Vodafone has introduced a hosted version of its Vodafone One communications service aimed at small to medium sized businesses (SMBs), claiming that it can save customers up to 20 per cent on their communications costs.
Available from today, Vodafone One Net combines fixed and mobile voice capabilities, enabling customers to have a single phone number for their desk phone and mobile phone, one voicemail box, and a single bill with a flat rate charged for all calls.
The new service offers comparable features to Vodafone One for enterprises unveiled in June, but is hosted rather than on-premise. This greatly simplifies matters for smaller companies, Vodafone said, as all the call handling and routing is taken care of by Vodafone's network.
Customers just need a router supplied by Vodafone, and a business-grade internet connection managed by BT to guarantee call quality. Businesses then have a choice of any mobile handset available from Vodafone, a selection of IP deskphones, or a PC-based softphone.
Peter Kelly, enterprise director for Vodafone UK, claimed that the service should cut costs by up to 20 per cent for customers with separate fixed and mobile contracts.
"You also don't need an IT or telecoms guy as much with this service, as Vodafone takes away much of the complexity and lets the company focus on their business," he said.
Vodafone said that it already has the first UK customers using the service, and will roll out the service to others "at a sensible pace" for the first few months.
The company declined to detail specific pricing, but said that the cost benefits would be immediately obvious to prospective customers.
"If you have 50 employees, you are looking at paying 50 times our single charge instead of 50 mobile plus 50 fixed phone tariffs," said Kelly.
Vodafone demonstrated how a browser-based switchboard application lets users see incoming calls and route them to the correct employee. This also shows the status of workers' phones, such as whether they are available or on a call.
Workers can also transfer calls between any of their phones, allowing them to switch a call to their mobile so they can leave the office without dropping an important call, for example.
Customers also get access to the One View self-service portal, through which they can issue support tickets for any problems, see their bills, and make any necessary changes to their service.
Vodafone One Net is currently optimised for businesses with around 50 to 100 employees, according to Vodafone, but the company is working to move this down to appeal to firms with five or 10 staff by the middle of next year.
Vodafone is also working with Microsoft to include the online communications part of its Business Productivity Online Suite, which would give One Net customers the choice of a hosted version of Microsoft's Office Communicator messaging and IP telephony client.
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