The mobile market presents an extraordinary opportunity which is reflected by Gamma’s ‘market disrupting’ partnership with Three, according to Gamma’s Head of New Business Mark Lomas.
As Covid-19 impacted organisations become more aware of their communication needs and the benefits of going digital, their ICT provider partners when accounting for their activities will become ever more challenged if mobile is not featured. In seeking to give partners what they need in the mobile and UCaaS space Gamma has deepened and evolved its relationship with Three over the past 12 months and positioned the partnership as a transformative force in the channel. “Together we will disrupt the market,” stated Lomas (pictured) in his Margin in Mobile interview. “We will bring a disruptive tariff set and provide a level of flexibility that has not been seen before. Watch this space.”
According to Three’s Partner Manager Mark Earlam the partnership represents a turning point that has directed Three’s attention to the booming post-lockdown cloud and mobile markets. “For Three the partnership is all about giving Gamma access to the best parts of our network and pushing out into the business space where Three doesn’t traditionally play,” stated Earlam. “Gamma will have network parity once we complete testing. The key is around our bandwidth spectrum. 5G is an exciting opportunity for us, Gamma, partners and businesses.”
5G forms part of Gamma’s medium to long-term strategy and it’s one of the reasons it partnered with Three. Another reason for the link-up was to bring to the channel a feature rich full UC experience. “Therefore we transitioned away from operating as a full MVNO to a hybrid model whereby we moved some of our functionality into the Three cloud,” explained Lomas. “The hybrid model is unique to the industry and allows us to take advantage of new technology like 5G more quickly. We are in a testing phase and will be launching in the early part of Q1 next year.
The hybrid model is unique to the industry and allows us to take advantage of new technology like 5G more quickly
“We will roll out Voice over LTE and native Wi-Fi calling as part of the upgrade. But for the here and now it’s about giving control, functionality and flexibility to the channel supported by our Covid Recovery Package, with 30 day rolling contracts and unlimited data promotions, to provide flexibility as the situation develops.”
The underlying message Gamma has long pushed out to the channel is one of business continuity and ‘what happens if...?’. “We didn’t expect a global pandemic, but that message is now driven home having jumped forward three years in six months,” stated Lomas.
Initially, Gamma saw its data usage drop which was substituted by home Wi-Fi connections. That, noted Lomas, creates its own problems around cost, data caps and poor quality etc. “But a 4G SIM gives a better experience,” he added. “As with every service there has been a ‘Covid-19 effect’ in mobile. For example, with help from partners we delivered thousands of connections to school pupils that had no data connectivity at home.
“One of the biggest impacts we have seen relates to channel partners that had little desire to add mobile to their portfolio. Due to the pandemic they needed to adopt this service immediately and we developed support packages for the channel across all services, generating over £1 million in automated credits. Now we are slowly moving back into the working environment we are supporting partners with a Covid Recovery Package.”
Three is investing £2.5bn over five years into its infrastructure and cloud core network to reduce downtime, introduce self-healing and in-built AI, and to support 5G services and other technologies it has brought out. The company has so far rolled out 5G to circa 600 sites and will continue through to 2021 – and all 4G and 5G data traffic will be transitioned to a new cloud core.
“This is massive for Three,” added Earlam. “It allows us from a capacity point of view to support growth in data and the transition to 5G. We’ve also seen 4G speeds continuously improve. For us it’s about the broader picture: We are in a great position with 3G, 4G and 5G, improving service levels and working to extend rural services. Backhaul is also key and our partnerships in a network infrastructure context include Nokia, Ericsson, CityFibre and Virgin Media Business.”
We believe that mobile is the core of any UCaaS proposition, even more so when 5G becomes readily available
According to Lomas, from a 5G perspective the 100 megabit spectrum is key and he says Gamma is going to be the only MNO with this spectrum. “Our partnership with Three is going to guarantee us a full fat network experience,” he added. “Gamma will enable the channel to gain access to this and the full power of new technologies. We’ve heard lots about 5G and the endless possibilities it will offer, but these will take time to deliver. Therefore, 4G is as important as ever. A reseller’s near-term strategy should simply include adding mobility to their portfolio if not already present, and ensure they are at the heart of their customer’s UCaaS platform. The pandemic and the new way of working has made that decision for channel partners.”
Lomas has also noticed an increase in ISPs moving into the mobile space, allowing them to offer UC and provide 5G back-up when they become available. “Our private APN proposition will enable these companies to control mobile data in the same way they do fixed data, with data routed directly off the Gamma network into their infrastructure,” he stated.
Part of Gamma’s strategy has been around FMC, which has effectively evolved into UCaaS. Now, the focus is on the customer experience and seamless processes. “Another common trend is that each partner wants more flexibility in their UC offering,” said Lomas. “It has to be a robust network, simple to deploy, simple to use, simple to make amendments and be provided and supported by one supplier. If you can’t supply mobile SIMs, a telephony platform and connectivity you’re not fitting the end customer’s strategy.”
In the IT market, observed Lomas, the addition of mobile and voice services is an important way of generating new revenues and margins, but more importantly it protects their customers from comms resellers entering the IT space. “The end client wants to purchase from one supplier, and if they don’t have mobile services at their disposal they will be at risk as someone else will come along and take their lunch,” warned Lomas. “We believe that mobile is the core of any UCaaS proposition, even more so when 5G becomes readily available.”