Ihug gears up to go corporate with VIPNet

The country's largest privately owned ISP is soon to launch a new brand designed to take it into the corporate market. The Internet Group (Ihug) has completed a programme of restructuring and expansion tied to its move into Internet House, its new building in Auckland's Newton Road, which now houses most of its 80 employees.

The country’s largest privately owned ISP is soon to launch a new brand designed to take it into the corporate market.

The Internet Group (Ihug) has completed a programme of restructuring and expansion tied to its move into Internet House, its new building in Auckland’s Newton Road, which now houses most of its 80 employees.

Directors Nick and Tim Wood say the company has been segmented into project groups, including groups focused on corporate services, e-commerce, software development and IT training. A new brand, VIPNet, has been created to deliver business products, which will include both conventional networking and Internet services and the high-speed StarNet satellite service, which has been a hit with domestic customers.

Nick Wood says the company has been “working quietly away” on business products “but we felt the market wasn’t ready for those sorts of products and there wasn’t much point in having them without having customers for them. Now’s the time to do it and we’ll pop them out in the near future.”

The company has drawn almost all its 45,000 customers — most of whom pay a $40 monthly flat rate for Internet access — from the consumer market. Unlike the two other large ISPs, Xtra and Clear, it has built its business through word of mouth, with little marketing expenditure. A similar strategy is being pursued in Australia, where the company is also developing a significant wholesale business, on-selling satellite IP bandwidth to Australian ISPs.

The company’s new Information Technology Institute, a Microsoft-authorised desktop training provider based at Internet House, represents a further diversification.

Says Nick Wood: “Internet is still [our] core business, but there are lots of other things to do. It’s about delivering the consumer a much better product for a much better price. We’re great believers in the fixed-rate model and we plan to provide most of our services in that way.”

The initial VIPNet launch will be followed by a number of product releases, including a service based around StarNet, which allows email and news to be delivered to users without the need for them to be logged on. Tim Wood says the service, built on software from a French company, will be pitched at SOHO customers.

He confirms Ihug has investigated using the StarNet infrastructure — which uses a microwave relay from the Sky Tower — for television broadcast and that “we’re still looking in that area and we don’t have anything else to say at this stage.

“We’re also looking at marketing a Web TV-type product, with the connectivity through us. The set-top box we’re looking at is quite nice — it allows you to make some changes and do stuff on the fly, where a lot of that stuff is hard-coded at the factory.”

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