Make sure convergence doesn't verge on the con

BT wants to put your business landline and mobile business under one roof. What price flexibility?

"The fool saith in his heart: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. But the wise man exhorteth thus: Put all your eggs in one basket; then watch the basket."

Andrew Carnegie

One bill, one point of contact, one deal. It's a compelling argument for anyone who rides herd on business telecommunications. A job that once involved paying the Post Office phone bill and oiling the Telex machine has now exploded into managing every possible combination of data, mobile, fixed, internal and external communications. BT is offering to combine fixed and mobile into one deal — and make it cheaper to boot. Tempted?

Convergence does many wonderful things: at its best it cuts costs, simplifies life and increases efficiency. But efficiency can also be seen as a lack of redundancy, a pruning of options. If you lack perfect foresight or unimpeachable good luck, you might like to keep some of those options open.

When you look at your converged services contract, ask yourself — if this supplier starts to fall down on the mobile service, what options do I have? If someone else comes up with a more competitive fixed line tariff, how much will it cost me to move? If I end up in dispute with my telco over one portion of the deal, does it have the power to remove all my services?

Just three scenarios where a converged contract may fail the hindsight test. Or it may not — but given that the telco's major impetus for such deals is to keep people locked in against churn factors such as competition and service problems, don't expect there to be an easy out. The deal may be good enough to compensate for that or it may not. Don't find out the hard way.

In the end, convergence is going to win. With everything over IP and IP not caring who routes it, the worst nightmares of the aged telcos will come true — painless, instantaneous switching of suppliers with no loss of service. That's what will give businesses the best long-term deal, and that's what they're fighting. Whatever else is going on between you and your telco, converging business interests aren't on the roadmap.

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