By Dave Millett, Equinox
Facilities Managers have a tough job in that they are expected to the expert on a wide range of topics covering building regulations through demanding tenants to utilities. One of the more complex of these is telecoms as it presents a number of unique challenges.
- The fast changing pace of the technology itself
- The dirty tricks many suppliers play
- The general poor technical infrastructure within the UK
Telecoms technology is constantly changing and the way it is used by individuals. The proportion of calls made by mobile has increased dramatically. Consequently, many companies are paying for more services than they need. One simple check is to divide the number of call minutes made by the number of lines. If it is lower than 15 then you probably can save money by reducing the number of lines. It is not just lines, but also mobile devices and features. We regularly find clients paying for services they no longer used or had cancelled and as a result wasting thousands of pounds a year. It is worth noting that if a supplier makes an error – retrospective refunds can be claimed.
From 2020 no new ISDNs can be ordered and by 2025 they will all be turned off. That means organisations must start planning for the world of IP. Do you keep the phone system and use SIP or go to VoIP? There are many arguments either way unfortunately most resellers are biased according to their product portfolio. Probably the only clear cut situation is if you are responsible for a building(s) with multiple sub tenants. Assuming they do not supply their own then the flexibility of VoIP to enable different users to have different levels of functionality e.g. call recording, call centre etc does give it an advantage along with the ease of moving tenants about.
Unfortunately, too many suppliers within the industry utilise jargon and complexity to mislead customers. There is a general trend of providing less information on invoices and it is becoming just totals. You should always insist on full itemisation so you can regularly audit what you are paying for.
Other favourite dirty tricks include:
- Raising prices after contract has started – how many check the invoice against the original contract?
- Hidden charges such as call set up fees, minimum charges or rounding up
- Misleading customers over contract end dates
- Looking customers into long term deals with the lure of cheap set up fees or the infamous “free PBx” which turns out to be a long term lease hire.
There is an onus on the supplier to prove the contract end dates. One client near Sheffield was told their contract had renewed two days before they enquired. A possible coincidence but they could offer no proof of that being the renewal date. Reasonable proof would be a call recording or a copy of the original signed contract.
Also check what are the notice periods – whilst they may not be only on the third Thursday before Pentecost – there can be great variation from 30 days to 6 months. We even saw one contract that was a three year rolling contract.
The final challenge is that of how to deal with the UK’s poor technical infstrastucture. Recent reports have shown we rank
- 54th in the world for 4G coverge,
- Bottom of Europe for FTTP (Fibre to the Premise) broadband
- 31st in the world for average download speeds.
It is not as if we are even close – Sweden’s average download speeds is 2 ˝ times that of the UK and Lativia has FTTP to 1 in 2 premises whilst we barely have one in 50.
This presents a challenge for Facilities Managers as businesses are moving more and more to cloud based technologies which demand even more bandwidth and speed. Due to past policies of BT favouring residential areas for rollout of fibre broadband many business parks, city based locations as well as rural areas suffer from slow broadband.
If you are moving offices it is essential to check in advance what speeds and services are available at the new building. We have seen many businesses move and then find they are having to buy dedicated circuits so they can continue to operate. The good news is that the cost of these circuits has fallen dramatically over the past 3 - 4 years. So any business with a large dedicated data circuit older than this should get the price rechecked. We recently found a business in St Albans that could get a 33% reduction in its cost but their incumbent supplier had not offered it to them.
It is also worth remembering that the pricing of these circuits is affected by who has the nearest access so if you manage multiple buildings using a single network supplier may be costing you money. A review we did for an Academy with 42 schools throughout country found that by moving to 3 suppliers would save them Ł1m a year in data connectivity costs
So in a challenging world it pays to be vigilant and constantly check for better deals and ensure full itemisation of bills is investigated at least once a year.
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