Take, for example, the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) consultation on broadband advertisements – a reaction to a lack of transparency around speed claims. The move will do little, however, to alleviate the negative reputation the telecoms sector is starting to be painted with.
“There are just too many sharks exploiting the unwary with dodgy deals,” Millett said, “and insufficient protection particularly for SMEs with more than ten employees. SMEs with ten or fewer employees and domestic customers can get support from the Ombudsman Services.
“Providers seem to be collectively resisting change that would benefit customers. Why can we roam for free in Europe but not in the UK? Mobile operators resisted government proposals for this. Also look at the money and effort thrown at stopping the separation of Openreach. There appears to be too much self-interest.”
Ofcom has started to level more stringent fines against companies for a range of factors – misleading sales tactics, poor customer service, incorrect billing – but in Millett’s view, it does not go far enough in retaining British business.
Bosses only have so much patience – continually bad service, unexpected cost add-ons and slow internet speed will make them look for a different place to set up shop. There are ways to reinvigorate the industry though.
“My advice to the the ASA is to require suppliers to publish more information on the average speeds customers get, not just what some of them get. Ofcom statistics on complaints per 100,000 on residential focused adverts should be included. How can Plusnet adverts continually quote having great customer service while invariably topping Ofcom’s complaints list?
“The problem the ASA faces is that residential broadband has been price obsessed, which leads to a race to the bottom with no focus on quality of service. Hence consultation is aimed a lot at pricing clarity. To help redress that the ASA should be looking at other factors such as when suppliers give out free routers are they of sufficient quality. Look at all the issues around hacked routers and losses of customer data.”
Another method is to, as was emphasised by Millett, keep pace with trends and change. Much has been said about Verizon keeping close to Yahoo, which has led many to ponder whether, in the future, telecoms and media will be difficult to tell apart. BT certainly seems to be paving the way with its TV rights.
And various disruptions could end up driving change in telecommunications for the better in the next few years.
“Most of the major industry disruptors such as Uber, Airbnb etc. have targeted the consumer space,” Millett explained. “It is harder to do that in the business space where companies have large legacy systems and investments in place. WhatsApp has hit mobile operators revenues to a degree but as roaming costs are removed the need for that disappears.
“As 4G rolls out and the consistent availability of free public WiFi becomes common you will see businesses decide: do I have a mobile focused strategy – hopefully reliant on 5G coverage – or do I use applications (extensions of phone systems) to put landline numbers on mobiles.
“In this instance you would just buy data sims. This may be something the financial services industry will be looking at with MIFID II requiring calls to be recorded, which is harder on mobiles.
“ISDN is due to be turned off in 2025 so over the next few years we’ll see the drive towards SIP and VoIP but these both need decent internet connections.”
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