Last month Belfast based Rainbow Telecom launched its Mobile division with an offer of free calls between mobiles and office landlines on all four major networks.
Ulster Business caught up with Rainbow founders Eric Carson and Martin Hamill as the company celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Pick any sector of the economy and it’s more than likely you’ll find an Ulster company battling the global players.
No company typifies this more than Rainbow Telecom which this month celebrates 10 years providing a local and competitive alternative to the multi-nationals.
Employing more than 50 people and with over 5,000 business customers throughout the UK and Ireland, Rainbow is an incredible, if yet unsung, Northern Ireland success story.
While many blue chips have dipped their toe in the local telecoms market only to leave or significantly reduce their presence, Rainbow founders Carson and Hamill have stuck it out, battling BT Retail to become the largest independent telecoms provider here.
There are few people with their combined knowledge and expertise. Carson started as a telecom engineer before rising through ranks to head up Cable and Wireless in Northern Ireland, then becoming head of the mobile giant Orange. Hamill followed a similar, but more sales oriented, route.
Under Rainbow’s previous guise, Telephone Services Ireland, Carson and Hamill were sub-contractors to Mercury, who older readers may remember were the first to offer smart boxes and phones in an effort to offer cheaper national and international calls than BT.
“Back then we then acted as sub-contractor, with teams installing smart boxes and phones,” says Carson, “they offered the first viable and cheaper alternative to BT’s monopoly on calls.”
Innovation has always been the key to success they were one of the first to offer Northern Ireland businesses Freephone numbers at a fraction of the cost of the BT service. It was innovation such as this that launched Rainbow when the telecoms market was fully opened to competition in 1998.
“We spotted an opportunity to offer calls at a fraction of the cost of BT Retail,” says Hamill, “we already had a strong customer base built on telephony hardware and it was a natural progression to offer calls.”
As the telecoms market changed so too did Rainbow according to Eric Carson.
“From a supplier of calls and lines we then moved to broadband and now supply thousands of businesses with download speeds of up to 24 MBs – again leading the field in terms of broadband speeds.”
Critical to the success of the company is an assurance to cut costs for Northern Ireland businesses and to provide local and efficient customer management are what continues to attract so many companies to Rainbow Telecom.
And it’s not only SMEs, over 30% of Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies are among its customers and growth continues as financial directors and business owners look to make significant savings in the current climate.
“Our research shows that business people want local account management – not call centres or voice mail when interacting with their telecoms provider,” said Rainbow Director Eric Carson.
“But most of all they want an experienced local supplier they can trust to provide value across the board. What Rainbow offers is a local dedicated account management solution ensuring that calls are dealt with quickly.”
As the only Ulster based provider to make the significant investment in WLR3 (a system which allows Rainbow to check lines for faults, book and monitor the progress of engineers) their commitment to customers is clear, not just on service but on price.
“Let’s be extremely clear BT cannot beat Rainbow on price,” says Martin Hamill.
“Rainbow’s current line rental is up to 20% less than BT’s Business One Plan and unlike BT Retail who have just increased some call charges by 100% to its existing customer base – Rainbow hasn’t increased our prices in 3 years.
“We are committed to offering the best value and service to the Northern Ireland marketplace and expect to grow our customer base and staffing levels still further in the months ahead.”
First Published: 22/11/09