Vodafone: New 4G service helps bring sunny southeast up to speed
Griffin Hotels is delighted with its new superfast broadband
Laura Conlon-McKenna: Vodafone’s launch of 4G services is “a really exciting development. We are seeing many of our customers rolling out more complex and innovative solutions as a result”
The launch of 4G services by Vodafone last year was good news for many mobile data users who had been suffering from poor speeds and coverage in various areas of the country. But the enhanced speeds delivered by the new service have also facilitated business practice innovations for many users.
“We’ve come a long way in the last year,” says Laura Conlon-McKenna, business data manager with Vodafone Ireland. “We are now live in six cities and more than 200 towns and our plan is to reach the four corners of Ireland in the next 18 to 24 months.
“It’s a really exciting development. We are seeing many of our customers rolling out more complex and innovative solutions as a result.”
The main benefits being realised are in the area of mobility, she says. “Customers are getting office-like connectivity while on the move,” she says.
“This is enabling more flexible working which is in turn leading to productivity and efficiency gains. One of our customers, Dawn Meats, is using it to access Exchange and other services from the cloud while users are on the move. Up until now they didn’t have the speed and reliability to do that.”
Improved speedsVideoconferencing is becoming more widely used as a result of the new technology. “What we are now seeing is a lot more companies using videoconferencing as a result of the greatly improved upload and download speeds they are getting from 4G,” she says.
“This is delivering time savings and productivity improvements. Managers don’t have to travel to headquarters for meetings any more.
“Also, people on the move can set up videoconference calls with colleagues in other locations and have full access to the company network.
“At Dawn Meats one of the managers was able to resolve an issue with the company’s system while sitting at his kitchen table.
“We did a business survey in the UK recently and one-third of respondents said they expected 4G would assist with flexible and mobile working.”
The Griffin Hotel Group, which comprises the Hotel Kilkenny, Monart Destination Spa and the Ferrycarrig Hotel, has long seen the location of its properties in Ireland’s picturesque southeast region as one of its key strengths. More recently, however, it has become something of a drawback.
Poor telecommunications coverage in the region meant the business was suffering because of tediously slow and unreliable internet connections.
For a business that prides itself on the efficiency of its operations and its dedication to delivering the ultimate customer experience, this was a real frustration. “It was slowing down staff and disrupting internal communications,” says general manager David Byrne.
Communication between locations was sometimes difficult and intermittent, and download speeds were so slow that employees typically spent up two hours each day waiting to receive emails and documents, he explains.
Furthermore, guests often found it difficult to access the internet while corporate customers attending conferences and business meetings struggled with connectivity and download speeds.
“When our Vodafone Business Manager informed me that we were now in a position to take superfast 4G broadband, we knew that this was just what we needed to resolve some significant operational difficulties and greatly enhance services for customers,” Byrne adds. “We jumped at the opportunity and Vodafone came up with a tailored package for us.”
The solution involved the provision of iPhone 5S mobile devices with 4G for staff as well as fast and reliable server cloud connections and back-ups for the group’s SQL and working servers.
The three hotels’ networked central servers were also provided with a 4G back-up, enabling speeds and data relays as fast and reliable as a local area network.
“In terms of efficiency there were immediate improvements in productivity, with fast download speeds delivering emails and documents to staff mobiles and workstations within seconds, enabling daily tasks to be completed much more quickly and efficiently than before,” says Byrne.
“At a basic, day-to-day level, our ability to get things done was transformed. It makes us quicker, more efficient and it’s great to concentrate on providing a service to our customers rather than worrying about our technology.”
General communications between the three locations and between managers and staff, has also improved greatly.
“We don’t need as much face time with our time now and we make extensive use of mobile conferencing to hold meetings and make decisions. We could see straight away that we were saving huge amounts of time – and other costs too, for example the need to travel to head office for face-to-face meetings was greatly reduced.
“This allows managers to spend more time on the floor serving customers and less time at meetings.”
An interesting innovation that has arisen since the introduction of 4G to the group has come through linking the business’s security system cameras with managers’ mobile phones.
“We can now use our phones to see what’s happening and do things like assess staffing levels or to switch off lights where they are not needed. We can also use quite data heavy apps for things like monitoring customer reviews and so on.”
It is the customer service enhancement which is most important to him. “4G is great for our customers,” says Byrne. “For example, at Hotel Kilkenny where we hold our conferences, it’s absolutely essential that we have fast, reliable broadband for businesspeople to make presentations, stream video and so on, which we have complemented with Vodafone Mi-Fi hotspots for smaller business meetings and for our leisure customers to use their devices.
“We have been able to achieve a combination of vast improvements in our operational capabilities and productivity, enhancements in the services we provide for our customers along with significant cost savings and that’s a very satisfying outcome.”
This is just the beginning, according to Conlon-McKenna. “We are currently trialling superfast 4G which will offer speeds of between 150mbps and 225mbps as opposed to about 50mbps upload now.
“That will open up a whole new range of possibilities – 4G services are a real enhancement of cloud technology and together they make a very compelling proposition.
“It is very exciting to think about what companies and individuals will be using the technology for in future.”