Monday, November 29, 2010

Demolish roaming charges when traveling overseas.

When I travel, I typically turn my phone to the "airplane" mode when I step on the plane in New Zealand, and turn it off the "airplane" mode when I step off the plane... back in New Zealand.

The reason I do that is roaming fees are huge. Anybody who travels knows the meaning of bill shock.

To avoid the bill shock I restrict data use to WIFI. You can turn on your WIFI on the iPhone while the phone is in the "airplane" mode and still get the data connection.

However, if you are a business traveler, turning your phone off is a hard thing to ask for. Also, looking for WIFI hot spots is time consuming. So, what do you do?

I was asked exactly that question by one of our customers about six months ago. I went looking and found an answer with

My customer went away to Europe for a month. He was able to make calls and receive in most places using SIP soft phone connected to the VadaXchange back in New Zealand. Unlimited data connection also meant he could communicate via email, browse the web, get navigation tips etc... He was quite happy not having to pay thousands of dollars upon his return.

I was so impressed with the service, I pursued the goal of bringing this service to our part of the world. And now it is here:

Vadacom now distributes SIM cards!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Being Mobile

In todays wireless world being locked to a desk in an office is no longer good enough for many people.

We want to enjoy work and enjoy life. We want to be able to socialise with our co-workers away from our desk. We want to be able to get away from the office.

We need to stay productive while we are not at our desk.

I spend a good chunk of my day away from the computer screen and away from the desk phone. Being able to be fully productive while away from my desk has made a huge difference to my working day:

  • I am always available in case someone needs to call me (unless I am on another call or in a meeting). This means our customers appreciate that they can always contact us, and get a human on the other end of the phone.
  • I can respond to most email queries and assign tasks to other members of my team. This means our customers get timely response to their requests.
  • I can attend to most emails and little tasks before I get back to my desk. This means that when I actually sit down in front of my computer I can concentrate on things I need to do at my desk, making me much more productive.

What does mobility mean to you? Does it make any difference to your day? Are you at your desk most of the time, or out and about? If you are at your desk more often than you would like to be, what stops you from being mobile?

Comments welcome.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Working from home

I spend much of my working week working from home.

Working from home is not easy, it requires discipline. You must resist temptation of the fridge next door, and other distractions you have around the house. You must ensure that the other people in the house live you alone. You must ensure you don't get distracted with other house work.

I manage to create a routine and discipline to enable myself to be productive at home. I walk in to my home office as if though I traveled to work. I shut the door and ensure nobody distracts me. The benefits are enormous:

  • I cut out an hour a day of traveling. That is one whole extra hour in that day I can spend with my family and on those little 'distractions' I managed to resist all day - guilt free!
  • I save on parking and petrol expenses and help reduce pollution.
  • I save my lunch money - lunch is just in that fridge I am trying to avoid for the rest of the day!
  • Lunch is whole other hour I can spend with my family - so I save up to whole two extra hours with my family that day
  • I am more productive, I close the door to my office and get on with work.

There are definitely work benefits to being in the office together with the rest of the team. Not everybody will be able to spend as much time working from home as I do. However, the option of working from home, even if it is used occasionally will bring many benefits to any business.

The SUSTEL project provided the following findings on effects of teleworking at BT:

  • 78% of staff say they are more productive - generally estimated at 10-20% more productive
  • 90% were satisfied with teleworking
  • 22% said they had worked when otherwise they would have felt too ill to travel in for a whole days work
  • BT say they have made £100 million per year space savings: teleworking staff are expected to give up having a permanent desk, and use touch-down areas when at the office.

Today, with the high penetration of broadband in the home coupled with advances in internet-based VoIP telecommunications systems such as VadaXchange, migrating employees from office workers to remote workers is not only cost-effective, it has also become a high priority with a large percentage of companies.

