First Coffee for 6 May 2006: NZ Telecom's Broadband Dereg, TechUnified's Saudi CRM, StayinFront's Aussie Pharma CRM, EBSuite Parters With Alcatel

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David Sims
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First Coffee for 6 May 2006: NZ Telecom's Broadband Dereg, TechUnified's Saudi CRM, StayinFront's Aussie Pharma CRM, EBSuite Parters With Alcatel

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Nigel Kennedy’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons suite, the best-selling classical recording ever. If you approach music with your head you hate it, if you approach music with your heart you love it: a hosted CRM vendor, has announced a formal partnership with Alcatel for their North American operations.

An Jiang, CEO, said Alcatel will offer a web based front-end and back-end internal customer support product for its employees in North America.

Alcatel officials say EBSuite’s Customer Support-Help Desk product will help the North American Human Resources Information Center organization “accurately record and track every employee point of contact across all personnel, functions, departments and call centers and efficiently escalate issues as required.”

New Zealand took a gutsy step towards improving competition in broadband this week, with the government proposing that New Zealand Telecom must share its lines with competitors.

The New Zealand government announced plans for legislation requiring what is known as the “unbundling of the local loop and sub-loop copper wire lines between telephone exchanges and homes and businesses,” reported news agency AFX, which means Telecom’s competitors can “put their equipment into Telecom’s exchanges and directly run services into those homes and businesses it previously served.”

Forbes cites Telecommunications Minister David Cunliffe said legislation enforcing the regulation package would be introduced later this year and would take effect in 2007.

Naturally, Telecom, which controls 80 percent of the New Zealand telecommunications market, was not pleased. Heck, the monopoly never is when it has to – ugh – compete.

“As we have told the Government in our submissions, high speed broadband services and the advanced products that will run on them require major investment from all players in the sector,” said Telecom’s General Manager Government & Industry Relations Bruce Parkes when the government’s decision was announced this week. “Today’s package actually tells players to put away any major investment plans and rely on regulation instead.”

Investors weren’t amused either. New Zealand’s largest listed company, Telecom Corp. said on Friday its quarterly profit fell 19 percent, and that it’s lost about U.S. $1 billion in market capitalization since Wednesday, with its shares tumbling about 15 percent after the government proposed to force it to open its networks to rivals.

Generally First Coffee’s in unalloyed favor of monopoly deregulation, but here’s hoping my elderly New Zealand father-in-law, who maintains a portfolio of Kiwi securities, wasn’t too heavily into Telecom. We simply don’t have that much room here in the house.

The government announcement came shortly after an official study was released Wednesday, concluding New Zealand was lagging behind other developed countries in telecom industry reform.

The company, which competes with Telstra Corp.’s TelstraClear and mobile giant Vodafone, both in Australia and New Zealand. The Aussie operation isn’t doing Telecom any favors, as Reuters reported Telecom’s AAPT, Australia’s third-ranked operator, “continued to weigh on the group’s bottom line, posting a 63 percent drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to A$15 million.”

Parkes told New Zealand news service Scoop that it’s hard to see how the steps announced today will deliver on the Government’s aims of high speed broadband throughout New Zealand:

“Broadband has been growing sharply in New Zealand, fuelled by major initiatives by Telecom and other players… The next step in New Zealand’s broadband path is higher speed broadband and services such as Voice over IP and digital video services.

“Telecom has shared with the government its view that getting those services to people throughout New Zealand means investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, not just by Telecom but by other players.”

Given how poorly Telecom’s Australian interests are performing the company could have done without the regulatory setback, but to paraphrase one wag, for a monopoly competition never comes at a good time.

TelstraClear, the country’s second largest communications firm and a subsidiary of the Australian communications giant is understandably excited by the government’s moves, as is Orcon, a privately-held Kiwi ISP.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said the New Zealand government’s intention to “further develop the country’s telecommunications regulations and change access arrangements to Telecom Corp. of New Zealand Ltd.’s network” has no immediate effect on the company’s rating or stable outlook.

Bloomberg reported that since Telecom makes up 20 percent of the NZX Index’s weighting, and since Telecom posted its biggest decline in three years, the NZX 50 Index overall lost two percent to 3693.21 in Wellington, its biggest decline since May 2, 2003.

Science Letter is reporting that StayinFront, Inc., a provider of business management applications, announced it has signed a CRM contract with the Australian pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis.

StayinFront will provide Sanofi-Aventis with an Electronic Territory Management System, based on the StayinFront CRM Life Sciences suite of products, Science Letter says: “The software will be used to manage processes, and enable data access and reporting for 555 staff across the company’s sales, medical and marketing operations.”

This initiative, Sanofi-Aventis officials say, will support management the company’s “sales territories, key accounts and marketing campaigns with flexible reporting and analysis, data sharing capabilities and the ability to install ETMS on mobile platforms such as notebooks, PDAs and tablets in the future.”

StayinFront, Inc. sells enterprise-wide customer relationship management (CRM) applications, decision support tools, data services, sample inventory management products and electronic business systems. The company is headquartered in Fairfield, New Jersey, with offices in Illinois, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

TechUnified, a vendor of Enterprise eBusiness and Wireless services, has signed a multi-million dollar eBusiness project with Saudi Telecom, the largest telecom operator in Middle East.

All customers of Saudi Telecom will now be able to order landline, DSL, change their phone numbers, get bill details, send SMS through web-site, pay bill online, ask bill related questions and do many more self service activities through the corporate portal.

TechUnified and its local partner will provide tools for Saudi Telecom’s web based initiatives in the space of eBusiness and Portals. The new system will offer extensive self-service applications and channels that enable customers, employees and partners to access various e-Services.

Mr. Kunal Sinha, Head of Marketing, TechUnified said “we will provide a turn-key product to Saudi Telecom and this will enable the telecom major to harness the benefits of eBusiness. This will increase revenue and reduce costs.”

Sinha said “a few other operators in the region” have shown interest in the company’s eBusiness Framework, which integrates CRM system using an enterprise middleware.

TechUnified is a Bangalore company selling wireless, speech and eBusiness products for the enterprises, primarily financial organizations and telecom operators.

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