Church Resources

As you may or may not be aware, Church Resources has recently moved its telecommunications services from Telstra to Optus (via Ethan Group), a move that has far-reaching telecommunications ramifications for church-based organisations in Australia.

This move is part of a general (and welcome) move towards offering a fully integrated suite of ICT products and services, including fixed and mobile telephony, internet and managed IT services. Church Resources have indicated that this was a direction they have been interested in for a while now. This is being offered in partnership with Ethan Group (as far as we can tell Church Resources doesn’t deal directly with Optus).

Leaving the other services to one side, I’ll here focus on telephony, since the newly negotiated Optus rates were recently announced.


Highlights, if that’s the word, include:


  • An increase in PSTN line rental. Gone is the wonderful old $12.41 rate. The new rate is $27.32. This will have a serious impact in the Church space, since these organisation typically maintain a large number of PSTN lines (particularly at small outlying sites).
  • Mobile data costs and allowances are vastly more generous, reflecting Optus’ more-aggressive offerings in this space. For example there is now a $33 8Gb plan, which blows anything offered by Telstra out of the water.
  • Contracted unlimited call mobile plans begin at $33 per month ($44 for uncontracted).

Coverage is another issue, although one that is becoming less so as time goes by. Optus is currently deploying 4G services to a further 200 regional centres, but in terms of coverage they continue to lag behind Telstra, geographically speaking. On the other hand, Optus will begin rolling out 700Mhz 4G services early next year, which helps signals travel farther and penetrate buildings. (Of course, for that to be of benefit you’ll need a device that can use 700Mhz. The iPhone5S and 5C, for example, cannot).


The long and short of it is that organisations requiring Telstra’s superior coverage should think long and hard about a potential move.


On the subject of Telstra, there is word that Australia’s largest telco is currently working out its own Church rates, which it will offer directly to Church-based organisations (i.e. not through a dealer). Indications are that these rates will be similar (if not identical) to the previous Church Resources rates, but this is only speculation as they haven’t been released yet.


So what will this mean for organisations that currently use Church Resources for telephony? That largely depends on your organisation’s current contract status, and your requirements regarding coverage.


However, some general points can be made:


  1. Organisations that are currently under contract will remain on Telstra infrastructure for the duration of their current contract, and will continue to enjoy currently contracted rates.
  2. If for whatever reason you are still under contract but would like to move from Telstra to Optus, you will need to break your current contract. There is no provision for contracts to be waived.
  3. Any new agreement with Church Resources will use the new (Optus) rates, and will see services migrate to Optus infrastructure. Larger organisations on ISDN10 or above infrastructure will have to migrate those services to Optus Multilines. Multilines are cheaper than ISDN per channel (in this case $27.50 per channel compared to $30+ per channel), but they require additional installation, with can take up to six weeks and be disruptive.
  4. Relating to the last point, Church Resources will continue to resell Telstra PSTN services to organisations reliant upon that infrastructure, but have yet to reveal the pricing. It may well be offered at SFOA rates ($34.95), which is of course much higher than the previous charity line rental rates.
  5. Moving to Optus will also entail unlocking any mobile devices that are currently locked to Telstra (this is typically free).
  6. If you’re at all concerned about coverage issues, we encourage you to obtain a SIM from each carrier and test it out for yourself in all key locations. Telcos are generally happy to do this. Do not rely on the coverage maps!
  7. If an organisation is not under contract and for whatever reason prefers to stay with Telstra, they will have to enter a separate agreement with Telstra (which will mean no longer dealing with Church Resources for telecommunications services). As mentioned Telstra should soon release new Church rates of its own.
  8. It is our experience that adding an additional layer of service provision can complicate fault resolution. For example: whereas before a fault would be logged with Church Resources who would then log it directly with Telstra, now a fault is logged with Church Resources who then must log it with Ethan Group who then log it with Optus.
  9. Whilst I’m primarily addressing fixed and mobile telephony here (and mobile data), I don’t wish to downplay the value of a full end-to-end integrated ICT solution.

If you would like to know how the new Optus-based rates compare to the previous Telstra-based rates, or how they compare to Telstra new standalone Church pricing, please contact Dog and Bone. We can conduct a full market assessment tailored specifically to your organisation’s actual usage, and help your explore the financial realities of moving or staying.

Introducing Jeenee Mobile

Jeenee Mobile is a new provider looking to provide mobile services to disabled people. This is precisely the kind of enterprise Dog and Bone values.

