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ISDN switch-off and 5G are clear opportunities for BT channel

Comms specialist has seen a response from customers to the lockdown, with many reaching out for higher-speed digital solutions

The coronavirus has accelerated changes in many places and the move to a distributed workforce has forced many customers to consider their comms and collaboration strategies.

Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams have seen usage numbers skyrocket, but questions have also been raised about the infrastructure that customers are using. Many expect levels of home working to remain high, even after life gets back to some sense of normality.

In the comms world, customers were already facing pressure to move away from ISDN before it is switched off in 2025 and the speed of migration has increased.

Gavin Jones, director of channel at BT Wholesale, said it had been encouraging partners to get focused on fibre and 5G.

The firm has a 1,000 strong partner base and is catering for a disparate channel, including data, voice and mobile specialists.

“Our aspiration is to have the widest access portfolio,” said Jones “Fibre and 5G form areas of that wide portfolio and we will support our partners in a value-added way.”

He said BT Wholesale had been supporting customers as they moved away from ISDN and it had a suite of products that the channel could take out to help users migrate to an IP environment.

“There has been more acceleration in the past three months than there has been in the last three years,” he said. “The rise in working from home and the need to be digital has started to accelerate.”

Jones added that the interest in SIP had “increased dramatically” during the lockdown and many customers were looking at their options. But that raised questions that did not always have clear-cut answers, he said. “The next big question is, what will remain the status quo?”

“The channel has yet to really gauge the implication of having to move everything by 2025,” said Jones. “There is still a lot of work in understanding what goes where and what needs to be moved.”

Inevitably, there are still plenty of customers who have reached out to partners to help with ISDN migration and that might not change until the deadline is looming much larger.

“There is always a real bow-wave towards the end, but we would like it to go faster,” said Jones.

As well as getting users to think about migrating away from ISDN, there is also the prospect of 5G shaking up the comms possibilities.

“5G is probably considered one of the jewels in the crown at BT,” said Jones, adding that the firm was rolling out the high-speed connectivity to more cities across the UK.

“It is early days, but the usage cases are emerging,” he said, pointing out that the benefits of enhanced broadband and the ability to provide support for more internet-of-things (IoT) devices were already understood.

5G could usher in changes in the channel landscape, said Jones. “We are at the early stages of understanding what the wholesale opportunity is and what does a wholesaler look like?” he said. “In the past, most sold data minutes and calls, but now most are selling unified comms, Teams and security.

“A new breed of wholesalers and new people will enter the market. There will be new use cases we don’t understand and know at the moment. It will be a natural evolution of the partner channel.”

Jones said BT Wholesale was proud to have a partner base 1,000 strong and it was listening to feedback from the channel and was committed to being more supportive and had already seen its satisfaction scores climbing.

“We might not have been the most dynamic, but we are addressing that,” he said, adding that it was also looking to “simplify processes” to make life easier for partners.

Read more on Unified Communications (UC) Services

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