The Irishwoman transforming telecoms

Podcast Ep 164: Shena Brien, the CEO and co-founder of IP Telecom talks about how software innovation is the key differentiator in telecoms today.

Speaking on the ThinkBusiness Podcast, Brien spoke about how IP Telecom is playing a key role in the future of work and how it has created a system that helps businesses smoothly transition to remote and hybrid working.

IP Telecom is an Irish-owned telecoms carrier offering innovative, leading-edge communication solutions to businesses of all sizes across Ireland.

“It’s our coders who keep the engine running at the end of the day. They are the mechanics of today”

Founded in 2010 by Brien and technical director Brian Chamberlain, IP Telecom has clients across the tech, IoT, education, transportation and logistics, retail and agriculture sectors. The company’s vendor-neutral dedicated B2B network offers customers fully integrated solutions to power today’s modern way of working. The company has developed its own cloud-based telephone system to provide its customers with excellent call quality, customer service and technical consultancy.

Clients of the business include international workware brand Portwest, Repak, Decathlon, DID Electrical, Gouldings Chemicals, Right Price Tiles, Barnardos and the Irish Cancer Society.

The future of telecoms is software


“If I was to look forward it is possible that in 10 years time every home in Ireland could have gigabit connectivity”

Brien has nearly 30 years of experience in the European telecommunications industry and is committed to ensuring IP Telecom users receive excellent call quality, outstanding customer service and helpful technical consultancy at all times. Her background in network engineering includes designing and managing multinational networks, establishing technical specifications for developing products and more key experience that puts her at the forefront of telecoms technology.

“I’d like to say that IP Telecom is unique. We are the biggest business-to-business, voice over IP (VoIP) telephony provider and we’re doing broadband as well.

“We’re seeing the future of telecommunications very much in unified communications. And that’s what we’re about.”

Brien cut her teeth in telecoms in the 1990s while working at network equipment giant 3Com before moving to NTL (now Virgin Media) and Leap Broadband. Her business partner Chamberlain would have originally been a reseller for Leap Broadband.

It was a pivotal time for telecoms. “The ISDN world was evolving into internet protocol (IP) and we would have known each other for about five years before IP Telecom got started.

“The question was what else can you do with the internet as connectivity started to get faster and faster? Voice telephony was something we talked about a lot in the early days because at the time calls kept getting dropped. 10 years ago it was very different from the infrastructure we have today which is a distributed architecture across multiple data centres.

“Unified communications is about bringing the video, voice and everything else together all on one platform and we’re taking it to the next level.”

Brien explained that the IP Telecom platform sits as an app on the cloud. “People can select what applications they want to use, whether they want to use call recording or whatever. It has evolved so much from the early days and it’s really exciting.”

IP Telecom operates from two data centres in Dublin and its technology can function seamlessly across 3G and 4G networks as well as fixed line. The business also provides broadband services and connectivity for business.

Brien felt IP Telecom’s technology became particularly relevant during the pandemic and especially for businesses that struggled to get connectivity.

“One of my favourite customers was a client who is based in west Cork and who I was talking to while he walked across his farm and I could hear the wind in the background and he’s chatting to me via his IP Telecom app on his mobile phone while going out to check the cattle. He was telling me that up until the previous week he wouldn’t have been able to do that because he was stuck in his office on the phone to deal with suppliers and vendors. And now he’s doing his job and what he enjoys.”

Brien says the platform built by IP Telecom can be tailored for each specific customer. “The key thing for us when we started this company was we didn’t like how telcos were treating the customers. We put the customer front and centre with respect to the services we provide.”

The born-on-the-cloud business is making international inroads. Just before the pandemic IP Telecom launched into South Africa and the business has software developers in Croatia and Ukraine. The business’s customers are spread between Ireland and the UK.

Looking to the future, Brien is keeping a close eye on 5G but believes Ireland’s broadband struggles are going to be with us for some time yet. “But if I was to look forward it is possible that in 10 years time every home in Ireland could have gigabit connectivity. A lot has happened in the last 10 years and you saw through Covid how the innovation that is remote working just boomed. We just did it because we had no choice.”

Despite the slow progress when it comes to the roll-out of fibre roll-out, Brien is optimistic. “I have no doubt that it will get done. And that is exciting for operators like us because it’s an infrastructure we’re going to be able to use. So whether it’s the farmer/entrepreneur out in the fields to our multinationals, it’s a good thing.”

What is interesting about IP Telecom is how it represents the future of the telecoms business in that it is increasingly about software. “What I love about IP Telecom and what makes us very much unique in the marketplace is that we’re actually 50-50 split between software development and connectivity. So all the integrations we’re doing on our platform we do in-house. So if someone comes to us and they want to integrate their CRM (customer relationship management) system with our voice solution we can build that for them. And that’s what allows us to make this very common platform bespoke for our customers.

“It’s our coders who keep the engine running at the end of the day. They are the mechanics of today.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.