P1 To Increase Business Customers in 2013
By Charles F. Moreira
Packet One Networks (P1) will focus more on increasing its number of business customers in 2013, its chief executive officer Michael Lai told Enterprise IT News at its headquarters in late December 2012.
Its business applications include P1’s Next Generation Voice Session Initiation Protocol (NGV SIP) Internet telephony and business applications for mobile, especially when more LTE (Long Term Evolution) handsets are available at affordable prices.
As expected, P1 will also launch its much awaited TD-LTE service in 2013, or more specifically in the second half of the year.
“We expect TD-LTE will take off from 2014 onwards, when end-user device prices become affordable, there’s more extensive network coverage and more applications for the devices,” said Lai.
Half of its current WiMAX base stations are software upgradeable to also support TD-LTE and both services will coexist concurrently for two to three years, as WiMAX is gradually phased out.
Currently, its several thousand business customers contribute around 10% to P1’s overall revenue and so far, most of them are served by its BizPriority wireless leased line service which comes with 24×7 monitoring and tech support, plus a service-level agreement (SLA) which guarantees 99.7% uptime and contractual broadband speed 99.7% of the time.
Its business customers include educational institutions such as UCSI University and the Asia Pacific University College of Technology and Innovation (UCTI), F&N Beverages, manufacturers, hosting services companies such as Skali, call centres, the hospitality industry and more.
Its wireless Internet service currently uses WiMAX in the 2.3GHz licensed band, WiFi 802.11a & n in the unlicensed 5.8GHz band and will also use TD-LTE when available.
“Our WiMAX service was available to fixed home and nomadic users but not on WiMAX handsets due to their very limited availability due to the relatively low acceptance of WiMAX worldwide,” said Lai. “However, LTE is a well accepted standard worldwide and especially with big operators such as Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, Clearwire, Softbank and Vodafone adopting it, there will be a large enough user base and ecosystem for LTE device manufacturers to achieve economies of scale, hence affordable prices.
“LTE will let P1 address the small-screen market with products from multiple suppliers, and the small screen will let us better serve our business customers over LTE, such as by us providing our customers with more business applications, including cloud-based services for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
“However, business mobile app developers must be careful not to be too intrusive with their users’ private data, since businesses are especially sensitive and can be put off, ” Lai added.
Mobile apps can also link together a business’ online and offline aspects. P1 looks towards MSC Malaysia’s Integrated Content Development Programme (ICON2) for some business mobile apps.
Lai believes self-service mobile apps will take off in a big way once the ecosystem is in place and more businesses are ready for it. While opportunities in machine-to-machine (M2M) communications are abundant but once again, it boils down to ecosystem and economies of scale.
“Both business mobile apps and M2M communications will probably take about three years to fully mature,” Lai added.
A large enough number of LTE operators, whether the TD or FD variant, provide the economies of scale to support roaming exchanges which interconnect different member operators without each of them having to sign separate roaming agreements with each roaming partner individually.
Current examples in place include the Bridge Alliance of which Maxis is a member, Conexus Mobile Alliance and others, and they are ready for LTE roaming. These provide each member’s customers with more affordable voice and data roaming rates, including flat rates to avoid billshock.
The WiMAX operators also formed similar alliances but their small numbers and relatively small number of subscribers made such alliances less viable.
P1 launched its fixed fibre service in September 2012, so it’s still very early with regards to the number of customer acquisitions. The service rides on third-party fibre connections provided by Telekom Malaysia, Jalenas and others.
“Our fibre strategy is to serve businesses from small office, home offices (SoHo) and larger and fibre is more critical to businesses which do electronic direct mail, telesales, etc,” said Lai.
“There’s also a big opportunity here since only 40,000 to 50,000 of the 300,000 business premises passed by fibre are actually connected, which leaves us with an opportunity to serve 250,000 businesses with fibre,” he added.
SIP Internet Protocol (IP) telephony is popularly known to help businesses save on telco call charges by routing voice traffic as data through the Internet.
“For example, using our SIP services, I’ve been able to call a number in Malaysia from London and only pay domestic Malaysian call charges,” said Lai.
Such a call made in similar fashion via Skype call, would be routed through the Internet from London to P1’s IP-PBX (IP-Private Branch Exchange) in Malaysia, which would then dial out to the domestic fixed or mobile number. If it was SIP phone to SIP phone, it would be free-of-charge.
P1 spent 2012 building partnerships with Siemens, Netregy, NEC and others to provide the SIP PBXs which work over P1’s broadband network, as well as applications such as voice calls, video calls, entry control, unified communications and more, in preparation for their rollout in 2013. Like Skype, SIP can also be available on mobile devices,
“We cannot run away from SIP in 2013,” said Lai. “There will also be hosted SIP services which bigger companies such as P1 can host in our own data centre and we expect to be a cloud service provider in the next three to five years,” he added.