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In person with AirSpeed CEO Liam O'Kelly

Liam O'Kelly, CEO of AirSpeed Telecom talks to AirTime about award wins, acquisitions and AirSpeed's investment plans for 2015.

Q: AirSpeed Telecom had a standout year in 2014 with the European Business Awards win. What were the other highlights for you?

Liam O'Kelly, AirSpeed CEOA: The European Business Awards were important for us in 2014, and we also won the Tech Excellence Award, but both were really building on what we’d done in the previous year. What stands out for me in 2014 is how we’re working on a deeper level now with some of our larger clients, like Irish Distillers and Dairygold, moving further into their networks to deliver value-added services like security. We're delivering a cloud-based, fully geo-diverse managed firewall service where we proactively manage firewall updates and rules, taking away the need for companies to manage all that internally.

And of course the other highlight in 2014 was Granahan McCourt's acquisition of two-thirds of the AirSpeed Telecom business. That was a great endorsement of what we've been doing, and validation that we have a solid, attractive business model that’s working.

Q: What impact will the acquisition by Granahan McCourt have on AirSpeed Telecom?  

A:It's been very positive and warmly received by everybody. Granahan McCourt sees AirSpeed Telecom as a model to replicate in other markets. We're now actively looking for opportunities to replicate our model internationally: building a full-service telco that incorporates microwave, fibre, DSL wireline and copper services, all managed through a well-engineered core that delivers data, internet and voice. We know we're exceptionally good at providing service in markets which are infrastructure-starved, and that's what we'll be looking to replicate internationally.

The acquisition won't affect how the business is run and we are on track to deliver on our investment plans this year.

Q: What are your investment plans for this year?

A: In addition to growing the business outside of Ireland, we’re very focused on serving our existing customers in Ireland and investing to improve the service we deliver. We are investing more than €1 million in our core network this year, we're increasing our connectivity into the UK, and we continue to build our high sites (we are at 150 high sites now and counting). For a telco, there is no way to stop investing: we run a continual program of investment to improve resilience, increase speed and implement new networking technologies. That investment is what underpins our commitment to our customer base and helps us deliver strong Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Q:You mentioned growing your managed security business. Are you seeing security becoming an investment priority for businesses now?

A: Security is definitely a need among customers, but the number one investment priority for most customers now is a strong SLA. A year or two ago, many companies weren't even aware of whether they had an SLA with their communications provider. Now, with more customers using more services in the cloud, businesses can cease to operate if they lose connectivity. Customers are more cognizant of what an SLA is and how strong it is. In the old days companies who did pay for an SLA were reluctant to pay for anything more than a basic level, best-effort service. Now they're looking for the strongest SLA they can find, with the shortest possible mean time to repair, and the highest possible availability. Our standard SLA is very strong -- four hours mean time to repair, and we deliver five nines availability, 99.999%.

Customers are also increasingly investing in resilient connectivity to their premises, and that's another change from a year or so ago. Previously only the largest customers were looking for resilience, but for the first time, in 2014 we saw that more than 50% of all businesses, including small businesses, were looking for resilience. And because we aren't a single-technology provider – we use fibre, DSL and radio -- we can deliver customers technology resilience without their needing to use a separate carrier. It's always advisable for companies to use entirely different technologies and two completely independent paths on their primary and secondary networks to ensure resilience: that's what AirSpeed can deliver.

Q: What key changes do you expect in the telecommunications market in 2015?

A: The rise of 4G is interesting in that it will facilitate the adoption of applications, and as a result, enhance the need for robust connectivity at enterprise premises. The proliferation of fibre replacing DSL is a key change and as we expect fibre to the business and fibre to the home to begin having an impact on small businesses towards the end of 2015, making improved bandwidth available to SMEs. AirSpeed can build on the NGA rollout, buying wholesale connectivity and making that available for customers. But as a company our success doesn't hinge on the NGA rollout or how fast that goes forward: it's just a very nice addendum to what we do.

We also expect more companies to look again at how they can use their data connectivity to carry voice services with SIP trunking. Despite improvements in the economy companies in Ireland are still very keen to cut costs, and surprisingly many of them still haven't realised the significant savings that are possible by moving their voice onto their data lines. We expect more businesses to wake up to this opportunity as they realise that SIP trunking allows them to scale their voice capacity up quickly, gets rid of line rental costs, and in many cases, delivers better voice quality than copper.

Read more about AirSpeed Telecom's voice services.

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