JT Group: overhauling connectivity in the Channel Islands
JT is a full service communications provider that has strategically deployed technology and partnered with global experts in order to offer its B2B and BTC customers innovative, competitively priced products and services. It has supported these efforts in recent years by continually investing tens of millions of pounds on upgrading and innovating infrastructure in the Channel Islands.
Notably focussing on two large-scale programmes: Rolling out a 4G LTE/A network and converting every broadband line on the island of Jersey to superfast fibre, through a project known as ‘Gigabit Isles’. This programme has attracted worldwide attention for JT and has placed Jersey 4th in the world for fibre connectivity per head of households connected.
JT provides the Channel Islands with a range of broadband, mobile and fixed telephony services for both personal and business customers. It also delivers global roaming services on a wholesale basis, as well as enterprise solutions for companies of all sizes, spanning the full range of business verticals. The company now employs over 500 people spread across 11 offices around the world, serving nearly 1 million subscribers globally.
The company has combined shrewd foresight, with a structure that has enabled it to continuously reinvest in the business, in order to provide its modest customer-base with state-of-the art technology and fulfil its vision of being the partner of choice for global telecoms innovation. A key factor in achieving this has been JT’s commitment to and its nurturing of its strategic partnerships. The result is that JT today has the type of global reach normally only seen in much larger global telecoms companies and services large multi-national organisations. Through being lean, agile and forward thinking, JT offers a flexible and bespoke approach to communications solutions.
Currently the company has made significant progress in rolling out its Gigabit Isles fibre-to-the-home project, which will see all broadband lines for consumers and businesses in Jersey and a number in Guernsey gain access to superfast fibre-optic broadband coverage. The project presented the company with a challenge; Dave Newbold, Chief Operations and Technology Officer said: “Every premise and business on these islands is different, which means the configuration is also slightly different.
“The customer may well have built a new drive, or covered up the joint box, or hidden the point of entry into the house or business through remodelling or extension. These solutions need to be designed cost effectively and in a customer friendly way; each installation has effectively become its own little project.”
The project has already won many major awards, attracting UK and global recognition; for example it was named FTTH Operator of the Year in 2013. Newbold is proud of the role his company and its partners have played since rollout began in 2012, he said: “Our partner Tilgin provides us with the end Wi-Fi router and the accompanying management system; this has proven to be a very valuable partnership to date.
“Copper wires were not designed for broadband, they are less reliable and where a fibre network enables broadband speeds of 1000 megabits per second, a copper-based network would limit speeds to just 25Mb/s.
“Our Gigabit Isles programme means that we are now in a position to deliver fibre as a standard broadband product, meaning our customers can enjoy a far superior service at the same price. Furthermore, we have injected some smart future-proofing into the network, because all we need to do to up the capacity and throughput is to change the boxes either end of the fibre. In principle we will never need to touch it again; it has a lifespan of over 50 years.”
In 2015 JT was the first network provider in the Channel Islands to deliver live, island-wide 4G coverage across both Jersey and Guernsey. Working in partnership with ZTE, one of the world’s largest telecoms equipment and systems manufacturers, the company has faced the dual challenge of ripping out the old network and subsequently replacing it with the new infrastructure.
Newbold said: “The result is we have a brand new state of the art network, right from the tower antennae and cabling, down to the equipment below the tower and everything back to the exchange, across 180 cell sites in the Channel Islands. Thanks to our choice of partner ZTE, and our £12 million investment we delivered superfast LTE across the islands, ahead of any other local operator, on time and on budget in less than six months from inception to delivery.”
ZTE’s contribution to the rollout cannot be understated, since it actually proved to save the company money, Newbold said: “Interestingly there is a connection between the projects allowing us to make huge cost savings by using the same equipment for both the 4G and the fibre implementation programmes. So building a network not just to deliver 4G now, but to serve our islands for many years to come as new technologies emerge.
It is no accident that JT has been able to maintain its dominance of the telecoms market in the Channel Islands. Alongside this sharp focus on innovation and superior technology, is a clear focus on placing customers’ needs and their experience at the heart of the business. It is this combination which has allowed the group to grow and prosper both on and off island.
JT is a wholly owned entity of the States of Jersey, therefore its shareholder is in fact the Island’s residents themselves. CEO, Graeme Millar explained the importance of a return to the shareholder: “The revenues we bring back to the Channel Islands from our efforts off island, allow us to fund our continued investment in making sure that the most advanced technologies are provided to this very small, yet important market.
“When growing a global business, whether it’s wholesale or enterprise, we also have to look after the needs of our local customers first. We continue to listen to them to understand how we can deliver the best possible service in order to meet and exceed their expectations.
“Furthermore, to our advantage, our core network has capacity for up to three million customers, so we have a wholesale business that looks at exploiting our connectivity and capacity alongside our domestic market. Through the work of our wholesale team our roaming agreements alone (currently exceeding 500) puts us on par with the really big companies.
“We already sell to a number of other large telcos and smaller aggregators for the likes of IOT and M2M services. We pride ourselves on being responsive and our long-standing approach to nurturing and growing our strategic partnerships is central to our evolution.”
For example, partnering with Indian software provider Tayana Software Solutions, has enabled JT to design and build a bespoke SRI platform upon which the success of its wholesale business is based. Partners like these share a flexible and adaptive approach which has been vital to JT in developing innovative products and services to take to market.
The company’s dedication to its customers alongside their input has been built directly into its business, starting with its IT technology supported by its close partnership with supply chain analysts NetNet. Millar said: “There are fundamental things NetNet bring as a partner which are hard to buy-in. It would be very unlikely to find a single individual with the skillset that we need, so working together with an organisation like NetNet, means we have access to in-depth knowledge and cost savings through benchmarking the deals we make.
“One example of these benefits is that we have worked with them to deploy a new world-class billing and CRM system. Overhauling an ageing system with the introduction of the Comverse system and thanks to our partnership with Amdocs, means we now match much bigger global telcos in terms of functionality of operations, including access to business critical analytics and MI.”
Another example of JT’s lean and innovative approach is the fact it has developed its own bespoke billing App for customers, developed and created locally in the Channel Islands. This Apple approved App is an advanced tool for customers providing unrivalled functionality and control for viewing bills, making changes to their account and monitoring real-time usage.
In addition to the partners highlighted, JT’s group of other carefully chosen broad strategic partners remains central to them growing their business and marks a fundamental business choice. Their suite of partners includes leading organisations across key areas like Property Services (using CPS), networks working with Genew as their Fixed Voice Network Provider and the key area of revenue assurance and fraud thanks to their relationship with Haud.
Overall JT’s strategic approach to reinvesting global revenues to fund local projects and leveraging partnerships to deliver them is clearly working. It has undertaken two wide-ranging but necessary projects which will bring massive benefits to the inhabitants and businesses of its main market; the company’s past work has already done so much for its customers; its ongoing and future work has the potential to do so much more. So it seems JT is one to watch.