Your views and questions on working from home would be much appreciated - please leave a comment.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reducing Telecommunications Costs in New Zealand

New Zealand Market Overview

"Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.”
-- Henry Ford

When New Zealand Telecom was privatized in late 80s the phone copper network ended up in one set of hands. Telecom's monopoly position kept our costs relatively high and held innovation back. Almost two decades later successive governments started introducing measures to increase competition. Labor regulated the market forcing Telecom to split into three businesses. National are funding new fiber optic network.

The measures are working, which is why you are seeing more competition. This spells lower costs and exciting new products and services.

Six years ago you could only buy a phone line from either Telecom or, in some areas, from TelstraClear. Today there are more than 20 providers who can sell you a phone line in New Zealand.

Telecom, TelstraClear and Vodafone are what I call first-tier telecommunication companies. The second-tier telecommunication companies are local internet service providers, now delivering phone services, such as CallPlus, Orcon, WorldXchange and Compass Communications. There are also many third-tier, smaller providers like 2Talk in the market today.

The competition is high, and the costs are truly reducing. How can you take advantage of this?

Phone Lines

“Why go through all the hassle of dealing with airlines, hotels, and rental-car agencies yourself, only to see the arrangements get all screwed up, when with just a single phone call you can have a trained professional screw them up for you?” 
–- Dave Barry

In business one of the larger figures on the P&L statement often is telecommunications. Your aim is to keep that figure very low, while being able to be productive.

To understand how to keep the costs low, you need to first know the different types of telephone lines that are available.

The Plain, Old Telephone Service line (POTS line) is the type of line most people use at home. This line is delivered to you via an analogue copper wire which is still owned by Telecom. It lacks essential services that business requires. One is multiple phone numbers associated with one phone line. Multiple phone numbers per line enable businesses to have a direct dial-in number (DDI number) so a call can reach the right person. This makes POTS the most expensive service on the market.

The digital lines that were created for businesses also utilize copper wires. They use a standard called ISDN. ISDN allows more than one call through single copper wire. There are two options – basic rate service, allowing two calls per line (basic rate ISDN) and primary rate service allowing up to 30 calls per line (primary rate ISDN). This service is also mostly available from Telecom, and is as expensive as POTS lines, except it does have all the business services.

The new competition to the old Telecom services (described above) comes through the digital lines that utilize data connections that are also capable of delivering the Internet service to you.

What are SIP Trunks?

“The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite.”
–- Thomas Sowell

SIP trunks are a term you will be hearing more and more. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) was created to enable voice connection to be established over a computer network. It has now been established as the industry standard for delivering phone lines. The phone line that is delivered to you via a data connection using that protocol is called a SIP Trunk.

SIP trunks are offered by the new phone companies to deliver outstanding savings. When you get a SIP trunk, the supplier doesn't need to pay Telecom for the service. The data links are available wherever Internet is available and can be delivered over a vast variety of physical links – copper, fiber optic cables, wireless....

Variety and choice breeds competition in the market, creating price wars, enabling you to negotiate the best deal for your business.

Cutting Costs

“In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.” 
–- William S. Knudsen

If Telecom was the only option, would you be able to cut costs without affecting your business?

With the new competition you are in a better position to negotiate. A modern telecommunications specialist can go through your phone bills and show you the savings. If the last time you negotiated your contract was more than two years ago, chances are, you will be able to save 50%-60% of the costs you are paying now.

Everybody knows that when you are negotiating a contract you can get the best deal. However, what can you do when you are already in a contract?

This is where voice over the internet protocol (VoIP) comes in handy! If your telephone system is capable of connection to VoIP providers, you can have more than one supplier of phone calls and use the cheapest route on every call. You cut costs without breaking contracts.

But what about the call quality?

What about VoIP?

“If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks, and that means you're not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more changes to learn and win.” 
–- John W. Holt, Jr.