Jeenee Mobile is run by Community Connections Australia, a not-for-profit (NFP) with a specific mission to enable people with disabilities to operate independently within their own communities and homes. Jeenee Mobile is certainly consistent with this goal.

At its core Jeenee provides a number of Android apps for smartphones, that streamline and simplify all of the most essential functions for those with varying degrees of intellectual or physical impairment. There is a replacement home screen called Big Launcher, which features only six large tiles, which can each be customised. (It looks a bit like the latest Windows Phone.) For example a tile can be set up to show a picture of client’s family members, who are called when the picture is tapped. There is a button for directly contacting CCA’s helpline, and also sends out the caller’s location to the call centre, allowing staff to ascertain immediately where the caller is.

However, while it was all well and good to build some apps, simply releasing them onto Google Play wasn’t going to achieve the desired outcome of getting these tools into the hands of the most needy, who are very often at severe financial disadvantage, and aren't likely to have a smartphone in the first place. It became clear that Jeenee needed to find a cost-effective way of providing devices and telephony services as well. Thus the need to set up an MVNO was clear.

According to a statement by Robin Way, CEO of Community Connections Australia: “The original concept of Jeenee was to finally offer people with disabilities an affordable technology solution that provides them with increased independence within the community. However, in order to get the project off the ground, we needed to establish Jeenee as a telco in its own right.”

Jeenee Mobile operates on the Optus network, with the NFP feeling that Optus was the only way to go for them, in terms of cost and services. Optus, for example, has agreed to waive all costs for customers calling Jeenee’s help centre. Jeenee is 100% not-for-profit, and all proceeds will go back towards disability services.

Jeenee’s help centre deserves a special mention. Located in Sydney, it is currently only available from 7am-7pm on week days, although they have said 24 hour assistance will be available in the next few months. The help centre is staffed by CCA employees with specific training and experience working with people with disability.

There is a range of Android smartphones available through Jeenee, from providers such as LG, Samsung, HTC and Sony. Each phone is individually configured to each customer’s specific needs (which, as you might imagine, can be very specific indeed). For example, pre-composed SMS messages allow people with verbal impairment to access essential services easily.

But down to the nuts and bolts. How do the plans and services stack up cost-wise?

The plans themselves are a fairly standard selection of cap plans, offering handsets on 24 month agreements. These plans begin at $30 per month for $200 of calls and 100Mb of data, extending up to $80 for $850 of calls and 1Gb of data. Full details are available here. While these plans aren’t tremendous value in and of themselves, they are competitively priced, and the tangible value for their target clientele shouldn’t be forgotten. Suffice it to say that the plans are acceptably priced, such that the good things offered by Jeenee aren’t rendered too costly.

It is disappointing to see that they have retained the standard Australian mobile provider’s clunky model of paying real money for imaginary inflated value. $30 buys you $200? We know what that means, since we’re telco analysts, but there’s a reason this practice is increasingly frowned upon, and if anyone is going to be misled by such pricing it is surely the very people Jeenee’s is aiming to assist. (A far more transparent model is to simply provide minutes: $30 buys you 200 minutes, for example. Real money for real time is an exchange far more people can understand.) Having said that, this model is entirely in keeping with standard Optus wholesale offerings, and one suspects Jeenee had little scope to change it.

Offsetting this shortcoming, Jeenee show a strong and laudable commitment to eradicating bill shock. Premium SMS and international calling are disabled by default. Usage alerts are provided at 50, 70, 80 and 100 per cent, with SMS and data services disabled once the quota is used up. Customers are contacted immediately at this point to work out the best way to proceed. These are excellent provisions.

There are also BYO plans (that don’t provide a handset) on a month-to-month agreement. I admit I struggle to see the value in these, since the handset preloaded with tailored Android apps seems fundamental to the enterprise. Of course, by going on such a plan, there’s always the knowledge that your money is going into essential disability services. On that note, Jeenee Mobile is not exclusive to people with disabilities. Anyone can sign up to their plans.

Services launched last Saturday (11 May 2013). There is an introductory offer available until July, which provides either free access for the first three months of a 24 month contract or 50% of access for the first three months on a casual BYO plan.

In all, Dog and Bone feels this is a wonderful new initiative, and we wish them every success.

Pictures were taken from the Jeenee website.

