BroadbandNetworks

Plusnet Bills Itself As SMB Broadband Champion As Mobile Network Goes Live

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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INTERVIEW: Plusnet CEO Andy Baker says its customer service and no fuss contracts make it ideal for small businesses. But is a business mobile launch on the cards?

Today, Yorkshire broadband operator Plusnet enters the crowded mobile market with a range of SIM-only 4G tariffs.

Initially the service will only be available to consumers but CEO Andy Baker has refused to rule out a business launch in the future. Indeed, he sees mobile as just one of the opportunities it believes could arise in the business market.

Formed in 1997, the Sheffield-based firm has played on its Yorkshire heritage in its marketing campaigns, billing itself as a no nonsense provider. Baker tells Silicon that Plusnet’s focus on value and customer services are the keys to attracting more businesses to its services.

plusnet-mobile

Good, honest broadband

“The vast majority [of our customer base] is consumer but we have a small but growing business unit,” he says. “Our most successful area is [small businesses with], 1-5 employees. What we think makes us different is our flexible service and 24-7 customer support.

“Our head office is in Sheffield and we have a call centre in Leeds. That’s one of the secrets of our success – the good, honest customer service we provide from those locations.”

Plusnet was bought by BT in 2006 but Baker insists it has managed to keep its identity by operating at an “arm’s-length” while benefiting from the advantages of being part of the wider group. Baker himself joined Plusnet from BT Wi-Fi three years ago.

“We’re very clear we operate in a hugely competitive market,” he explains. “So we’re looking at a very different customer demographic from BT.

“Our customers are looking for great value, good service and a simple product. BT is very much around a more complete product with more added services. That works for their customer segments but not ours.

“When you break the market down you can see how the brands can co-exist. We bring different products and different types.

“Not long ago we were a small business ourselves. We are 1,300 employees now but that culture still shows through.”

Mobile plans

The BT partnership has brought with it one significant advantage however: a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

LIFE Mobile started out as a Phones4u MVNO operating on the EE network in January 2013 but the phone retailer went into administration in September 2014. EE purchased LIFE from administrators PwC and it has since run as a separate business. Of course, BT bought EE for £12.5 billion earlier this year.

Plusnet says the development is a “natural next step” to becoming a fully-fledged quad play provider and Baker says mobile had been in the pipeline for a long time. LIFE, he claims, has simply accelerated that roadmap.

“We’ve long been looking at the best way to enter the market,” he says. “It was clear to us that having a strong, credible mobile story was what we needed to add to the portfolio.

“BT’s acquisition was going to help accelerate that and a similar like-minded business like LIFE has helped us accelerate that plan.”

Read more about Plusnet Mobile & network improvements on Page 2…