The end of the line for service providers?

Features

Project Telecom founder and ceo Tim Radford says he thinks the future of independent service providers in the mobile market looks bleak, following the sale of his business to operator Vodafone for £155million.

Radford told Mobile Europe that it was becoming "very obvious" that the mobile operators were trying to get rid of the service provider market.
"We've had 10 fantastic years but this year has been incredibly challenging. All our opportunities had very much been in the business market but it was becoming increasingly obvious the operators had determined to focus on the business market --- and do it with direct communication.
"Increasingly it was alienating the idea of the service provider as a concept. We were doing business against the networks themselves and that was getting increasingly difficult."
Radford contrasted the fixed  wholesale market with mobile, where just four operators dominate.
About a third of Project's customer base are O2 network subscribers, Radford said. He pointed out that Vodafone has in effect acted as an O2 service provider before, after taking on customers through other acquisitions.
Radford also said that he expected Vodafone would keep the Project business in place in Newark, treating it as a centre of excellence for serving business clients and trying to attain an air of independence about the business.
If Vodafone succeeded it would be good for Project customers, Radford said, because it would combine Vodafone's financial muscle with Project's customer service platform.
He also said that the vision of providing mobile and fixed broadband services to businesses from one provider was a good one, and said Project's fixed business was doing well for the company up until its sale.
Vodafone bought Project Telecom for £155million in early August, netting Radford himself an estimated £37m.
Radford said that although he will be leaving the company after the handover, he will not be taking his millions from the sale of the company off to the countryside to build up his herd of Belgian Blue cattle. "I'm only 42," he replied. He said he was sure he would be back in the IT and communications market in some capacity, and there were other ideas in the pipeline.
Project Telecom got its name when  Radford sold his last company, and kept  a drawer full of files of business ideas.   One was labelled Project Telecom, and the name stuck.
l Vodafone followed up the Project Telecom purchase with the acquisition of the Cauldwell Group's service provider Singlepoint GBP405 million. Singlepoint has 1.9 million contract customers, 27% of the operator's total contract customer base.