How We Use Our Mobiles

Do not-for-profit clients use their mobile phones differently from corporate users?

A few weeks ago I examined some of the differences between how not-for-profit and corporate customers use their land line phones. I looked at a breakdown of call types, such as STD, Local Calls and Calls to Mobiles, and then further sought out the differences in call duration and call volume. That article can be found here.

Today I’m going to do the same, but for mobiles. As ever, I will be using the Dog and Bone Analyser, having secured its acquiescence via a complex series of favours and the promise of an imminent upgrade. I used about 450,000 call records for NFP users, and 540,000 for corporate clients, reflecting the latter's heavier use of mobile technology.

Table 1. looks at the average proportional call volume across various call types. This shows us the volume of a certain call type compared to all calls made. (For example, the figure 13.30% means that of the 450,000 NFP calls looked at, 13.30% of them were Calls from Mobiles to Fixed Lines.)



It is immediately apparent that NFP organisations make a slightly greater proportion of SMS (18.39% compared to 14.14%), which I must confess came as something of a surprise. 

Corporate users tend to call their workmates on their mobiles somewhat more often than NFP counterparts - this is a tendency that holds true almost without exception. Intrafleet provisions are always of value for most clients, but they tend to yield the greatest savings for corporate users. This also tie into the general observation that corporate users tend to use their mobiles more than fixed lines, and are far more likely to call someone's mobile in another city rather than make an STD call.  

Otherwise, call volumes are broadly similar.

Table 2. shows these proportions again, but instead of proportional call volume, it looks at the proportional length of each call type. 


The standout figure here is that corporate users spend a lot longer on their calls to their workmates (this will be borne out on Table 3), which confirms the point I made earlier about how the business sector uses its mobiles a lot more than land lines. 

Conversely, NFP users spend longer talking to fixed lines, perhaps in the mistaken belief that these calls are cheaper. Calling a fixed line from a mobile is generally the same cost as calling a mobile, but there's a persistent (if not old-fashioned) belief that it is cheaper, and I suspect this plays out more in the NFP space. It could also be because the NFP sector has (with some striking exceptions) been slower to adopt mobile working.

Table 3. shows the Average Call Length across all outbound call types. This should bear out the above suppositions. The figures measure minutes (as a decimal, thus 1.5 minutes equates to 1 minute 30 seconds.)


This table shows that Corporate users do indeed spend much longer on average calling their colleagues than NFP users do (over 30 seconds per call on average, which is a lot) .

It is interesting to note that unlike fixed lines - where the usage patterns differed widely - NFP and Corporate users are mostly quite consistent in their usage of mobile phones. Although it is beyond the scope of these figures, a comparison between mobile and land line usage (which I may get around to) will show that the business sector spends a far great proportion of their telecommunications budget on mobiles than their counterparts in the not-for-profit space.

How Do We Use Our Phones?

Do not-for-profit clients use their phones differently from corporate users?

The Dog and Bone Analyser – the proprietary software program that forms the core of our analysis services – has been up and running for almost as long Dog and Bone itself, although it is a very different program now than it was at the start.

At its heart, Analyser works by breaking down a phone bill to its most granular level, providing us with data than can then be interrogated or combined in a number of ways. I won’t go into these methods here, though I can reveal that Analyser is not above either bullying or seducing data as the need arises, and one occasion did remove the data to a remote location in regional Poland. Analyser can also be instructed – if one asks nicely, in a patient but non-patronising tone – to provide all kinds of summaries. We can find out all kinds of interesting things, assuming that your interests are even tangentially related to telecommunications usage data. For the sake of this article, let’s assume they are.

With the proper prodding, I got Analyser to tell me some of the differences between not-for-profit usage (including charities) and corporate usage. Many of you are probably aware that Dog and Bone is heavily involved in the NFP sector, although we do also have a very broad range of corporate clients of all sizes. I ran about approximately one million anonymous call records for each type of company through the software, and achieved the following results, along with a stern lecture on interrupting Analyser when it was busy. This is what it came out with.

Table 1. looks at fixed lines, and features the average proportional call volume across various call types. This shows us the volume of a certain call type as compared to all calls made. (For example, the figure 41.53% means that of the million or so NFP calls looked at, 41.53% of them were Local Calls.)


