The telecommunications industry is constantly undergoing tremendous change and development. Just as the development of mobile communications dramatically changed and improved how we communicated and worked, I believe the new developments in unified communications have the potential to similarly impact how businesses operate and communicate.
Unified Communications’ is the term given to new technology that integrates communication services such as IP Telephony, messaging, presence information, video, security systems, voice recognition and access control. Unified communications allow organisations to communicate over various technologies or mediums and offers significant savings as companies can reduce their total cost of ownership by carrying all voice traffic over existing data networks. An employee can receive a voicemail to their office phone but also receive that message to their mobile in various forms such a voice file or even as text. Increasing efficiency and productivity, it reduces costs for the companies as they are now purchasing and maintaining one unified network rather than several different systems.
This change has caused telecommunications company to completely rethink their products and how they offer them. Telecommunications companies have always been broken into three fundamental product lines, Data, Voice and Mobile. These changes were as much a challenge for Digicel as they are for other telecommunications companies as our sales and customer support teams needed to be up-skilled. So, technical knowledge is no longer just the preserve of the engineering teams.
With the same energy, vigour and drive for success that has resulted in Digicel becoming the largest mobile communications in the Caribbean after nine years of operation, Digicel Cayman embraced this new technology and decided to focus on excellence rather than having a solution for everyone. In true Digicel fashion, we chose to partner with Cisco as they are the absolute leader in networking and now converged networks. Digicel with our significant presence across 32 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific has quickly established itself as a Premier Certified Partner.
We invested heavily in training and hiring Cisco-certified Engineers and account managers. With our new CCVP and several CCNA (Data and Voice), we now have what is undoubtedly the strongest Cisco VoIP team in Cayman. Likewise, we have also built a strong partnership with Netxar Technologies which is the leading Caribbean system integrator of advanced technologies and complex integrated communication solutions and which holds an enviable position with regard to its Cisco Technology relationship, as they are the first and only Caribbean partner to hold both the Masters and Gold partner certification status in the region.
This partnership has delighted our customers delivering great results for Digicel – as well as significant cost savings and increased productivity for our customers. In the last five months alone, we have sold 14 unified voice and data solutions with a total value of over US$500k. Our main challenge has been keeping up with demand and to ensure that we deliver the best experience for our customers, we brought in extra resources from our Jamaican operation.
We are particularly proud of our successes with the Cayman Islands government: to date, we have successfully sold and implemented a solution for the Cayman Islands Department of Immigration and will have implemented a Unified Communication Network across the whole of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs before this magazine goes to print. The civil service in Cayman at times can be the receivers of negative press but people like Chief Officer, Franz Manderson, Deputy Chief Officer, Eric Bush and Chief Financial Officer, Vinton Chinsee should be commended for their vision. They have pushed ahead with a state-of-the-art system which gives them a significantly superior technological solution, much lower ongoing costs and a purchase price which was less than a year’s rental on their aging analogue PBX equipment.
Many companies have followed suit as they no longer have to wait on the sidelines hoping their old rented PBX can hold on for one more year. The voice systems that companies use can now be brought in-house and handled by their own internal IT at a fraction of the cost. Companies can upgrade their infrastructure to Cisco Systems and still reduce monthly costs, safe in the knowledge that their system is underpinned by quality and reliability. They can rethink the endless line rental charges, when one data circuit will do the same for less. The fundamentals of telecommunications have changed, but not all telecommunications companies embrace it.
Cisco is particularly excited about video and the presence aspects and potential of unified communications. Cisco has championed telepresence systems which are an advanced form of video conferencing which have significantly reduced its travel costs. The systems are so impressive that, during a recent trial in the US, a colleague of mine from Cayman got up and tried to walk around behind the screen to open a door when he heard knocking on a door in the meeting room over a thousand miles away! The presence technology allows all Cisco employees to type key words into their system in terms of where they are geographically, what their status is (at work, in a meeting, available) and to communicate with them in real time by messaging, phone or email.
The other revolutionary component of unified communications is the mobile voice system. Although not yet available in Cayman, RIM, the makers of Blackberry, and Cisco have recently developed a Mobile Voice Server. By bringing together the BlackBerry and Cisco infrastructures, enterprises can make users reachable with one number, one caller ID and one voicemail box for both their mobile and desk phones. When calls come in, they may ring simultaneously on as many as four devices, including BlackBerrys and Cisco IP desk phones or ring one device after another in a sequence. Alternatively, employees can make calls out from the BlackBerry using either the smartphone’s own number or an enterprise line. I invite all companies on Cayman to contact a Digicel Business Account Manager and see what benefits and savings unified communications can deliver for their businesses.