UK-based managed IT services company GCI has expanded its enterprise unified communications (UC) offering by acquiring UC systems integrator Freedom Communications.
Based in Hertfordshire, UK, Freedom Communications provides data networking, communications, network services and end-to-end support for customers running UC deployments in various industry sectors.
“Our investment and growth alongside an almost unique, holistic go-to-market model coupled with GCI’s comprehensive managed service and cloud solutions make this acquisition the most significant that the UK UC market has seen to date,” said Pat Botting, managing director at Freedom Communications.
Speaking to The Record, GCI CEO Adrian Thirkill (pictured) said there were three main reasons behind the acquisition: the growth of the UC market, Freedom Communications’ UC experience, and business growth opportunities.
“Enterprises of all sizes across the globe are digitising their operations and UC plays a key role in ensuring that their employees, business partners and customers can collaborate easily in real time,” he said. “Many of our customers are gearing up for full UC adoption, so it’s the perfect time for us to acquire a company like Freedom Communications which has almost 30 years of UC and migration experience. There are also opportunities to capitalise on untapped financial potential and explore new areas for business growth, which will benefit both GCI’s and Freedom Communications’ valued employees and customers.”
Freedom Communications also has a strong Microsoft background, supporting more than 40,000 Skype for Business seats. This means that GCI now manages a total of more than 180,000 Skype for Business seats.
“The acquisition allows us to grow our Microsoft UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) line of business and we can now help customers to easily migrate to Skype for Business on the public, private and hybrid cloud, or on premise, according to their specific operational requirements,” commented Thirkill. “Now we’re one of the top three UK service providers that can deliver and support Skype and Microsoft Cloud PBX at scale across multiple sectors.”
The acquisition will help GCI to extend its existing partnership with Microsoft. “GCI is tackling some of the operational challenges that are top of mind for Microsoft’s partners and customers as they go digital and look to migrate to cloud-based UC technologies,” Thirkill explained. “By working together, both Microsoft and GCI will learn how to develop, deliver and support the next generation of Cloud PBX solutions that can be easily integrated with customers’ existing legacy systems and IT infrastructure and drive operational benefits.”
GCI will also be able to extend its reach in the public sector thanks to the Freedom Communications acquisition. This is because the company is listed on nine of the eleven lots on the RM1045 Network Services Framework, which central government departments, educators, the NHS, local authorities and voluntary sector charities use to procure UC and network-related services.
“GCI is already listed on the UK Government’s G-Cloud 8 and features on three lots on the framework, but now public sector customers will simply be able to tick a box to procure our UC and cloud services,” remarked Thirkill. “We’re already working with Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and London University, and we’re helping Ealing Council to migrate from a legacy environment to one of the largest Skype for Business deployments in their sector.”
Freedom Communications is GCI’s fifth acquisition in less than 12 months and follows the acquisition of UK-based cloud specialist Outsourcery in June 2016.
“2016 was about setting the framework for growth and preparing GCI to catch the moment as next-generation managed IT services transition from adolescence to mainstream business transformers,” said Thirkill. “Our acquisition of Freedom and Outsourcery is another steady step in our journey to deliver progressive and cost-efficient managed services to all our customers. Leveraging the strengths of all three companies, we’ll be able to continue building a world-class UCaaS and cloud managed service capability in a market growing strongly and forecast to be worth over £75 billion globally by 2023.”
“Freedom Communications is already well known to us as a leading Microsoft partner and has a great track record,” said Clare Barclay, general manager at Microsoft UK. The collective strengths and learnings across the blended GCI, Outsourcery, Freedom Communications operation means that customers are in a great position to benefit from its expertise in Microsoft Office 365, Skype for Business and Azure. The age of digital transformation is upon us, and it is organisations like GCI that will help customers truly reap the benefits.”
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