It is immediately apparent that not-for-profit companies make a greater volume of Local Calls (41.53% compared to 23.92%), and far more local calls between sites. This largely reflects the local focus of many charities, even those that are multinational in their reach. Corporate users, on the other hand, make a far great proportion of Calls to Mobiles (43.15% to 22.20%). This could be due to several reasons, such as the fact that the corporate sector has been much quicker in adopting new technologies, with the greater emphasis on mobility.

Table 2. shows these proportions again, but instead of call volume, it looks at the length of each call type. 


We can immediately see that although Corporate users make more total calls to mobiles, they actually spend less time on those calls. Basically, they make a lot of short calls. The exception is calls to company mobiles. Despite making only a third as many calls to company mobiles as to other mobiles, they actually spend more time talking to their colleagues. This is suggests that Whole of Business rates are very valuable for Corporate clients.

Table 3. shows the Average Call Length across all outbound call types. This should bear out the above suppositions. The figures measure minutes (as a decimal, thus 1.5 minutes equates to 1 minute 30 seconds.)


This table shows that although Corporate users makes far more calls to mobile than any other type, the average call length of these calls is only 0.46 minutes, which is about 27 seconds. Meanwhile the average length of a call to a company mobile is 1.85 minutes, or 111 seconds. NFP users on the other hand actually make shorter calls to their colleagues on mobile than to non-clients. I confess I'm not entirely sure why that might be.

As well as making far more Local Calls, NFP clients also spend almost half a minute on average longer on each Local Call. Again this probably reflects the local focus of their affairs, and the type of work they’re engaged in. Meanwhile, the corporate clients used in this sample spend more time making calls to their sites in other states (or beyond local call range).

Bear in mind that these results are only for outbound Fixed Lines. I’ll be back soon to look at the differences in Mobile usage.

That BYOD Sweet Spot

There comes a moment in many business practices when something that lots of people were doing anyway becomes sufficiently widespread that it is suddenly christened. If that practice is particularly unremarkable, the choice for naming it is either to come up with something cool-sounding that will itself require explanation - I can recall my disappointment at discovering what 'negative-gearing' really meant - or to burden it with an acronym. The goal, in each case, is to pretend that a practice that has been going on for years is thrillingly new, and that it therefore deserves commentary, analysis, and strenuously-wrought policy.

Fitting this trend perfectly is BYOD. It sound snazzy, and everyone is suddenly talking about it, even though it just means bringing your own phone or computer to work. BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device, and was therefore crying out for an acronym as much as, say, Pretending Stuff is a Big Deal (PSBD). In fact, I am typing this on my own laptop, at work, and am therefore part of the groundswell for this new movement. It's strange, but I don't feel cutting edge.

Since lots of people are now talking about BYOD, it was inevitable that opinion would divide sharply. Here's a pronouncement that BYOD as a practice is fated to pass. Meanwhile, this article declares BYOD to be 'unstoppable'. Both appeared within the last four days. There's no denying this is a hot topic.

Its heat derives from the inherent security risks involved. Allowing employees to bring their own devices (and use them, which is the real issue), means that company data is inevitably being accessed by devices that the company has limited control over. Depending on the device, and on the company, there are any number of possible solutions, although some are so draconian they might as well just ban the devices. The issue with all of them is that they seem to become unworkable for larger companies, particularly when we move in to enterprise class organisations. The potential security risks are just too great, and addressing them requires ever greater management and man-power.

One of the toughest suggestions I've seen is that employees should be forbidden from downloading apps from iTunes or the Android Market (Google Play) on their own phones. If the idea is to be able to bring your own device - the very essence of BYOD - then how can you stop someone downloading whatever app they want? In what sense is it truly their device? A smartphone upon which you can only install business apps authorised by your employer - well, that sounds just like a business phone that your employer has gotten you to pay for. This is the rival complaint sometimes levelled at BYOD, this time by the 'bringers'. When an employee is obliged to bring their own device, but is then severely limited in their freedom to use that device even outside of office hours, it can just seem like a cynical ploy by business to shift the mobility cost on to the employee.

The most commonly-voiced solution is for organisations to build their own secure apps, that employees use to access company data. The issue with this is that building apps is not that easy - in fact, it's incredibly easy to build an app with more security flaws than  you're trying to close. The other issue is that it is expensive, and time-consuming.