The call quality issues of bad VoIP implementations has given VoIP a bad name. However, it is widely accepted in the industry, VoIP is the future of all phone calls. VoIP has been around for many years and the industry had plenty of time to learn from its mistakes. A modern VoIP system can deliver the same, in some instances better, call quality as the traditional telephony.

There are many ways to implement VoIP systems and many types of VoIP phone lines available on the market.

SIP Trunks are a type of VoIP. The second-tier telecommunication competencies delivering a SIP Trunk to you provide you with both the data link and voice link. Effectively they are selling you a phone line in competition with Telecom. The quality of that line is equivalent to the quality of the business digital (ISDN) line, and is better than a POTS line.

Third-tier telecommunication companies often don't own network infrastructure and can't control quality. However, thy are often the cheapest. Implemented well a combination of good internet connection and third-tier VoIP can save you even more money.

To cut international costs many companies now use Skype. Some phone systems even integrate Skype as a telephone line. This enables millions of people around the globe to reach you for free and vice versa.

Improving productivity

A phone system can't make you a coffee. But it will let you have one, and still be fully productive.

How much time do you spend transferring calls to other people? Can you do it while you are out having coffee? Can you do it when you need to work from home? Do you need to be by a computer to help a customer? How many people do you need in the office to answer all the calls from your customers?

There are infinite possibilities to improve the way you communicate with your customers and suppliers and ensure that each member of your staff is fully productive at all times. I will give you a few examples here.

Direct Dials and Hunt Groups

“If it's the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?” 
–- Robin Williams

Incoming calls can be handled intelligently by the system if the system knows who the call is for. For example, if the call is for sales, your system can call your sales team. Alternatively, you can detect who is calling and put the call to the appropriate person. This can be done not just for sales, but with every function in the business – operations, finance, administration.

When you group people in your organization by function, the phone system will “hunt” for someone to answer the call. This feature is called a “hunt group”. Hunt groups can be used effectively to eliminate the need for transferring calls and save your valuable time.

Many business people prefer to talk to a person rather than a machine. They don't want menus to press one for this, two for that. This is where DDI can be used effectively – you can have a phone number for every business function and every person that needs to answer calls.

A combination of DDIs and hunt groups can save valuable time for both you and the caller.


“Birds have wings; they're free; they can fly where they want when they want. They have the kind of mobility many people envy. “
-– Roger Tory Peterson

The world is becoming increasingly mobile. Your desk at work isn't the only place you work from anymore.

Answering calls on your mobile phone is one way to be productive everywhere. However, how much will it cost you to forward calls to your mobile? It depends. If you simply call forward all the calls, you may end up with increased bill. To keep phone bills low you need calls from your office to your mobiles to be free.

There are two ways to achieve that. One way is to have free calling between your company mobiles and your land lines. Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear will offer that to some of their customers.

The other way is through a 0-rate-calling plan between your mobiles in combination with what is called a “Cellular Trunk Unit”, (CTU). The CTU will make your office phone system into another mobile phone in your group, so the calls between the office and your mobiles are free.

Will hunt group calls follow you? Many phone systems by default are configured not to allow hunt group calls to follow the call forwarded to your mobile. You need to remember to ask you PBX supplier to allow that.

The fear of answering group calls on your mobile, is “what if the call is not for me”? If your phone system allows full mobile extensions, you will be able to transfer those calls.

What about calling from mobile phones? You can make the phones always dial the office first, which is a free call, then ask the phone system to call the destination. This way all your calls are charged at land line rates. This can be automated on most mobile phones and really reduce your mobile bills.

Remote Working

High cost of petrol in conjunction with increased amount of traffic jams make working from home an attractive proposition for many people.

From telephony perspective, you need a good broadband connection at home. Modern phone systems will allow for a telephone to be connected remotely. You need a remote IP phone connected to your phone system as you don't want to be only using your mobile phone for the whole day.

With good systems in place you are free to work wherever you choose without it costing you the earth.

For more assistance on cutting telecommunications costs, please investigate VadaXcahnge phone system