I've been at the Telco 2.0 "Executive Brainstorm" this week. It's where British telco strategy executives brainstorm about how they can turn these slow-moving, bovine beasts around to create new markets and revenue opportunities. And so, with perfect timing, up pops a new service that illustrates how the telcos' stupidity allows so many of these potential markets to slip away.
AQL has just slashed the price of operating a textable landline from around £50 a month to around £2 a month per number. This effectively opens up a new messaging channel to hundreds of thousands of UK businesses, by making it affordable.
Why do you need a textable landline? Well, because people have mobiles, they find it a convenient way to get information back, too. Previously if you wanted to do this as a business, or government department, say, you could rent a virtual number on a monthly basis, rig up an internet connected PC, and get going. Doing this on a large scale has been AQL's business for some years. But the price was an obstacle.
And as long as the incumbent telco saw a lucrative profit from this, it didn't feel the need to make more money by cutting the price, doing a bit of customer education, and expanding the market.
With its large pool of UK virtual numbers and its SMS infrastructure expertise, AQL saw the chance and has gone for it.
AQL's MD Adam Beaumont says it's not offering these numbers at a loss. Most people, he points out, still don't realise they can text a landline. (We're so used to virtual numbers being premium-rate rip-offs, I guess.)
He sees education and local government as being naturals - a council can now have a virtual number for each department. But orders in their millions are being signed by the telcos themselves, as well as VoIP operators, he says.
(AQL dabbled in retail consumer VoIP but now focuses on selling the infrastructure needed to run a VoIP service instead.)
You can find AQL here. ®