Making new connections

Three Ireland business director Eoin MacManus: Companies want their people to be flexible, mobile and out meeting customers


Rapid changes in technology are seeing the role of telecommunications companies shift from pure service provider to technology partner. And it’s not just about the expanded range of services which they can offer, according to Three Ireland business director Eoin MacManus.

“It’s about what customers expect from telecommunications providers. Technology is changing rapidly and is becoming much more important to businesses. The role of the chief technology officer (CTO) has changed quite dramatically. They now have a direct role in company strategy formation with seats on the board and so on. They are looking to companies like Three to become strategic partners to assist them to add value to their organisations.”

This has seen a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship, he points out. “We need to challenge our customers as well. The old customer supplier relationship has changed greatly. We are now expected to make a proactive contribution to the business. Customers want us to come in, audit the organisation, examine what they are doing, and help them embrace new technologies and strategies which will help the business.”

While Three’s mobile operations still account for a significant proportion of its turnover and profits, that is changing as well. “We have become a broad ICT business offering a full portfolio of communications, unified communications, and other technology services,” says MacManus.

The cloud is a key element of this. Three customers can put data and IT services in the cloud and also put their entire telephone system, mobile and landline, onto it. “The PBX in the cloud allows employees to access the company telephone system from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. We bring office and mobile phones together and enable calls to be transferred from one to the other. We look after wide area networks (WANs) and public wifi networks for customers. For example, we manage McDonalds’ entire public wifi infrastructure for them.”

Interestingly, while voice is becoming less important as a communications channel, reliance on smartphones is actually on the rise. “We did some research and found that a significant majority of business owners (77 per cent) see their smartphone as their single most important piece of technology,” MacManus explains. “I use a Samsung S8 plus and I travel to the UK regularly. It has got to the point now where I don’t really have to bring my laptop with me. Using Office 365, I can view spreadsheets and so on and the screen size is large enough for most things.”

And companies are taking advantage of this expanded capability. “It’s about enabling employees to be more mobile. The percentage of employees with company mobile phones is much higher than it was even five years ago. Companies want their people to be flexible, mobile and out meeting customers.”

The advent of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will present challenges for organisations in this area. “If you have captured and stored data on any device, the GDPR means you have to manage it. We offer an enterprise mobile management service in conjunction with our partner Citrix to customers to assist with this. It allows customers to control, manage and wipe data from devices using the cloud. The GDPR is making companies think about how they can manage their data and devices and make better use of them.”

The other major change driver he sees is the internet of things (IoT). “The forecasts are for there to be 20 billion devices connected by 2022 and when you combine that with what’s already happening with IT, you can see where things are going. While the major proportion of our business is in phones and broadband at the moment, machine to machine (M2M) communications will be dominant in future. We are already the leading M2M and IoT provider in the country, with around 50 per cent of the market. We are working with a lot of innovative Irish companies like Moocall and Europcar in this space. We will also be launching a new IoT device-management platform within the next month. This will allow companies to manage tens, hundreds, and millions of devices themselves. We have one customer with 85,000 SIMs and this will give them a dashboard to manage those devices.”

And IoT is likely to play an increasingly important role for businesses with the advent of 5G communications. “We were awarded the highest amount of 5G spectrum geographically,” says MacManus. “This will allow us to provide the best and most comprehensive experience to customers across the country. 5G has the capacity to transform our lives, the way we work and how we do business. It will allow many thousands of devices to connect simultaneously at one site. It will be a key enabling technology for things like connected cars and security video solutions. We are very enthusiastic about the future. We see ourselves as a leader in the technological transformation which will take place for businesses and individual customers and look forward to helping them avail of the opportunities that it will present.”