Jola Cloud Solutions' Blog

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew has been involved in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. Andrew held a number of senior sales and general management positions during 10 years with Mercury Communications and Cable & Wireless. His last posting was as an Investment Manager with C&W Innovations based in Menlo Park, CA, USA. In 1996 Andrew co-founded specialist ISP FOL Networks and as MD helped steer the company through five rounds of fund raising. The company grew to over 100 people and a value of £23m within four years. Andrew left in April 2001 to become CEO of Visual Protection Ltd and at the end of that year FOL was sold. Andrew sold Visual Protection Ltd in August 2003. Andrew conceived and founded the investment management company Lucrum in 2002 and was a Director of UK Countrylife until 2004. In April 2005 Andrew was involved in a management buy-in of Griffin Information Systems and served as Sales and Marketing Director until July 2010 when he took over as Managing Director. The company was sold to MDNX in August 2012 and Andrew left the business in March 2013.
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Recent Posts

What got to a billion users first?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 23-Feb-2021 18:35:11

The Internet? Smartphones? Social media? Credit cards? No.

After only 4 years 4G had over 1bn users and 5G is set to do it in 3.5 years, making it the fastest adopted technology ever. The Internet took 14 years and credit cards 74 years.

Although most of the growth in mobile data has come in the consumer world, business is catching up fast. 

From what was already a high base, Jola saw M2M and Mobile Broadband connections treble last year, and usage quadruple. At the same time speeds increased exponentially (4G-Advanced can reach 300Mb/s) and cost per GB plummeted. 

In 2012 you could buy 23 Big Macs for the price of 1GB of data and today, based on average EU prices, it’s zero. Furthermore, in the UK mobile data prices are half that of the EU average when compared to the CPI augmentation.



In 2020 Jola signed a record 246 new partners who in turn found some huge deals in their customer bases. Many on long term contracts, and others for temporary COVID-related applications.

Most importantly it made MSPs realise that mobile data/M2M/IoT can be easy to sell, provision, support and bill, and with the right channel supplier there is enough differentiation to beat the MNOs at a decent recurring margin.

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Topics: 4G

Do you have the right 4G router?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 23-Feb-2021 18:22:49

As if we don’t confuse people enough with our industry acronyms, we are now using the same name for two completely different things.



You may know that a Cat5 cable supports speeds up to 100Mb/s, Cat5e up to 1000Mb/s and Cat6 up to 10Gb/s, but does this mean that a Cat6 LTE 4G router supports speeds up to 10Gb/s? No.

The LTE Cat6 is part of the LTE-Advanced standard for routers and supports downstream speeds up to 300Mb/s. Cat4 LTE supports theoretical speeds up to 150Mb/s but our real-world experience is more like 100Mb/s. Confused yet?

Many people understand that 4G speeds have increased significantly recently with the introduction of the LTE-Advanced Standard, and can’t work out why their 4G router only ever speedtests below 100Mb/s.

This is because most people have Cat4 routers and don’t know they need a Cat6 LTE router to run faster.

Cat6 LTE routers are usually around twice the price of Cat4 routers so if you paid c£100 or less for your LTE router it is probably Cat4.

There are plenty of Cat6 LTE routers out there but before you buy one, consider that the new 5G Standard also supports Cat6 LTE. 

5G routers are expensive but will come down in price rapidly with volume, so you may want to wait a few months and go straight to 5G.

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Topics: Intelligent 4G Routers

5 reasons to credit check suppliers

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 17-Dec-2020 11:51:44

Most successful businesses subscribe to a credit rating agency for their prospective customers, but how many credit check suppliers?

You should, because:

  1. If they go bust, they could take you with them.

When a company calls in the administrator, their suppliers will act immediately to mitigate financial risk - often cutting off supply. This may not matter in some industries, but where you have been reselling their service it could be disastrous. In the telecoms and utilities business your customers may suddenly find themselves without service. Not only do you then risk losing them, but you may have breached your own contract and be open to litigation. Even if the administrator is able to sell the contracts to someone else (often another supplier), or where the supplier has step-in, service may still be interrupted, and you may find yourself in a much worse position subsequently.

