CellOne looks forward to telecoms reform
CellOne has undergone some pretty big changes over the past year.
From the merger with M3 Wireless to the roll-out of its new 4G network, and most recently the launch of its 24/7 customer care centre, the cell phone provider has ramped up its operations and is now well positioned to take advantage of the pending telecommunications reform in a highly competitive market.
The Royal Gazette, CellOne’s chief operating officer Frank Amaral talked about the changes at the company and its plans for the future.
Mr Amaral said that the thinking behind the merger was joining forces between the Island’s two smaller carriers in order to deliver substantial systems and savings and thus enable the company to reinvest in the market place.
“The only way we could justify those types of investments was if we had a bigger customer base,” he said.
Mr Amaral said he was pleased with the speed and quality of the rebranding with the new brand being launched two weeks after the merger was announced.
Among the most significant changes were the snappier name from CellularOne to CellOne and new purple colour to distinguish the company from its competitor Digicel and reflect the culture and values of the company.
That also meant that the new M3 Wireless store that was set to be opened in Washington Mall III in May had to be quickly rebranded with the CellOne logo and theme.
“It’s gone over really well with the Bermuda clientele,” he said. “We came to the market with a newly-combined company and wanted to come out with a new product in the form of our Share Plans in June which are similar to the family plans in the US. The key message we wanted to get across was our value for money proposition.”
Admitting that there was room for improvement in a number of areas such as wait times in store and with the call centre, Mr Amaral said that CellOne had been proactive in hiring new people and retraining existing staff, as well as revisiting processes to make them more efficient and speed them up, which it will be working on over the next few months.
He said that the company prided itself on its top customer service and that has been reinforced with the set up of a new 24/7 call centre with representatives having the ability to process customers’ requests on the phone with access to all of its billing and provisioning systems.
“The next stage for us is going to be converging the billing and networks,” he said. “One of the things that the merger brought us was network assets that the old company didn’t have, so we will be linking the two networks together.
“In the coming months we will be talking to customers about how we are going to do the network migration and how it might impact them for example they won’t have to change their phone numbers throughout the entire process.”
Mr Amaral said that CellOne had been “late to the game” with its GSM network, in particular worldwide roaming, but the M3 link-up had given the company a much greater access to a larger corporate client base through its dedicated response team.
CellOne kept on several of the M3 staff following the merger and the majority are based in its Reid Street headquarters as the new company pools all of its resources.
Mr Amaral said that statistics and anecdotal evidence had shown that the M3 network has improved since the merger with fewer dropped calls and a performance on a par with or better than US providers AT&T and Verizon.
One of the biggest issues facing both of Bermuda’s wireless carriers has been the economic downturn, people leaving the Island and people trying to save money, said Mr Amaral. Competition has heated up. Mr Amaral said his company’s research indicates CellOne has 55 percent of the market share versus Digicel’s 45 percent.
Proud of the fact that CellOne launched the first 4G service and sell 4G phones in Bermuda although Digicel claims the technology and data speed of its ‘3G+’ network is the same Mr Amaral said that the company planned to build on its data speeds and capacity through the network convergence over the next 12 to 24 months.
He said that now the focus was very much on providing value for money with the company supplying more options and features in its plans for the same cost as before, such as the increase in the size of its mobile broadband packages, through the delivery of innovative products.
An ardent supporter of regulatory reform, Mr Amaral said that while the opportunities it affords for carriers may be limited, the delivery of universal licensing would be in the interests of the customer, enabling providers to offer a one-stop shop for all services. CellOne, he said, would be looking to get into the long distance market as well as other new areas.
Asked whether the new legislation would lead to more providers from other markets muscling in on their business, Mr Amaral said that new entrants would be limited by the infrastructure they own or are invested in. Whatever the outcome, he believes that CellOne is well placed to take advantage of the changes.
Despite the rise of Apple’s iPhone in recent months, Mr Amaral said that his company’s BlackBerry business was still strong, due mainly to the competitive cost of the device and the unique BlackBerry Messenger feature.
Other issues he foresees impacting the market in the future are the greater hunger for consumption of data and how that is managed. However, in Bermuda there appeared to be a lower demand for tablets and laptops with cellular capabilities than in other markets, he added.
“I have to admit that this is one of the toughest industries to work in,” he said.
“With this business there are multiple opportunities to either get it right or wrong with the customer and so there is always the need for us to be on our game every time.”