There seems to be an impasse here. It's reasonable for a business to want to protect their data. It's reasonable for a person to feel like they can use their own phone how they want to. Using your phone however you want to - such as accessing iTunes - compromises business data, through the potential for malicious apps to be installed. As far as I can see, no one has yet come up with a way of reconciling BYOD to a large corporate environment. The most effective security provisions require specific configuration of each specific user-brought machine, whether it is a smartphone or a tablet or a laptop. However, the larger the organisation, the less reasonable this undertaking would be. The key to a mobile workforce is mobility, and having your IT department chase these users around to regularly reconfigure each device can be a nightmare.

This is not really a issue for smaller businesses. For starters, being small they don't have that much sensitive business data, and are rarely targeted for corporate espionage. Secondly, due to their size it is far more likely that all users know each other, and that every device can be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It has been overwhelmingly my experience that BYOD is most effective in the SME environment.

CEO Sleepout

Last Thursday, nearly 1,000 business leaders, including politicians, CEO and General Managers - and our own Daniel McKinley - took part in St Vincent de Paul's annual CEO Sleepout. They were invited to rough it for a night, in order to experience first hand a tiny part of what it is like to be homeless. 

The event raised both awareness of the issue, and some serious money - over $3 million, in fact. Daniel felt it to be a tremendously worthwhile experience, and his back can attest to just how comfortable a night on cement is. However, his back will mend, but the issue of homelessness is a constant one. But it is one that can be overcome, with sufficient will and resources. We urge all readers to get behind programs such as this, and to donate whatever you feel you can.

Connecting Up Australia 2011

Dog and Bone was privileged to participate in the Connecting Up Australia 2011 conference yesterday. Our very own John Kostopulos delivered an in-depth presentation on key areas that not-for-profit organisations can focus on, in order to improve and revitalise their telecommunications and IT systems, and to achieve considerable savings. The talk was very well-received, and inspired a lively-question time. 

Both John and Dan had a great time at the event. The very diverse range of speakers and participants guaranteed a wealth of new ways to engage with the sector that we are so active in.

Charity Corner: Save The Children's Niger Campaign

In the west African country of Niger a toxic cocktail of rising food prices, drought, and failed crops has combined to put the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in danger. In Niger one in six children don't live to see their fifth birthday.

The goal of Save the Children’s emergency response is to reduce mortality in disadvantaged households in Niger through direct program activities and both national and international advocacy. To achieve this, Save the Children is augmenting current development work in the south of Niger to provide life-saving intervention for 326,000 children and 144,000 adults.

To help children and families affected by the Niger Food crisis you can: 

  • Donate securely online.
  • Call our toll free number 1800 76 00 11 and donate over the phone.

Further details of this and many other campaigns can be found on the Save the Children website. We urge you to help.

Like charity, good telco begins at home

Over the course of my time working as a telecommunications consultant, I have audited the phone accounts of a fairly large number of not-for-profit organisations.

By cleaning up their accounts, and by negotiating more appropriate services and call rates, we frequently save these types of organisations tens of thousands of dollars annually, sometimes much more. This is money that can then be redirected to more targeted services, to assist those people that these organisations are aiming to help. This is a serious problem, for in some cases there are sizable black holes of public and donated funds.

However, the good news is that this is a problem with a solution. By getting their own house in order, and comprehensively rationalising their telecommunications accounts and infrastructure, we find that charities are far better equipped to get exactly what they want from their telco providers, rather than the other way around. We have seen a number of organisations take this important task on, and really reap the benefits. Their telecommunications infrastructure is now streamlined and efficient, which stood them in very good stead when it came time negotiate contracts with their providers. They're now spending less, and getting more out of the systems they have in place.

While we realise that these matters can be difficult to come to terms with, expertise is readily available, and we believe NFPs can only benefit from seeking it out. Ultimately, whether inefficiencies in telcoare dealt with in-house or via outside assistance is largely immaterial, so long as they are dealt with.

Charity Corner: Hanover's Ride for Home

On Sunday November 14, Hanover will be hosting its Ride for Home event, which aims to raise $450,000 dollars to support people experiencing homelessness.

This traffic free experience allows cyclists to ride non-stop using both EastLink carriageways from Ringwood to Frankston and back, including trips through the two 1.6km Melba and Mullum Mullum tunnels. Two completely separate rides will safely cater for both skilled cyclists and those looking for a rare recreational experience to share with family and friends.

More details, including pertinent ones about registration, can be found here:

As I'm sure you're all aware, November 14 is also Prince Charles' 62nd birthday. Relevant? No.