  1. They may be poorly managed.

Excellent employees, with good judgement, do not choose to work for financially unstable employers. If the quality of your suppliers’ staff matters to you (e.g. where they are selling with you), avoid low credit scores. Also poorly managed companies are often difficult to deal with. If the relationship requires regular purchases and joint support of your customers, you may want to find another supplier.

  1. They are unlikely to be investing in new products and services.

In many markets, companies without money to invest in product development find their core products are quickly commoditised, and they have to compete on price. Gross margins come under pressure and they are forced to cut cost, often staff, in order to keep going.

  1. They may not be in a position to negotiate well.

Their suppliers are not going to be inclined to offer better rates or payment terms to them if they have a poor credit score. More likely they will apply a risk premium to the account, often insisting on payment in advance. This exacerbates the problem of thin margins.

  1. They will be less forgiving, supportive and accommodating.

When an organisation is in trouble and operating off minimum margins, bid support suffers. Whilst they would love to help you win large tenders, they simply can’t afford to take the business on at lower margins. Cash flow is likely to be an issue and they will be more inclined to be heavy-handed with late payers. Good suppliers will be understanding if you suddenly encounter a cash flow issue yourselves, and need some time. Financial unstable suppliers cannot afford to, because a couple of late payers could push them into liquidation.

Of course, there may be legitimate reasons for a low credit score. For example, late accounts, and extraordinary write-offs, which will be corrected in due course. Don’t be afraid to ask your supplier. They may not even be aware, and the low score may be due to an error in the interpretation of their filed accounts.

On the positive side, suppliers with a high credit score and good growth may benefit your business, especially where their success depends on yours. It demonstrates they are doing something right with their products, pricing, processes and support. If a supplier is constantly innovating, and negotiating with their suppliers, this means differentiation for you, and lower prices.

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Topics: Business

Recruiting Salespeople

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 17-Dec-2020 11:45:43

Salespeople are like hotels in Monopoly. Buy as many as you can afford because the more you have, the more income you generate.

Of course, it’s never as straightforward as that. Under-performing salespeople are a drain on management time and your biggest mistakes won’t even pay for themselves, let alone make a positive contribution to gross margin.

This is why you need to be hiring all the time, especially if you are a growing business in a growing market. If you wait until the position comes up in the budget, or you lose someone, you are likely to miss the best people. Moreover, because you’re a little desperate, you are likely to compromise, take a risk, and make a bad hire.

Continuous recruitment requires a strategy. The objective is simple; whenever a person that fits your target profile starts to look around, they must know about, and consider, your company. Achieving this is a little more challenging.

  1. Maintain an advert constantly – web-site, LinkedIn, Facebook, trade publications. Whatever you use to communicate with your industry. Make people aware that you are growing and always hiring the best people.
  2. Write posts, blogs and articles regularly highlighting the successes of your salespeople and (if you’re in the channel) their resellers. You don’t have to use names, but you want to give prospective candidates a feel for what they will be doing, and a confidence that you will provide an environment in which they can succeed.
  3. Operate a comprehensive, structured and strict recruitment process. This should have several stages, testing different aspects of the behaviours you desire. Include role plays, behavioural interviews and presentations. Understand the minimum requirement for progression at each stage. Do not truncate the process and do NOT compromise.
  4. Make a list of companies where your ideal candidates currently work. Monitor this list for instability: new management, mergers, tough trading conditions. Try and develop contacts in some of these target companies who will let you know when people there may be looking around.
  5. Use your existing salespeople. If they are happy and making money, they will be pleased to tell old colleagues with their previous employer and friends working in your target companies. Encourage this and offer an incentive for them to put people forward.
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Topics: Business

What happens when connectivity gets 10x faster and 10x cheaper?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 18-Nov-2020 09:01:07

12 months ago UK, 30-day ex-VAT wholesale 4G data was c30p/GB. Today it’s c3p/GB. Average tariff-based prices.

