Mobile carriers chart different paths to market

NZ's mobile giants make different pitches for enterprise customers

Telecom has announced a series of business customer wins for its XT network over the past few weeks, but none of them so far are what would be considered huge.

All of that may be about to change, however, as Gen-i’s general manager of corporate sales indicated to Computerworld last week that some very big deals are about to drop.

“Watch this space,” Steve Mills says.

Telecom’s IT services unit Gen-i is emerging as a key channel for the company’s new XT network, providing access to higher value business customers.

The term “whole of business” has appeared in some of Gen-i’s win announcements, indicating Telecom’s strategy is to expand the services it provides to existing customers, in voice, data and IT, to the mobile platform.

Mills admits what Telecom was for so long loath to say: that before the XT network launch, the CDMA network proposition offered by the company was not competitive for organisations that see mobility as a key strategy.

But that has now changed and, at least at the technology level, that disadvantage has been erased.

Mills says what Gen-i is seeing now is a lot of activity around mobilising business applications. He says, for example, that Gen-i is doing a lot of work for companies wanting to take their implementations into the field.

The approach is a whole of business value proposition across the whole of Telecom, fixed line, IT and mobility, he says.

“We believe we’re New Zealand’s leading ICT integrator and we now have the best mobility solution. Bring that together and it’s pretty powerful,” Mills says.

But the big deals Mills is referring to are a mystery to Vodafone’s director of sales Grant Hopkins, who says he is seeing the lowest churn among corporate customers ever.

“There’s very few in play,” he says, adding Defence was one of the largest recently, and Vodafone won that contract.

Hopkins says Telecom’s “whole of business” angle is nothing new. He says customers who go for it are paying a premium somewhere for the mobile network to compete. He says Vodafone sells on the value of its services to the customer, taking a best-of-breed approach against Telecom’s all-in-one.

Corporate customers see the value in that, he says, as opposed to an “average” approach from a “generalist” provider. Customers can choose the best mobile solution, best data solution and the best IT services provider for their needs.

“You don’t go to a GP when you want brain surgery,” he says.

Telecom says it can do deals in mobile that it can’t do in fixed line sales because the mobile market is not regulated in the same way.

The Commerce Commission regulates services where a player is perceived to be dominant, Mills says. In the mobile market, Telecom is not considered dominant.

That does not mean Telecom can do as it pleases, though. Mills says there are still internal and external regulations it has to abide by.

“But it is less difficult,” he says.

At the XT launch in May, Gen-i’s head of mobile, Joe Caccioppoli, told Computerworld Gen-i would offer “Gen-i only rates” for data, devices and plans reflecting the spending levels of large corporate clients with the company.

He too pointed out that mobile services are not regulated in the same way as fixed line services.

Caccioppoli said a lot of clients use both Telecom and Gen-i for mobile services. Sometimes they use Telecom for 90 percent of their services but 10 percent who have special roaming needs may use Vodafone. As a result, in some cases, Telecom had 90 percent of users but only 70 percent or 80 percent of revenue.

Last week, Gen-i announced a further customer win, Radius Health, to add to others such as Harcourts and Crane Group, in addition to upgrades from Telecom’s old network.

That process has not been without hiccups, though. Customers have complained about call service quality and dropped calls and Telecom has acknowledged teething problems. Those complaints have been relatively few, so far, but the network is not exactly overloaded right now.

Mills says service is what Gen-i is taking to market.

“Ever since we planned it, we’ve pushed service, straight-forward, robust service, as a key driver,” he says. “That has pricked up customers’ ears.”

He adds that Gen-i’s mobility offering literally has IT at the centre - with the letters capitalised in blue.

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