Channel Live Virtual was Channel Live with a difference… it all took place inside our laptops. Comms Business reports live from the virtual conference floor.
In March, Channel Live was held in the online world for the first time – and you all showed up. The Channel community thrives on our partnerships and our friendships, so it felt at times impossible to imagine what a digital event might look like. But the positivity of every attendee was felt throughout the event.
Channel Live Virtual delivered over 4,000 unique conference session views, an average session attendance of 148, and the average individual view time per session was 28 minutes. Most importantly, visitors enjoyed the event: conference sessions were rated an average of 4.85 out of 5.
The conference programme opened with a fireside chat between Terry O’Brien, CEO at Digital Wholesale Solutions, and Charlotte Hathway, editor of Comms Business (pictured below). The two talked through the company’s recent changes including last year’s acquisitions of Union Street Technologies and Giacom, as well as the company’s evolving offerings, and the market trends that will shape the year ahead.
O’Brien closed his session with a message of support and opportunity. He said, “I just hope everyone is alright out there. I know it’s not been easy for everybody and it’s been a tough period. We’re in a great sector that has got through this period of time brilliantly well, and people really see the value of our sector as a result of this in terms of its stability, its sustainability, and how it has continued to perform really well.
“We’re in a great space in terms of market understanding of our sector and what we do, particularly the Channel. There’s been a lot of interest in what the Channel does over the last twelve months: I’ve certainly been asked lots of questions. And we have a massively exciting time ahead, with major disruptions coming our way which create huge opportunity for us Channel people to go out and win more business and do great things for small businesses. Because we’ve got the reach and the skills to do it.”
Next up, James Lilley, director of managed customer migrations at Openreach, gave an update on how the company wants to work with the Channel to migrate over 15 million customers over to fibre products before the company closes its legacy copper services (pictured below). Lilley explained, “We need to do things to learn, plan, and migrate. It’s no good sitting behind a desk and working out how we’re going to move customers. We need to get out there and talk to them. We need to experience some of the real-life issues that will happen over the coming years.”
He pointed to projects in Salisbury and Mildenhall that will prepare Openreach for migration challenges. FTTP coverage in Salisbury, Wiltshire, has reached 90 per cent, so the city is being used as the first place to migrate fully to all IP. Lilley said the trial is going well, with challenging edge cases already being addressed.
In May, Openreach will kick off a trial in Mildenhall, Suffolk, which will involve moving users away from the WLR/PSTN platform onto the company’s SoGEA offering. An airbase in the area will help Openreach learn about complex edge cases to prepare for the transition.
Lilley added, “Whilst 2025 seems a very long way out, there is a lot of planning to do. We need to plan, we need to think about readiness, and we need to think about how we take our customers on this migration journey. Openreach is here to help. We can hold people’s hands as we go through this.”
Elsewhere, there were interesting and informative sessions from companies including CityFibre, Zapappi, Pangea, BT Enterprise, Vonage, and the ITP. Larato’s Dr Lucy Green (pictured above) guided attendees through the opportunity the channel has to help businesses make homeworking sustainable after lockdown ends.
Green explained, “The spare room could well be the garage of the future – the place where new business gets generated, innovation happens, money is made… and technology is a key enabler of all of that.”
There were two panel sessions exploring two key areas of opportunity for the Channel: SoGEA and the IoT. Voiceflex’s Paul Taylor, Zen Internet’s David Barber and Strategic Imperative’s Wail Sabbagh talked to Comms Business’ editor about the SoGEA opportunity. On day two, Zest4’s Anton Le Saux, Jola’s Lee Broxson, and Comms365’s Nick Sacke took part in a lively session exploring what IoT means for the channel.
All conference sessions are now available on demand, so feel free to dip in and out of the programme when you have time to absorb more of the information on offer. Exhibitors and sponsors also had a busy couple of days, with an average number of unique leads per sponsor reaching 281.
With a path out of lockdown made clear by the government, we look forward to hopefully seeing you all again in person at Birmingham’s NEC in September.