If you’re a connectivity reseller you probably just stopped reading this. Either because you already know about 4G and are slightly miffed the cat’s out of the bag, or you’re researching 4G suppliers.

The pandemic has had the same effect on mobile data usage as it’s had on Microsoft Teams. When organisations send all their employees home, and Openreach can't deploy engineers to install or fix broadband, what are the alternatives?

Jola Partners pivoting into 4G, uncovered opportunities in their customer bases, far beyond homeworkers. 200,000+ SIMs for education, NHS, digital signage, buses, taxis, car parks – the list goes on.

Where the 4G SIM is in a fixed location, adding an external antenna can boost the speed 10x, and at over 100Mb/s 4G is suddenly a viable backup for Ethernet. 

When 5G is available on the tower, resellers have a profitable upgrade path to offer customers.

Average latency on 5G is typically 1ms vs 4G at 40ms and ADSL at 15ms. So there are reasons beyond speed, to upgrade.

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Topics: 4G

Intelligent Connectivity - the key to resellers' IoT success.

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 18-Nov-2020 08:50:09

IoT/M2M is the hottest growth sector in ICT. c7bn devices will be 20bn-30bn globally by 2030.

How can the Channel ride the IoT wave, without committing to a high risk ‘build it and they will come’ strategy?

Common to every IoT project is M2M – connectivity. This is the biggest opportunity, but presently the domain of MNOs offering single network SIMs and a BYOD solution.

Intelligent Connectivity breaks this dominance.

In an IoT project the endpoints need sensors, managed by a gateway, attached to a 4G/5G router. Significant processing power is also required to collect data and allow remote management. Every deployment is different so there must be the capability to write custom apps onto these devices.

eSIM releases the MNOs stranglehold on the M2M market. Analysts predict there will be more than 2bn eSIMs deployed in IoT projects within 5 years.

Since Jola launched their combined IoT Router/PC/Gateway in March 2020 we have had thousands of orders. MSPs are shipping our devices worldwide, pre-loaded with a 450-network eSIM that downloads a config as soon as it’s plugged in.

We recently rolled out 600 units in weeks for a faultless digital signage project.

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Topics: 4G, IoT, M2M

LESSONS FROM LOCKDOWN - RECRUITING

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 01-Jul-2020 12:46:31

In the last 12 weeks we have recruited 6 new staff. None of us had ever hired someone without physically meeting them before.

FOR BUSINESSES

1. YOU CAN MAKE YOUR PROCESS MORE RIGOUROUS

Too many trips to your office can put candidates off. Conversely the more we see them, the more likely they are to reveal their true selves. You can use multiple Teams calls and they don’t all have to be an hour long to justify the travel time. Just make sure you prepare well and avoid repeating questions.

2. RECORD THE INTERVIEW

This enables you to take fewer notes, focus on the candidate and include others in the review process. Ever interviewed a candidate from an agency and within 10 minutes you know it’s not a fit? Help your agency filter better by watching videos of their CV interviews.

3. TAKE VERBAL PRE-OFFER REFERENCES

References are especially important if you can’t physically meet someone. Nowadays written references are practically useless. Ask candidates for phone numbers of recent bosses and their permission to call them. If they think highly of the person, they will take your call so as to not harm their chances. Describe the job and ask them why they think 'X' is suited to the role and what training will be required.

 

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Topics: Business

How can resellers make money from eSIMs?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 29-Jan-2020 13:40:53

What is an eSIM?

If you've even heard of eSIMs, you might think it’s a new Apple initiative to fix a SIM to an iPhone circuit board. It is, but that’s not even half the story, and a long way from the real opportunity for the channel.

eSIMs solve a number of problems for businesses, and therefore represent a significant opportunity for resellers looking for a magic mobile data bullet to compete with a Mobile Network Operator (MNO).

