Could your business benefit from an Independent Telecoms Provider?
When it comes to reliable and cost-effective business connectivity, can independent telecoms service providers give the big guys a run for their money? Jarryd Chatz, MD at BitCo looks at the pros and cons of each in this digital David vs Goliath confrontation.
The cost of connectivity
There’s no denying that large telcos have the upper hand here, at least on the surface. Economies of scale and preferential sourcing practices means they’re able to offer their services at reasonable initial prices and still make a healthy profit.
Working with smaller volumes, independent contractors don’t have the inherent price advantage that their larger counterparts do (although many still prove surprisingly competitive). However, when you consider ongoing cost impacts, the clear-cut difference between the two becomes blurrier. Poor customer support or unreliable connections, for example, can drastically affect ROI on any given contract. Ultimately, businesses should consider medium- and long-term value when accounting for cost.
You know their names
One of the biggest advantages that large telecoms providers have over everyone else is simply that of name recognition. They have large marketing departments, which means they’re top-of-mind when the time comes to choose a service provider. But does superior branding translate into service and value? That all comes down to the individual provider, and companies should be careful to not let the name recognition overshadow potential red flags.
By contrast, smaller operators cannot afford to focus on their marketing at the expense of their core services. Contractors simply aren’t able to skate by on style over substance, and often include additional value adds in their offerings to be able to compete.
A helping hand
Larger telcos often fall short in this area, having to service so many customers that each one becomes just another number in a huge pool of them. As anyone who’s had to wait several weeks for a technician to fix a fault can attest to, the worst case scenario can be devastating for business.
Smaller independent providers tend to offer more personalised, customer-centric support, as they are able to devote a lot more resources and attention to their pool of clients. They are also more likely to work closely alongside clients to create turnkey solutions that really fit their needs, rather than forcing them to choose from a set list of options.
Specialist vs generalist
Here, the old battle between best-in-breed and single vendor rears its head. Large telecoms providers generally provide a much larger suite of offerings than their independent counterparts, which makes it easier to source an integrated telephony solution. The flip side of this is that these solutions are likely to be lower in quality compared to offerings from a more specialised provider. It’s the classic Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None dichotomy.
Independent operators generally specialise in a much smaller group of solutions. This more focused approach allows them to really fine tune their offerings, with the end result being superior functionality. If larger providers are the franchise restaurants of the telecoms world, independent providers are the bistros with a few excellent signature dishes.
Conventional wisdom would suggest big telcos have much wider coverage across South Africa due to their infrastructure advantage, particularly outside of the major cities. While this was once true, it is no longer the case, thanks to the growth of smaller telecoms providers and new technologies over the last few years.
Thanks to innovations such as last mile technology, which many independent service providers specialise in, businesses can plug into existing cable and fibre infrastructure without marrying themselves to a larger provider.
It’s clear that nowadays, independent providers are operating on a near level playing field with larger telcos. Ultimately, the best choice will still come down to the unique needs of the business as well as the strengths of the individual provider, but many businesses would benefit from including independent contractors on their shortlists for potential connectivity partners.