The Friday Interview: Gary Keogh, COLT Telecom

14 Jul 2006

Gary Keogh, (pictured) managing director of COLT Telecom, answers this week’s round of questions.

What’s your opinion of the telecoms landscape in Ireland today?

One of our biggest frustrations is that we have a product and we can’t launch it in Ireland. There’s a lot of noise about broadband that makes it very difficult for the buyer to decide. We can deliver voice and data requirements to an SME over a single pipe. Gone are the days of having 15 telephone lines and a couple of fax lines. But to do that, I need a different type of broadband: SDSL [symmetrical digital subscriber line, ie broadband with the same upload and download speeds]. That’s where you get business-quality voice on VoIP.

What’s the difference between a voice over IP service like Skype for consumers and a service for businesses using the same technology?

Skype is very much dependent on how much the network is being used. For business, SDSL means you can assign a fixed amount of bandwidth to the problem. With ADSL, if you’re pulling down a big file, you’ve loads of bandwidth but if you’re making a phone call, there’s no quality of service. With SDSL you have symmetry and you can apportion capacity on the lines.

Why is SDSL not widely available yet?
Because the main telcos went after the main market in Ireland, which is residential. SMEs have taken up ADSL because it replaces dial-up. What we are doing in Q4 this year is to introduce this [SDSL] product in Dublin 2 and Dublin 4 in unbundled exchanges. We’re going to offer a one-stop shop to SMEs.

Can you give an example of the kinds of services that are now available?

Now it’s possible to redirect phone services to your mobile on a data link; it’s the next stage of unified messaging. It’s not a traditional call on a mobile; it’s the desk phone [software] sitting on the mobile. You can also update your calendar as well as sending and receiving emails. There is a very good mobile infrastructure in place, so that’s on the positive side. You now need a good broadband infrastructure at the next level — the symmetrical stage.

Is there a cost-saving element to this for customers?

How many telephone lines go into a building — and the line rental that goes with that? It all stacks up: these are costs the business is not aware of; yet you could have one provider giving you a single [voice and data] line. I think that’s a very powerful proposition.

What does the future hold for these new kinds of combined IT and telecoms services?

The whole IP world is just becoming a utility. At the base level it might be €39.99 a month but then you’ll have value-added services on top of that. If you’re just using it for the internet, then it’ll be at a base level. The IP line will be ubiquitous; you’ll pay for it like you do for electricity.

In that scenario, where does that leave telcos service providers if the technology moves to this kind of level?

Then, companies are going to compete on services and products. With our package, you can get an IP telephone for a total of €50 per month per user in the current price range. You get your phone on your desk, fully managed and maintained, unlimited local, national and pan-European. That excludes calls to mobiles. The proposition’s coming together, but you’ve got to have the infrastructure.

By Gordon Smith