about it:

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  • Connecting mobiles to your office phone solution so outbound calls look like they are coming from the office, and inbound calls get answered by the right person
  • Staff probably starting work early because they don’t have to travel in
  • Everyone happy because they can drink their own coffee, instead of the dreadful stuff in the vending machine!
  • Data access is no longer a problem. For bigger businesses, staff simply connect to the office server network via Citrix or similar technologies. For smaller companies, Dropbox makes data sharing very easy
  • Video-conferencing means staff can have virtual meetings whenever they want to. They may even be able to peek into each other’s homes via the link!
  • On a more serious note, staff can have the client and sales meetings they need to, without having to deal with the tube network when they’re on strike.

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With the strikes in February costing London’s small businesses over £600 million, perhaps it’s time to make sure your business isn’t impacted too much.

If you’re worried about the impact future tube, bus and train strikes will have on your business, get in touch and we can talk about your needs and the solution options available to you.

What will be the impact of the EU roaming vote?

callow topThe media is full of comments around the EU’s vote to banish roaming charges.  Add that to the recent European Commission survey that says more than 1 in 4 people switch off their mobile phones when travelling in Europe and outside of their home country and it is safe to say that roaming is a key story at this time.

At the moment I don’t know how many of those polled were business users (I’m sure I could find out but not sure its really worth the bother!!) but lets use the figures contained within the survey to assess the impact.

1 in 10 reduce their use of email

I get a lot of email. There is a real danger that limiting your use of email to when you can get a wifi signal (otherwise known as back in your hotel or at lunch in a coffee shop) could mean losing out on business.

30% don’t make phone calls

Whilst I am sure that this won’t be the case for most business users (after all the user isn’t paying the bill – that’s the responsibility of the IT Director or the FD), worrying about the cost of these calls may mean some business users, particularly those within small businesses, may hesitate in making calls and this could lead to the same result: a loss of business.

Of course there is the option of waiting for wifi and using Skype?

Who’s going to pay?

The loss of roaming revenues will make a big hole in the piggy banks of the mobile operators; they will want to make that up somewhere; the question is where?

In my opinion it will occur in the following ways:

  1. the cost of roaming outside the EU will increase dramatically
  2. the investment in infrastructure will slow down
  3. the cost of your contract will go up

They are not going to walk away from £26bn.

What are your thoughts on where they will make up this money?

The Mobile Industry – who is history and who will be?

 

Seven years ago most people used either a Blackberry or Nokia as their mobile device.  They were the two hottest telecoms companies of the day. Blackberry had a market capitalisation of over $50bn, whilst Nokia as a whole was valued at $150bn. Move forward to today.  Blackberry is almost in freefall with poor takeup of recent product lauches, whilst Nokia was snapped up by Microsoft for $7bn and soon its name will disappear from the mobile marketplace.

The death knell was sounded when the iPhone arrived and Blackberry was too slow to react.  Mike Lazaridis, who was then co-CEO of Research in Motion, was asked in 2007 about the threat from Apple’s phone. “How much presence does Apple have in business? It’s vanishingly small,” was his reaction, and he was dismissive of the idea that anyone would want a phone without a keyboard.   The response from Nokia’s executives was similar.  Only in recent times have they given up on the Symbian software and moved to windows based devices.

So, is anyone ready to predict that in six years Apple and Samsung will have fallen from grace in a similar style? Of the two who has the most to fear? Well Samsung have become the market leader and Apple’s recent releases have not perhaps had the wow factor of a few years ago.   This is highlighted by the fact that for the first time Apple are offering trade-ins to encourage people to upgrade. But Samsung latest release resulted in dismissal of their leading designer.

Since Steve Jobs died there have also been software issues, notably the maps fiasco and reports of blue screening with the IPhone 5S.  The IPhone 6 launch brought forth stories of devices bending in pockets, heavy memory usage and even pulling women’s hair out. Can the price premium be sustained? And, if they are forced to cut prices, will that reduce the resources needed for the vast amount of marketing they undertake to create the brand people desire? It certainly creates for an interesting 2015.

The fastest growth of 2014 was in sales of Windows phones. Microsoft is focusing on the telecoms market with its acquisitions not just Nokia but also Skype. With sales of Lync also expanding – they can make a challenge in both the fixed and mobile space. Samsung also play in that space but it is an area where Apple is weak. As devices become more integrated could that be a chink in the armour.

Will 4G Be Undermined by the Growth of Free Wi-Fi

2014 saw the increasing rollout of 4G, with more and more cities being added. EE have the largest coverage in the UK with the other networks starting to catch up.

This represents a large investment by the companies, which is in addition to the £2.3 billion already paid for the licences.   But I wonder, will it yield the expected benefits for the operators?

Most people will need to upgrade their phones to take advantage of the service, which is not cheap.  EE’s service costs over £40 per month for several GB of data which a couple of hours of video will soon use up.  The different carriers are offering various incentives to sign with them

The challenge for the 4G operators is the fact that free Wi-Fi is becoming ever more available. Even the mobile providers are in on the act as Vodafone and O2 users now get free Wi-Fi on most of the central London Underground.

It is almost impossible to walk into a coffee shop and not get free Wi-Fi.  Many other places are similar and Time Out helpfully provides a guide to hotspots in London http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/where-to-find-free-wi-fi-in-london-9

It is not just in London. I saw a bus in Oxford last week offering free Wi-Fi on board and it is pretty standard too on trains, in first class.

So if there is all this free Wi-Fi about, which from my experience is generally fast enough to watch things such as iPlayer, why would I pay £500 a year on my mobile to get 4G?  I’ll be interested to know what you think. So please do add your comments below.