What are the typical use cases?

Lock-in

Companies with thousands of SIMs in devices globally are often locked in with existing suppliers, even when their contract has ended and better commercials are available, because the cost of swapping out SIMs to another provider is too high.

Signal

Companies usually want to connect to the network with the strongest signal. Some multinetwork SIMs are steered and so always try to connect to their own network, when competitor networks may be stronger. Multinetwork SIMs also negate the need for expensive site surveys.

Control

Companies need to have visibility of their data usage on each device to manage data limits. If they go over their monthly data limit, they may be billed high data overage charges or run the risk of being barred.

Solutions

An eSIM MVNO solves all these problems with network agnostic, un-steered or steered, embedded or plastic triple-cut SIMs. MVNOs buy wholesale, from mobile data aggregators (so they're very price competitive). Their SIMs are invisible to individual MNOs so, unlike with consumer eSIMs, MVNOs don’t need permission from MNOs in each country. MVNO eSIMs roam automatically across hundreds of global networks and additional profiles can easily be added OTA (Over The Air) to take advantage of cheaper local rates.

Where the MVNO has a self-serve portal, resellers and their customers have complete control over the networks they connect to, and data usage.

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Topics: eSIM

How is Microsoft Teams helping to drive voice revenues in the channel?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 09-Oct-2019 17:45:33

 

Part of Office 365 and launched in 2018, Teams is Microsoft’s fastest selling product and recently overtook Slack as the #1 collaboration tool, according to recent research. By upgrading to MS Phone System, Office 365 users also get call management features.

If you need to make and receive calls outside of the Teams family, the Microsoft solution starts to look a little clunky and quite expensive. Out-of-bundle calls are paid for per minute by logging a company credit card on the system, and whilst some country rates are in line with the market, others are not.

Instead of using their Calling Plan, Microsoft will allow you to connect Teams to an alternative network provider using Direct Routing. However, setting this up is complicated and expensive and only a handful of companies in the UK offer Direct Routing as a service. There has not been a true, self-serve, white-label, channel programme for Direct Routing in the UK - until now.

 

Jola’s Direct Routing for Teams is built on a Microsoft approved platform and offers numbers in 167 countries as well as every area code in the UK. Jola’s unlimited wholesale UK call package costs less than half that of MS Calling Plan with very competitive out-of-bundle rates – billed monthly in arears. 

For the first time suppliers of Office 365 will be able to offer a viable alternative to traditional, or hosted telephony, at a compelling price to their customers, whilst making a good recurring margin on call bundles and out-of-bundle call charges.

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Topics: Direct Routing

Does negotiation always have to be win-win?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 11:08:47

I was on a beach and a guy tried to sell me some local precious stones. Very quickly we went from $100 to $10 and when I tested the ‘stones’ they were actually lumps of plastic. He shrugged and moved on to the next tourist – no hard feelings on either side. His negotiation approach is more zero-sum than win-win but has this damaged his business? – probably not.

Handle negotiations with a one-off sale badly in B2B and you may harm your reputation or your bottom line, but usually only on that one deal. However, getting it wrong with an ongoing relationship can be disastrous, especially in the channel. Where a company is re-selling your product, you have to know exactly where you fit in the value chain. What is the Standard for your product? What will your partner need to sell at, to win against the competition? - and still make enough margin to excite them, and their salespeople. What is unique about your offering and how does that translate into benefits for your partner and their customers?

I see basic negotiation mistakes all the time in my industry and usually due to lack of research and preparation. Suppliers trying to sell products to resellers without considering what they will sell it for, or assuming that their ‘unique’ features are benefits, without having properly tested the proposition. On the other side, resellers come back with random requests for discounts and get offended when you ask why. Alternatively, they invent prices they have received from other suppliers in an attempt to improve their own margin.

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Topics: Business

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