Business Technology

The telecoms market newcomer challenging BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin

6 min read

20 October 2015

The telecoms business is developing rapidly – but it’s not just new technology and faster broadband speeds that are changing. The European Commission’s Digital Single Market proposals, the latest version of which were unveiled last week, will change the way hundreds of millions of people access the web and use their smartphones.

The EU wants to ensure that there is sufficient competition between providers so that customers can get the best deals and the lowest prices.

As the Eurocrats cogitate a few small businesses are already increasing that competition by launching their own services. One of these is TenTel, an independent telecoms company based in Scotland that is determined to disrupt the market and take on the ‘big four’ telecoms companies that are BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin to give customers something that is not yet available.

Launched in July 2014, TenTel supplies broadband and telephone to thousands of homes across the UK. Recently awarded a £170,000 Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) grant by Scottish Enterprise, TenTel will soon be moving to a larger premises.

During its first year of trading it became one the fastest growing telecoms companies in the UK and had built up its team to 50 people. It will nearly double that workforce shortly and intends to sign up another 50,000 customers, on top of the 5,000 it had by August this year.

“Put simply, TenTel offers what the big four lack,” said managing director Robert McKechnie. “We’re willing to push boundaries and not restrict ourselves to established practices in the current telecoms market.

“Our no-contract service and the option to have live telephone and broadband the day you move into a new property provides a refreshing alternative for consumers. Our competitive prices speak for themselves.”

One of the most surprising things about TenTel is not just that it’s prepared to take on such vast, well established competitors with very high profile brands, but that its management team is new the telecoms industry.

McKechnie, for instance, was founder and director of an online cash flow management system called Pulse. Another founder, PJ Darling, is a Canadian entrepreneur who started an electricity and gas supplier called Spark Energy – based, like TenTel, in Selkirk.

Read more on broadband businesses:

The company is particularly aimed at tenants rather than just homeowners and it points to the fact that there are currently 3.9m private tenants in the UK with this forecast set to grow strongly in the next three to five years.

With its leadership team’s diverse backgrounds, as part of their mission to “bring fresh ideas to a stagnant market crippled by lack of competition,” the TenTel leaders have used their extensive experience from various backgrounds to rethink the way in which telecoms companies work.

As an example of this new approach TenTel points to its relations with letting agents that offers new tenants the opportunity to get live telephone and broadband the day they move in to their new property, cutting the usual waiting time for these services by weeks.

In this highly competitive market, the company is committed to keeping its prices low and so it offers a no-contract option for its broadband service without what it calls “sneaky penalties” or exit fees if the consumer no longer requires the service – elements that will appeal to tenants in particular.

“We focus on a niche market, which had been desperate for a fair alternative to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ telecoms and broadband services previously on offer,” McKechnie explained “Our success has come from offering consumers an honest choice.”

As the larger telecoms providers follow Sky by providing content as well as hardware – witness the launch of BT Sport and Vodafone’s decision to offer pay-TV, TenTel’s differentiating factor will become more pronounced.

This positioning with the telecoms sector has, though, brought its own particular difficulties. “It was extremely challenging finding the right team,” he said.

“We needed employees who were willing to break the mould by challenging the accepted practices and everyday restrictions that hold back the current telecoms industry, and disrupt the telecoms market. It took time, but was worth it in the end.” To help with recruitment the company pays above the Living Wage.

As well as the RSA grant, capital, said McKechnie, has come from “a number of like-minded private investors, who were extremely enthusiastic about the project and provided the initial investment.”

“We’ve already been making waves and the big players are sitting up and paying attention,” he revealed. “I believe TenTel will become the envy of the telecoms industry and set the bar for customer expectations.”

Whatever the outcome of the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals and whenever Brussels finally decides on its policy a growing number of small and medium sized businesses such as TenTel will be carrying on regardless to increase competition and therefore increasing consumer choice in this fast growing sector.